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Gwynnett St.


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#1 AaronS

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:09 PM

so this is a relatively new restaurant in Williamsburg where the kitchen is run by a WD-50 alum and the wine and maybe the rest of the service is courtesy of someone from Esca. not sure what was in this space before, but there is a brick oven next to the bar that sat unused during service. the room is mostly exposed brick and patterned wall paper, and although the name is a nod to the Breukelyen of yesteryear this place isn't stuck in a nineteenth century that never existed. like the room the waitstaff were pleasant, with some tattooing and nods to 60s british fashion. nothing seems contrived.

since I didn't drink anything with my meal I won't comment on the wine, but I did note that the six beers they have on tap are pretty pedestrian. six points etc.

this is what we ordered:

whiskey bread with cultured butter - this was a small loaf of warm bread served with nice butter. I really enjoyed this, so much so that I won't gripe about paying $5 for bread.

lamb breast, carrots, caraway, and yogurt - this looked and tasted like a good WD-50 dish. there were two strips of fatty lamb breast, two carrots that tasted like they had been roasted, a caraway crumble, flavored yogurt (carrot I think), and more carrot on top. I assume the lamb had been cooked in some modern way, the fat melted in the mouth in a very pleasant way.

slow poached egg, heirloom beans, braised pork, and kohlrabi - this looked and tasted like a boring new american dish you could get a lot of places. there was some kind of mustard sauce on top which gave every other bite a very strong kick, almost wasabi like in it's intensity. a technically pretty well executed but boring dish.

at this point there was a long wait, so the kitchen sent out -

maitake mushroom, creamy onion, and lardo - another visually appealing dish. the large piece of mushroom was draped in translucent sheets of lardo which had been sprinkled with salt and rosemary and was sitting in a sweet onion puree that was white. I really liked the mushroom and the pork fat was a nice complement to the more cooked part of the mushroom.

another long wait -

striped bass, fennel, potato, cabbage, and smoked oyster cream - another hit. I really enjoyed the sauce, and all the elements were well cooked. this was like on of the WD-50 dishes where a familiar flavor profile (oyster stew) is presented in some strange way with modern technique, except here the modern technique was in the background. (I'm assuming the sauce and maybe the fish were the result of something clever.)

duck breast, brussel sprouts, kumquats, and pistachios - two pieces of duck breast, presented with an artfully arranged pile of brussels sprouts, pickled kumquats, a bright green pistachio sauce, and whole pistachios. I really liked everything but the duck, the sauce was good, and the kumquats gave a nice bright note that helped lighten things, but the duck itself was tough and tasted liked liver. everything else was executed in a way that made me think this was a fluke, and if we had left our child at home I would have sent it back.

desserts were very successful. we didn't share these, mine was drops of tangerine cream with a really incredible sorbet that tasted of prunes and armagnac. this and the dessert my wife had were exactly like things we've had at WD-50, although I think the sorbet with mine was different.

so overall a mixed experience. if I had only had the lamb, the bass, and my dessert this would have been an unqualified rave. as it is I think there's a lot of promise and I'd like to go back. this is the kind of place most people here want to see at this price point - ambitious (if derivative) food without any bullshit (no stools, no hipster service, no flower arrangements). since this is the internet I'll add that the lamb dish is better than the last 10 or so things we had at WD-50.

I noticed that JMoranMoya has a picture of the same duck dish in his flickr account, I'd be interested to know if his was better.

ETA: I think this is a pretty good value. the apps are between 8-12 and the mains go from 17-30 with most choices being in the mid twenties.

#2 downtown_foodie

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:43 AM

We ate at Gwynett Street last week, and we loved it.

We thought that Slow Poached Egg with Heirloom Beans and Braised Pork was outstanding. The egg that we sampled was simply perfect. It had a soft, opaque white and a thick (almost molten) yolk. (I think that Dufresne would say the yolk approximated "egg yolk-fudge".) I am sure that Hilbert is using an immersion circulator to poach his eggs, because swirling water with a spoon is not going to produce this outcome.

Like the egg, the heirloom beans were perfectly cooked. They were creamy on the inside but firm to the bite. (I should also add that the beans were not tough. Hilbert is clearly cooking them low and slow, without salt.) They paired beautifully with the braised pork, which was also tender, but had some tooth to it -- like really tender bacon. This perplexed me at first, until the bar tender offered that Hilbert is using the meat from the cheeks and the ear for the dish. Bingo. The tooth comes from the ears. Baked kolhrabi and baby turnips are added for textural contrast, but almost seem superfluous. In my view, there are very few young chefs in the city that could execute this dish as well as Hilbert, and have it taste so good.

We also sampled the Duck with Brussel Sprouts, Kumquats, and Pistachios. I think that Aaron caught the kitchen on a bad night. Our serving was tender and succulent. With that said, Hilbert is brining the duck, which can be a little tricky. If he brines the breast too long, it will become spongy -- so he needs to keep on top of it.

We did not experience any of the service issues that Aaron noted. The courses come out at a nice pace, silverware was replaced with each course, etc.

Wells is following the restaurant's Twitter Feed, so it is on his radar screen. I am not sure if this is good or bad. After the slap-down that Allswell got, one has to wonder if he is more of a liability than a help for a serious, young chef and a new restaurant. I, for one, really hope that this place makes it.

We are going back this week to sample more of the menu. The homemade tofu is definitely on our radar.

BTW, Gwynnett Street replaced a brick oven pizza place.

#3 oakapple

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:58 PM

After the slap-down that Allswell got, one has to wonder if he is more of a liability than a help for a serious, young chef and a new restaurant.

Actually, he did Allswell a favor. A mixed notice like that probably generated a modest uptick in business; it certainly did them no harm. And because it was a "Dining Brief," rather than a formal starred review, it left open the possibility for a full review later on. This is the kind of place I would expect him to keep his eye on, and possibly review later on if he thinks it has its act together.

The Times does not treat these "earnest neighborhood places" in Brooklyn as "mandatory reviews" (i.e., places that will get reviewed no matter how good or bad they are). They'll only get the full review treatment if there is a positive recommendation to be made. Holding back on Allswell, while at the same time giving it some publicity, was probably the nicest thing he could have done.

By the way: welcome to MF, nycfoodie.
Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal

#4 jmoranmoya

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 06:41 PM

I meant to write about this place long time ago. In fact I mentioned in other thread and Snekeater asked me to open a new trend ( that I did not do fast enough )
Anyway I really enjoyed this place, we went right after our visit to ACME and honestly we were more impressed by Gwynnett St.
The expectations were not the same about those 2 places ( that's one reason ), and ACME ambiance was not the best on the night we went.... too loud!

Long story short, food is new american, not rocket science like WD-50, but well executed and great flavors.
The duck was great, but the outstanding part was the dessert. After visiting NOMA some weeks ago, I have to say the chocolate dessert Gwynnett St. was at that level.
Also the appetizer Veal Breast, rutabaga and grapes was outstanding, simple and delicious.

Pictures:



I don't think they have been reviewed yet and their PR does not seem to be making the enough noise.
I hope this place does not end up closing like Masten and Lake, because they are now one of the best places in Williamsburg.

#5 Wilfrid

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 06:51 PM

Gwynett St, and Isa, have been working harder at PR since the Masten Lake news hit. Understandably so.

You can follow both of them on Twitter.

#6 jmoranmoya

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 06:57 PM

Isa was literally empty last Saturday during Brunch time. So definitely they need to try harder.
Isa brunch btw is really good, but limited to a few eggs dishes.

For the Brooklyn Mouthfooders we should go brunch to ISA now that it seems easy to get in

#7 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 07:38 PM

But I take it you would favor Gwynnett over Isa yes?
Why not mayo?

#8 jmoranmoya

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 10:35 PM

But I take it you would favor Gwynnett over Isa yes?


I have been only once to Gwynnett so I don't have enough info to decide between those 2 just yet.
At this point, for dessert I would favor Gwynnett, for the rest ISA. ISA in addition to great food ( specially in the last 2 months ), it has - in my opinion - one of the nicest and more creative decorations.

#9 g.johnson

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 11:04 PM

I should also add that the beans were not tough. Hilbert is clearly cooking them low and slow, without salt.

A pedant writes...

Salting bean cooking liquid doesn't increase the toughness of the skin according to This. Acid, on the other hand does.
The Obnoxious Glyn Johnson

#10 downtown_foodie

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 02:09 PM

I should also add that the beans were not tough. Hilbert is clearly cooking them low and slow, without salt.

A pedant writes...

Salting bean cooking liquid doesn't increase the toughness of the skin according to This. Acid, on the other hand does.


There is considerable debate about this -- but I appreciate the thoughtful feedback. Bottom line, I think the bean dish is wonderful.

#11 Wilfrid

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 08:41 PM

I'm no longer really surprised to enjoy mature dining experiences with well-executed food in these little places in Williamsburg. Yes, here's another one well worth visiting. And indeed, needing support.

More at the Pig.

#12 Orik

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 05:25 PM

I didn't read before going and was going to post a pretty much identical experience to the one AaronS had (that duck, how do they get the texture to be that vile? sous vide? I liked the gamy flavor but they should rethink how it's cooked). They should really form some sort of communication channel between the kitchen and the FOH - I asked what kind of duck it was and the waitress came back with the unlikely answer that it was wild duck from Hudson Valley. Decided to drop it at that point.

We also had cheeses, which I can recommend, it was one of those very unusual cases where the accompaniments (one of which was a WD-50 style flatbread) actually added to the experience.

The wine list is bad. I'll bet most bottles started out on some "great value" list in Europe, where they cost $8-$12, and ended up as a pretty mediocre wine for $40-$50 or more by the time it hit Gwynnett St. There are also some higher and lower priced options that as far as I can tell from memory are as bad. They can do much better (but also much worse, obviously)

p.s. for some reason we got an entire loaf of the whiskey coffee cake, while every other table got just 3 or 4 slices. It was tasty cake but I can't figure out what it has to do with anything else.

sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns


#13 aek

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 10:51 PM

I asked what kind of duck it was and the waitress came back with the unlikely answer that it was wild duck from Hudson Valley. Decided to drop it at that point.

Probably Lola duck from HVFG with the description lost in translation somewhere between the farm and FOH?

#14 Orik

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 11:28 PM


I asked what kind of duck it was and the waitress came back with the unlikely answer that it was wild duck from Hudson Valley. Decided to drop it at that point.

Probably Lola duck from HVFG with the description lost in translation somewhere between the farm and FOH?


Much larger than Lola.

sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns


#15 Wilfrid

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 04:33 PM

Just as well you didn't get the rib cap. If you didn't like the beef at Isa, you wouldn't like it here.