Patrons peer at each other across rows of raised beds, biding their time with bouquets of fried fiddlehead ferns, and glasses of rosé. It’s like the world’s most idyllic DMV, instead of awaiting the renewal of a drivers license in some featureless, suffocating room, supplicants are anticipating admittance to dinner at Olmsted; Prospect Height’s brand new, backyard-to-table restaurant.
Cultivated by horticulturist Ian Rothman, knobs of Jerusalem artichoke, diamonds of sage, tendrils of sweet pea and bunches of chive are—not unlike those diners—patiently waiting to be called into action by former Atera chef, Greg Baxtrom. Running the pass of an open kitchen, he puts the finishing touches on creations enterprisingly cobbled together from the garden—from a lustrous spring onion chawanmushi, set around summer truffle and lovage, to a shaved asparagus salad, tossed with green goddess-esque, wheatgrass-embued dressing, to a vivid carrot crepe, draped like a hankie atop sashimi’d surf clam, and ringed by downy petals of sunflower.
With respect to stout quail that chatter in enclosures out back, it’s actually guinea hen featured in an entrée course, both compressed and roasted with an emerald band of ramps, as well as prepared confit, mixed with lusty caps of morels. Although you might spot crayfish being scooped out of a washtub before being transformed into “boil” flavored crackers, with the honeycombed texture of pork rinds.
Strawberries mingle with more strawberries in service of dessert, and lavender blossoms punctuate a honey-sweetened and aerated play on frozen yogurt, whipped into a marshmallow-like ball. Pending a liquor license, that backyard bounty has yet to factor into the beverage program (cocktails like rhubarb with tequila and tonic, tarragon with gin and yuzu, and sassafrass with sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca are still in the works) and certain plantings require a real investment of time—fig and citrus trees are still saplings—prior to edible payout.
But if an initial meal at Olmsted is any indication, it will be well worth the wait.
659 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights