Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7.0)
Olmsted is cute, inventive, and has the most perfect outdoor garden space for a cocktail, but the food didn’t live up to the outstanding reviews and accolades.
When we moved to Brooklyn, Olmsted quickly became our most anticipated restaurant. We heard of it as a neighborhood meat & potatoes type place that fits ever so snugly into Prospect Heights, but packs a big punch with experimental menus and flavors. Okay, we were sold.
Olmsted is one of those restaurants that makes it easy for the restaurant-goer. No fuss, no overwhelming three page menu (even that feels exhausting, we’re gen Z what can we say?), no bullshit. It has a michelin star feel, but is also approachable enough for two young, food-loving ladies-with-small-budgets. The only thing is, it’s not like you can just pop in for dinner; you’ll be lucky to snag a reservation in the dining room at a decent time. We recommend sitting at the bar or, our personal favorite, at the picnic tables in the outdoor garden area. You’ll have all the San Francisco summertime vibes or maybe the dreamlike bliss of a post-sunset Copenhagen outdoor culinary establishment. Is the apartment above available for rent or what?
Overall, we were underwhelmed by the dining experience despite really wanting to love Olmsted. We couldn’t quite pin down the vibe. It has a European feel, but the food is partly Asian inspired, making the menu feel a little bit all over the place, and at times, pretentious without follow through. We ended each plate with a “that was fine” or “that was pretty good” but no “oh my god this is amazing.” The presentation across the board was awesome, but the actual taste of the food was pretty average. Olmsted, we are rooting for you. We love the spirit, creativity, spunk. But most of all, we love your garden and will be back at those picnic tables sipping on cocktails and picking at little bites.
Some accolades: Olmsted was named Eater NY’s 2016 restaurant of the year, was a finalist for a 2017 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, and was recognized by Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, which acknowledges notable restaurants at a lower price point.
Cheese Fondue with pickled apples and croutons
This isn’t your velveeta fondue, in fact, just forget that altogether. It came out on a small wooden plank with mini skewers, and the cheese. Oh the cheese. Sharp, nutty and the consistency was just right. Not too stringy, not too liquidy. The goldilocks of fondue cheese: a slight brown crust on top, perfect for sinking the accoutrements into.
At the time, Olmsted featured this dish in partnership with Maison Yaki, their Japanese outpost across the street. They came in a cute little takeout box with a side of sweet and sour sauce. This is where our hopes started to fall about our beloved Olmsted. When we come to a restaurant like this and are given a crab rangoon, it better be the best damn crab rangoon I’ve ever had. It was good, not great.
Grilled Scallops with winter slaw, spicy peanuts, and XO sauce
The scallops were just how you want scallops to be: tender, cutting like butter, a nice sear on the outside. Yet, the winter slaw was a bit bland and it felt like an odd choice to go with the scallops.
Rutabaga “Tagliatelle” with burgundy black truffle and brown butter
Parker thinks vegetables should just never replace actual noodles in a cooked pasta dish. Don’t give me squash, parsnips, rutabaga, or any of that nonsense, with cheesy pasta sauce. It’s a crime against humanity. It feels like they’re trying to disguise the vegetables, rather than celebrate it. And I can’t get behind that. Celebrate handmade pasta instead! Rachel, on the other hand, loved it. I loved the innovation...rutabaga transformed into thin, silky “al dente” noodles?! No way. There might be no hope for compromise here.
Perhaps Olmsted’s best idea yet is this nostalgic dish enjoyed in the backyard garden. The waiter brings your drinks out for you, provides a blanket, and sets up a personal charcoal fire. You can feel like a kid again, while at the same time, be a refined adult on a fascinating culinary adventure. Housemade maple marshmallows, pumpkin spice Belgian-style waffles, and a bar of Hershey’s chocolate (your slice of childhood). Our only complaint here is that we wish we had more chocolate.
Rachel went with the Lavender cocktail with bourbon, herbs de provence, PX, and black walnut. It was herbaceous, beautifully nutty, and strong as hell. Parker opted for the Rosemary cocktail with mezcal, contratto apertif, chipotle, lemon, and black lava salt. Like a spicy marg with a garden twist, and a perfect, smokey bite for a chilly evening. Also, the wine list is fabulous. Olmsted focuses on natural, producer-driven wine selections and they’re all pretty affordable. Most glasses will only set you back around $13. And you’ll want to come back for more.