The Elm- Nothing Shady, Just Cool

The Elm Brooklyn

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Pants at a Glance
  • scene: Sophisticated mix of metals and wood; airy and well-lit, gets you excited to eat
  • sip: Mixology list; wine
  • savor: Foie gras; burger; short ribs
  • sit: With a date, with a group of couples
  • spend: $$$
  • address: 160 N 12th Street (off of Berry)
  • phone number: (718) 218-7500
  • website:

Disclaimer: I messed up my pictures from this meal, grrrr

In this age of everything being all down home and frankly messy, The Elm is refreshing in its neatly composed plates and and subtle details.  There is a delicateness in the dishes that I have not seen in a new restaurant in a while; this is adult, well-conceived food that is sophisticated and shows a real skill in restraint that has been missing from a lot of NYC restuarants  (perhaps this why the Elm is in Brooklyn). In the bearded, messy, hipster haven of Williamsburg, the Elm has grown up, taken a shower and put on a sports coat. Paul Liebrandt has found the right mix of  a cool atmosphere and well-thought out food.

The Elm is in the King and Grove Hotel, and can be accessed from a separate entrance.  You may have to concentrate to make it down the shiny new stairs, but once you make  it you are greeted by smiling staff and a beautiful space.  A cool mix of metal and wood, The Elm is slick and modern with some earthy solidity that keeps it from being airy or sparse. There is a large open kitchen at the end of the room with a nice looking counter in front of it, which will be used for tasting menu meals starting in November.  The wood tables are made up of several different types of trees,the names of which are etched in, a cool touch that I forgot to put my flash on for. There is the requisite mixology program and the waiters are all in plaid shirts (Brooklyn), and I found the sommelier to be a little dull but our waiter was animated and knowledgable.  There are a lot of things that look good on the menu, but navigating the different sizes and coming up with a course of action takes some thought; the dishes for two, like the Chicken Kiev seems to be wondrous and quite large, which would be prohibitive for trying many of the other dishes. With some help from our waiter and the people next to us, my friend and I decided on a course of action. Below is a list of what we ate; we also had glasses of a  bright blended red wine.  To make a lovely complete evening, there is an outdoor and covered bar on the 8th floor which is closed Monday and Tuesday; also apparently you can see the pool from the dining room, but it was too dark to tell.  The Elm is a fun destination dinner that feels like a adult night out; it is not formal, but far from ordinary, and a thoughtful choice for a night that is a little special, even if there is nothing to celebrate.

Amuse bouche was a tiny little bread bite that was sort of sweet.

Bread was warm whole wheat baguette

Foie gras with concord grape gelee, peanut and ginger: This dish was a rich treat, obviously meant to evoke the comforting flavors of peanut butter and jelly; I don’t love foie gras, but all of the elements came together to create layers of flavors and even textures, thanks to the toasted corn-bread type accompaniment for smearing the goods on.

Warm artichoke salad, speck, black garlic- This was a hearty and interesting salad- the artichokes were hot and soft, but not mushy; the speck and (uncredited) parmesan crisps added a nice saltiness

Gnudi, Scallop “Thom Yum” , baby leek and lime– This dish was aromati, especially the Yuzu foam. The scallop was done nicely and I love thai spices, but the gnudi was pretty disgusting.  My friend and both thought that it was un-disolved butter or something that didn’t cook right in the sauce, but of course the Elm is too deliberate for that.  It tasted raw and had a most unpleasant texture.

The Elm NYC
Scallop- foam good, gnudi bad

Short Rib, Heirloom carrot, Argan Oil, PL sauce- Short ribs always make me think of slow roasted, falling off the bone dishes, and these were prepared a little differently, firmer.  They were delicious, not too big or filling, and plated really nicely, using the black background of the plate.

Dry aged burger, tomato confit, white cheddar- A solid burger, you could really taste the dry aged meat.  There is some story with the cheese being mixed with Brooklyn Lager to thin it out or something, if that makes sense.  The bun was strong enough to hold all of the meat, and of course the fries were great.

As I was writing this and referring to the menu, it occurred to me that it is almost impossible to know the composition of the dishes based solely on what is printed on the menu; it is best to ask the waiters to describe each element of a dish that you are considering. Go Now!



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