Deep in Greenpoint: Glasserie
The entry at Glasserie shows off its lights.
We could all hear the music, but not enough that we could make out the artist. One person held up his iPhone to the speaker and tapped on an app that would tell us the name. It was The La’s. You may have heard their music in the cult classic, “So I Married An Axe Murderer,” a movie I’ve seen at least five times. This is also about how many times the album played before I wised up and mentioned it to our waiter. No sooner had I spoken up then some Bowie was flipped on. Thank heaven for Scary Monsters.
There’s something magical about a restaurant that appears off the radar, down a narrow alley, or along the darkened waterfront. Glasserie, in north Greenpoint, is exactly that restaurant. While it has already been discovered (and written about in the Times), it still has that unknown feeling. This may have something to do with how I booked our reservation. I left one voicemail, which I followed with an email. The reply, via email, confirmed our 5-top in such a casual and matter of fact way that I almost didn’t believe it. Her reply: “Sure, we look forward to seeing you.”
An icy beverage waiting for a sip. Photo by Howard Walfish/Flickr.
In what was once a glassmaking factory, two women named Sara opened the restaurant: the owner, Sara Conklin, and the former sous chef at Reynard’s, Sara Kramer. As soon as you walk up the stairs and into the entry, you know you are in a restaurant designed by women who know their stuff. The room exudes warmth. From the vintage lighting, and crystal cut lightbulbs, to the rickety wooden chairs, the low swooping curved bar, the celery green walls and the giant succulent wall that separates the bathrooms from the main dining room. It’s a room you will feel in no hurry to leave.
At our round table in the corner we looked over the cocktail menu, made up of beverages that contained four to five ingredients, with offbeat items that might confuse you as to whether the drink would be sweet or savory. I ordered a glass of wine, which was served in a small water tumbler the size of a thimble. (Not to ruin the surprise, but except for hearing The La’s one too many times, that was my sole complaint of the night.)
Lebneh and flatbread, two of the many things you should order at Glasserie. Photo by Howard Walfish/Flickr.
The Mediterranean-inspired menu is broken up in four sections: small things (which are cheap), dishes (bigger then small things, which might make one small eater happy), large dishes and sides. I mention the sides along with the mains because these should not go unordered. The sides, lebneh, tahini, flatbread and flaky bread are good enough that I could have stopped there and given them 5 stars. The flaky bread, charred and tinged with a burnt grill taste, will make you feel as if you are eating street food in another country. These openers are so good you might catch yourself licking your fingers.
As The La’s continued their onslaught of cheeriness, we drank more cocktails and dug into a few small things. The fried cauliflower is decadent. It's crispy and golden yellow and nestled in a bowl swiped with a caper yogurt. Learn from our lesson, small means small. We should have ordered two. Then the cheese pastries were dropped off. Initially I was put off by the name. It brought to mind giant wheels of cheap pastries sitting in the hulking silver carts parked near the subway. These pastries looked like diminutive empanadas, dotted with black sesame seeds and salt, with a savory and sweet taste, cheese and onion, and again with that skilled flakiness. If you’re a pro like me you’ll make it last for three bites.
Cheese pastries. Photo by Howard Walfish/Flickr.
Perhaps it makes sense that the chef, who also worked at Reynard, a restaurant known for their use of firewood, is so good at the grill. Our next dish, grilled radishes with feta disappeared almost as fast as it was set down. The radishes tasted simultaneously like they were raw and cooked, a feat that sounds impossible, but I guess it’s not.
Grilled radishes and feta. Photo by Howard Walfish/Flickr.
Our other shared dishes: grilled tomatoes and peaches, sweet potatoes, and fish continued the theme of grilled perfection meets just picked ingredients. My side complaint is that I was competing with four other people for the bits and bites and may have, at some points in the dinner, wished I were eating by myself. Then dessert came and I forgot all about my whining. We shared the chocolate tart, which was flaky and not too sweet, nor bitter. There was a second dessert, with no name, just perfect early-fall ingredients, and textures: crunchy pistachios, tart plums, frothy meringue, and maybe some ice cream. A fun game to try and get a little of every taste into each spoonful.
In the kitchen at Glasserie.
I finally paused long enough to breathe, and to discuss the music with the waiter. Then I peaked into the kitchen, which looks like what a home chef might dream for, and the cozy outdoor nook built next to what may have once been the loading dock, and for a brief moment I felt I was in Paris. The bathroom is hidden ingeniously by an open wall that looks like a zen game of Legos, but is made out of wood and filled with plants and candles.
Chocolate tart with sesame. Howard Walfish/Flickr.
At Glasserie the food is so good you don’t want to share; the décor is so perfect you might want to steal something (but don't); and the bathroom so cozy you may want to stay the night.
Thanks to the Brooklyn Vegetarian for letting me share his photos.