John Poiarkoff pulled up roots at both The Pines and Willow this past year, but thankfully, it was merely to transplant himself elsewhere in Brooklyn. Newly situated in Williamsburg, the chef has branched out with a 53-seater called denizen—which, contrasting with the abstract concepts of his previous restaurants, possesses a single, highly specific through line: cheese.
Working in concert with fromager Emily Lindh (who procures both local and imported product such as spruce-wrapped, soft-ripened Harbison from Jasper Hill in Vermont, as well as Persille de Chevre; a goat milk blue from La Ferme de La Tramblaye in France) Poiarkoff’s assembled an assortment of assertively cheesy compositions and snacks. Bulbs of Maplebrook burrata sit in ponds of broccoli pesto, swimming with schools of silvery, salty boquerones, while fans of roasted squash rest atop planks of cheddary Red Rock, along with handfuls of pepitas and swipes of spicy ‘nduja.
Unsurprisingly, bread factors into most of the heftier bites; “French onion” toast comes topped with braised oxtail gravy and curls of taleggio-esque Timberdoodle, and a salumi sammie oozes with piquant chow chow relish and nutty layers of Tubby; an alpine-style cow’s milk from Brooklyn’s own Crown Finish Caves. And though tomato soup proves the consummate partner for a three-cheese grilled cheese, wine serves as natural accompaniment for all the rest—structured into an 80-strong bottle list bolstered by 14 by-the-glass selections, further supplemented by a quadrant of quaffs (including three from the Gotham Project) on tap.
Having such a streamlined menu and tight focus means the denizen team can be a lot more ambitious with service, which will evolve to include a weekly happy hour, weekend brunch, a Sunday Supper prix-fixe, and a weekday morning grab-and-go café, operating from a takeout window in the back room (which will also be used for private events).
Poiarkoff may have mellowed since his days at Willow and The Pines, but he’s definitely not resting on his laurels.
88 Roebling St., Williamsburg
Photos by Max Branigan