Mettā occupies a quiet Fort Greene corner, the only business at the intersection of Adelphi Street and Willoughby Avenue. The big windows and rows of plants create an almost-greenhouse vibe. If you take a seat at the kitchen counter, you’ll be warmed by the fires that cook nearly all the restaurant’s plates: the addictive house sourdough, the smashed potatoes dusted with bright green scallion, charred beets. The fire doesn’t let up for the final course, either. At dessert, expect barely sweet dishes where vegetables and herbs make for perfect closers—lush, yet refreshing; rich, but light.
The kitchen is in the able hands of Argentine-born (note the Fernet and Coke on the cocktail menu) and Francis Mallmann–trained (the fire) chef Norberto Piattoni, who also spent time as a sous chef in San Francisco’s Bar Tartine (that amazing bread and the preservation techniques). But he brought on a pastry chef team to consult on that menu: Taylor Beacham and Rebecca Eichenbaum; the latter has worked at both Wassail and Agern.
“We just threw all the ideas together and they came back with all the final recipes,” says Piattoni. The perfectly soft sweet potato with herbaceous elecampane cream was inspired by a traditional Argentine recipe. “You scold it or cook it in the ashes when they’re still warm. It’s a classic way to cook sweet potatoes to eat with any meat,” he explains. “But I love the idea to use it as a dessert because in Argentina it’s traditional to eat sweet potato with chocolate”—known as dulce de batata con chocolate. “We were talking about that, bringing those ideas back, and they created that dessert.”
The crunch on the skin of the sweet potato gives you a deep caramel flavor. “When sugar gets crispy and caramelized, it tastes even better. So basically the char of those vegetables makes it more flavorful and crunchy, all the sugar,” says Piattoni. “It gives a strong character to the vegetables.”
As for the charred candied parsnips served with lovage ice cream—a flavor the waitress noted people feel quite strongly about—it was an idea that came from the pastry chefs. “They were screwing around with a parsnip cake and candied parsnip, too, charred in the fire,” he says. The refreshing ice cream, crumbles of cake and sweetness of the parsnips, with more depth from the char, combines for a dessert that surprises even in a city where you might feel overwhelmed by weird ice cream options—but it doesn’t feel like anyone is working hard to surprise you here, which makes it all the more pleasurable.
Beacham and Eichenbaum will continue to work with Piattoni on the desserts at Mettā, where everything gets switched up with the seasons—and summer, as he foretells it, sounds pretty enticing: “We’ve been charring some strawberries.”