469 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11215
Gowanus Open Studios 2017
It is the weekend of Gowanus Open Studios: the weather was a perfect fall day and it gave me an opportunity to explore a new neighborhood. I took some photographs of the canal, warehouses, auto repair shops, and industrial sites, and was generally pleased with the results. This is a great black and white neighborhood.
After a day of photography, exploring artists studios and looking at lots of art, it was time for dinner at Olivier Bistro.
You have a sense that the neighborhood is beginning to gentrify. Luxury condo developments are under construction, there is a Whole Foods (of course) overlooking the canal. Across the street from Olivier Bistro is Manny’s Rim and Tire Shop, condo construction and a Starbucks. There are lots of small art galleries in the neighborhood but you know what is coming. I experienced the exodus from Soho (now de-evolved into an outdoor mall, but I still love the architecture) and the East Village. I mention this because it is a huge issue in the neighborhood.
The decor of Olivier Bistro is clean and minimal. There are a few black and white photos on the walls and wood mirrors. All of the chairs are Thonet. There is an attractive bar to the right when you enter. On the streets are boxes with grape vines growing. French flags fly on the street.
Service was friendly and efficient. It was attentive but not obtrusive. The bread was some of the best I have seen in the bistro world in a long time. The crust and the crumb were good. It was served with olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. The music was classic rock-Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Tom Petty, the Stones, etc. An odd choice, but perhaps not for a bistro located in Gowanus. Somehow it worked; it fit a more contemporary vibe.
In the table next to me two older ladies with white hair had two cocktails, and then demolished a bottle of white wine, onion soup and a huge beef marrow talking nonstop all the way. The crowd feels very local; I cannot image any tourists here.
The wine was organic and good-better than most wines by the glass, even Odeon’s. The wine list is limited but of high quality.
There are some interesting appetizers on the menu: shishito (blistered green peppers, sea salt and lemon), poulpe a la plancha (octopus, red pepper sauce, fingerlings and confit tomatoes), and choux frit (fried cauliflower, lemon aioli). They range in price from $9 to $14.
The entrees are mostly the classic bistro dishes: hanger steak, poulet au citron, poisson of the day, cassoulet de canard, and moules frites. Prices range from $17 to $26. Prices here are gentle compared to those on Manhattan!
Deserts feature a nice selection of cheese, which I see less frequently than you might imagine.
I had the halibut with almond sauce, cherry tomatoes, squash slivers, and almond shavings. It was excellent: even though the sauce was complicated and there were lots of elements to the dish, the flavors and textures were distinct and well-defined. Sometimes these types of dishes get very muddy but that was not the case here. I had the Morbier cheese for dessert. It was served with grapes, nuts and sliced tomato.
The owner is Olivier Verdier who moved here from France eight years ago and worked for thirteen years in restaurants in France. He opened the bistro with Guillaume Thivet who was a former chef at Bouley.
I liked this bistrot. The food was of much higher quality and creativity than the norm, there was actually good bread and the owners care about their restaurant.
Staff: 7 (Casual, friendly and attentive)
Archetype: 6 (Not really concerned with signifying the Archetype)
Food: 9 (Very good traditional bistro food; some creative offerings)
Energy: 8 (Noise low, Gowanus/Park Slope crowd; rather small space but comfortable)
Gowanus Open Studios 2017