Though by definition transitory, the pop-up structure seemed to have attained a state of permanence for Oxalis, which has been setting up shop in other people’s kitchens for the past two years.
A collaboration between chef Nico Russell (formerly of Daniel and Mirazur), beverage director Piper Kristensen (from Booker & Dax and the Bearded Lady) and partner Steven Wong, the roving dinner party offered mystery tasting menus that celebrated simple and natural ingredients prepared with exceptional technique. And after sold-out appearances at spots like Egg, Brooklyn Kitchen and Fitzcarraldo, and praise from outlets such as Gothamist, Thrillist and Edible (of course), it certainly seemed like a pretty viable alternative to turning tables, fixing exhaust fans and paying steady rent.
Yet while it’s well understood that opening independently run restaurants is essentially an exercise of folly, it continues to be the holy grail for hungry, visionary chefs. So after taking time to analyze the market, accrue capital and assess their own concept (life also pressed pause, when both Russell and Kristensen had babies), the Oxalis team finally has a home to call their own: in the vacated Bar Corvo space at Lincoln Place and Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights.
“The pop-ups were great, but we found it difficult to create something permanent without a home. And without a permanent home, you’re at the will of everyone else,” Russell says. “People were gracious, but there’s only so much you can do and ask of others in someone else’s space. Having our own brick and mortar allows us to host guests in an atmosphere built specifically for the experience we’re trying to create.”
Currently, that translates to choose-your-own adventure. While $60 still buys access to Oxalis’ secret, wildly creative, multi-course progressions (a perfect complement to an evening of contemporary art, at the nearby Brooklyn Museum), they recognize they can’t make a go on coins of squash and burrata flagged with flaxseed crisps, and sunchokes napped in mushroom broth and comte cheese alone. In an effort to woo neighborhood walk-ins, they also offer an à la carte menu in the backyard-abutting bar room, with rarefied pub grub such as charred winter greens over cheddar toast, and beef shoulder touched with black garlic.
“Although our dining room menu is pretty approachable, we’re familiar with the neighborhood, and we’re comfortable with the idea that people may need and desire something easier,” says Wong.
“To persevere, you need to follow something you really believe in. And we deeply believe that if we work hard to create a special and unique experience, there will be others who buy in and support us.” Kristensen adds, “People who believe in Brooklyn, and that believe there should be a restaurant like Oxalis.”
Photographs courtesy of Facebook/Oxalis.