It’s 8:45pm on a Sunday evening at Fitzcarraldo, and boards of snowy white asparagus stippled with maple, tiny tablets of shaved summer squash tartine, and cubed lozenges of deep-fried beef tongue hit the tables in tandem. With the intuitive grace of a squad that’s been doing this for years, servers ensure that everyone’s glass of Wolffer Estate rose cider remains perpetually filled. But while this is the second seating of the night, it’s only the fourth overall; as this isn’t business as usual at Bushwick’s coastal Italian eatery, but a transient staging of the restaurant pop-up Oxalis.
Fronted by chef Nico Russell, and former teammates from his three-year long stint at Daniel, it’s no wonder the project exhibits outstanding polish. But in contrast to their mentor’s $234 tasting menus at his Upper East Side, fine dining flagship (alcohol pairings not included), Oxalis operates at a price point much more suited to Brooklyn, presenting eight-plus courses in addition to cocktail and wine couplings, for only $90 per person.
Taking its name from a common plant, Oxalis extols the elegance of simple, understated ingredients, although Russell and co. treat them with exceptional care. Being comprised of peak produce and pliant Long Island clams, a so-called “spring stew”—accompanied by crusty half moons of sourdough bread—requires little in the way of embellishment. Streamers of fork-tender fluke are sanctified with sour onion and seeds of nigella, and arranged like the concentric petals of an ivory rose. A hunk of monkfish reclines in a fermented carrot sauce; the perfect sweet-acidic complement to a Darting Riesling, and a corsage of greenmarket lettuces and chicory, braised with lardo and ginger, serves as mellow counterpoint to an intensely spicy Les Chèvrefeuilles Rouge Côtes du Rhône.
While their residence has already ended at Fitzcarraldo, the pop-up will circulate Brooklyn throughout the summer; likely appearing next in a space somewhere in Williamsburg. So keep your eyes peeled for the return of Oxalis—undoubtedly the season’s hottest pseudo-restaurant.
All photos by Louise Palmberg.