Battersby, Brooklyn – a review of a tiny restaurant with a big heart
I was planning to bring my fellow Swedish friend K, who had his birthday recently, to a good restaurant in his second hometown New York City. But where should you bring someone who hangs out with opera singers and models, and gets his three layered birthday cake from the guy (everythinglulu.com) who bakes the cakes for Madonna?
Well, as it turned out, to an unassuming shoebox-size place with bare light bulbs, and no entrance sign in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
The great little restaurant Battersby is hidden behind an anonymous front on 255 Smith Street. There are no table cloths, no expensive silver ware, no artful decoration and a no-reservations policy (except for the tasting menu). Only beautiful, tasty, honest and affordable upscale New American cuisine – on our visit, brought to us by a soft-spoken, kind and patient waitress.
Battersby is co-owned by the chefs Walker Stern och Joseph Ogrodnek, who met at the Culinary Institute of America where they graduated in 2002 – the name Battersby refers to the street in Philadelphia, were Ogrodnek grew up. They later worked together at the now closed three Michelin starred restaurant Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in New York, as well as at other fine dining restaurants, before opening Battersby in the fall of 2011.
The Battersby cooking team also consists of the sous-chef Michael Sowa (The Vanderbilt), and the pastry chef Jared Rubin (Gramercy Tavern), along with a few other cooks.
Stern and Ogrodnek are involved in everything from creating the menus, going to the market and doing the preparation, to the cooking in the tiny open kitchen during service. The kitchen has just enough space for three or four people, and the team execute what looks like a carefully choreographed dance, cooking at fast speed without bumping into each other, seven nights a week.
The chefs use their knowledge of French culinary techniques as a base for their cooking and plating, but also mixes it with influences from, for example Italian, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The ingredients are fresh and locally produced, and all dishes, including the bread, are made on the premises.
Battersby’s menu is divided into First (Heirloom Carrots, Roasted Beans, Water Melon Salad etc), Second (Veal Sweetbreads, Fregola Sarda, Pappardelle etc), Third (Roasted Lobster, Short Rib, Black Bass etc) and Desserts (Angel Food Cake, Grapefruit Panna Cotta, Salted Caramel Mousse etc). The prices range from about $10 to $37, and the menu changes daily.
The best deal is, however, the Spontaneous Tasting Menus (five courses for $65, or seven courses for $85), and also the only way to get a reserved table at Battersby – which is a must for me, as I am one of those people who have difficulty waiting an hour for food when I am really hungry.
The magazine Bon Appétit named Battersby’s Kale Salad the best dish of the year in 2012. But I was a little relieved, to tell the truth, that our five courses Tasting Menu didn’t include the NYC still ongoing kale salad food craze – though, I am sure it would have been wonderful! During my short stay in New York, kale salad turned up on every other menu across the city, so the excitement for the dish disappeared pretty fast. I should mention to the Swedish readers, that kale is grönkål, something we rarely see on a Swedish dinner table, except during Christmas.
Our five courses Spontaneous Tasting Menu (a total of ten courses, including complimentary flatbread and ricotta cheese, as well as four amuse-bouches):
Amuse-bouche: Tomato consommé served in a demitasse cup. A wonderful rich taste of sun-ripened tomatoes in a single sweet slug:
Complimentary: A warm, soft and crusty Flatbread (foccacia-style) sprinkled with rosemary and salt, served with a smooth whipped ricotta cheese seasoned with black pepper and olive oil:
Amuse-bouche: A flavourful Ratatouille of stewed okra etc, on a crisp crostino. The pretty crown dill on top made us reminiscent of the traditional Swedish Crayfish Parties in August, where you eat crayfish boiled in a brine with crown dill. And drink lots and lots of Aquavit (which is always a good idea when you are eating tiny arthropods…) :
Roasted green and yellow Summer Squash with capers, walnuts, currants, olive oil, and seasoned with the Italian fish sauce Colatura, made of fermented anchovies. On the top; a piece of deep-fried, crispy Zucchini Blossom. Vegetables at their best:
Squid Ink Tagliatelle with mussels and tender lobster in a seafood broth, sprinkled with crusty breadcrumbs. And small pieces of chorizo sausage (which we thought were salsiccia), playing the part of the meat bone in the Borscht, or the chicken stock in the Jerusalem artichoke soup, i.e. the crucial meat component that fulfil an otherwise meat-free dish:
Red Snapper with Asian condiments: long beans (sparrisbönor), Thai Basil, Bok Choy and ginger, on a creamy sauce with basil, yellow and green squash. I loved the Asian flavours, and the look of the dish could not have been more summer-like:
A very nice Lamb loin with pan fried fairytale eggplant (the small purple kind) and a red pianillo pepper stuffed with ground lamb, on a Middle Eastern influenced purée of cumin flavoured hummus, and whole chickpeas, decorated with a few very healthy and slightly lemony purslane leaves (portlak):
We got two different desserts to share.
Angel Food Cake (sockerkaka gjord på enbart äggvitor), a cantaloupe sorbet with moscato sabayon, plums, blackberries, and crispy granola. A tasty and tangy dessert, just the way I prefer it:
Strawberry Parfait with marinated strawberries, decorated with strawberry cream, candied glazed pistachios, and French meringue. A very cute and sweet dessert, perhaps a little bit too sweet for my taste:
We finished the dinner off with a macchiato served in a jar, some calvados served in a champagne glass (why be ordinary, right?), and a perfect coconut and lime Macaron (amuse-bouche). It was unbelievably fresh and tender, had great flavours, and was miles better than the coconut macaron (a substitute for the sold out and overhyped croissant/doughnut hybrid, the Cronut) I had at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. I would never stand in line for two hours for a pastry. A plate of perfect risotto, on the other hand…
The Battersby experience was truly wonderful in every way. A good table by the window (make an early reservation, preferably when they open at 5.30 pm), sweet and helpful service, and a combination of dishes which were not only flavourful, tasty and beautiful on the plate, but also managed to give me the feeling of: “Aww, I got my favourite dish!”, when a new plate arrived. What else can you possibly ask for?
255 Smith Street, Brooklyn, New York
Entry filed under: New York. Tags: 255 Smith Street, Alain Ducasse, Angel Food Cake, Aquavit, arthropods, asian condiments, Battersby, blackberries, Bok Choy, Bon Appétit, Borscht, Brooklyn, candied glazed pistachios, cantaloupe sorbet, Carroll Gardens, Colatura, Cronut, crostino, crown dill, demitasse, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Essex House, fermented anchovies, Flatbread, food craze, French culinary techniques, French meringue, ginger, granola, grönkål, green and yellow Summer Squash, hummus, Jared Rubin, Jerusalem artichoke soup, Joseph Ogrodnek, Kale salad, Lamb loin, lobster, Lulus Cake, macaron, Michael Sowa, moscato sabayon, mussels, New American Cuisine, New York, olive oil, Philadelphia, pianillo pepper, plums, purslane, red snapper, restaurant, review, ricotta cheese, rosemary, Spontaneous Tasting Menu, Squid Ink Tagliatelle, stewed okra, strawberries, Strawberry Parfait, Thai Basil, tomato consommé, Walker Stern.