Dinner Date in Brooklyn Runs $300 at Gwynnett St.: Review

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Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Chefs Justin Hilbert and Mark Owen outside Gwynnett St. in East Williamsburg. The restaurant charges $115 for a wine-paired tasting menu.

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Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Chefs Justin Hilbert and Mark Owen outside Gwynnett St. in East Williamsburg. The restaurant charges $115 for a wine-paired tasting menu. Close

Chefs Justin Hilbert and Mark Owen outside Gwynnett St. in East Williamsburg. The restaurant charges $115 for a... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

The rear seating area of Gwynnett St. It looks like a pub, and sometimes eats like a pub, but it certainly doesn't serve pub fare, thanks to the efforts of chef Justin Hilbert and sous chef Owen Clark. Close

The rear seating area of Gwynnett St. It looks like a pub, and sometimes eats like a pub, but it certainly doesn't... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Owner Carl McCoy at his restaurant Gwynnett St. He worked at Marc Vetri in Philadelphia and David Pasternack's Esca in New York before opening his own place. Close

Owner Carl McCoy at his restaurant Gwynnett St. He worked at Marc Vetri in Philadelphia and David Pasternack's Esca... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

The $5 loaf of whiskey bread at Gwynnett St. lives up to its name -- it tastes like whiskey. Close

The $5 loaf of whiskey bread at Gwynnett St. lives up to its name -- it tastes like whiskey.

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Young carrots at Gwynnett St. The $14 carrot dish has a lot going on: the root vegetables are roasted in thyme and olive oil, glazed in a carrot juice reduction, paired with dehydrated carrot cake, mixed with pickled carrots and finished with carrot yogurt and flowers. Close

Young carrots at Gwynnett St. The $14 carrot dish has a lot going on: the root vegetables are roasted in thyme and... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Lobster mushrooms at Gwynnett St. The earthy fungi are paired with sweet corn, sweeter husk cherries and tomatoes. Close

Lobster mushrooms at Gwynnett St. The earthy fungi are paired with sweet corn, sweeter husk cherries and tomatoes.

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Succulent monkfish is paired with glacier lettuce, shell beans and grapes. It eats like a stew. Close

Succulent monkfish is paired with glacier lettuce, shell beans and grapes. It eats like a stew.

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Gwynnett St.'s Raspberry dessert of raspberry mousse, raspberry and beet puree, beet meringues, shiso leaves and granita made from shiso and beet juice. Close

Gwynnett St.'s Raspberry dessert of raspberry mousse, raspberry and beet puree, beet meringues, shiso leaves and... Read More

Gwynnett St. is an ambitious, sometimes forward-thinking restaurant turning paprika into streusel and pistachios into tofu.

It’s where a $115 wine-paired tasting menu will end up costing you and your date $296 after tax and tip.

Yet it’s in East Williamsburg, down the block from a 99 cent store.

Brooklyn fine-dining has become as expensive as Manhattan dining. Get used to it.

Luxury rarely comes cheap. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is in a supermarket annex; Blanca is in a converted garage. Dinner for two often exceeds $650.

So I suppose Gwynnett St. represents an affordable option to a privileged cohort. The eight-course tasting, which draws from cheaper a la carte selections ($5-$30), is $85 before wine, tax, tip and bread. Bread is a $5 supplement.

Don’t expect foie gras, truffles, caviar -- or for the moment, Kobe beef.

Roe Speckles

Of six available appetizers, four are vegetarian.

The two outliers contain a modicum of seafood protein, a luscious gem lettuce soup ($11) with speckles of trout roe, and cubes of watermelon ($12), garnished with gossamer slices of cured fluke. The fish isn’t so much the main event as a salty seasoning for the sweet fruit.

Michael White might use lardo, but this is Gwynnett St., where there’s no pork or beef (at the moment).

And that’s just fine by me. Chef Justin Hilbert makes vegetables brilliant with expert cooking and modernist platings. And don’t worry: there’s enough chicken, lamb and duck entrees to sate carnivorous inclinations.

I recommend the bean curd (made without bean curd). Hilbert takes pureed pistachio and jiggles it up with gellan gum and kuzu starch. The result is a nutty, creamy, elegant “tofu.”

If this all seems like a cross between the chemistry experiment that is WD-50 crossed with the locavore temple that is Blue Hill, you’re correct, because Hilbert worked for the former and sous-chef Owen Clark worked at both.

Whiskey Bread

The room is simple: brown woods and bar stools with backs. It looks like a pub and sometimes eats like a pub; that $5 bread is spiked with whiskey. It’s dense, nearly as sweet as corn bread and stings of spirit.

The cocktails are well-balanced -- just a whisper of almond in the Rye-Tai (a riff on the Mai-Tai), a hint of peaches in the whiskey sour.

Champagne? It starts at $30 by the half bottle (about time we caught a break here). And easy breezy Lambrusco is $7 the glass.

Carrots ($14) are sweet enough to qualify as dessert, which is perhaps why Hilbert pairs them with a savory dehydrated carrot cake spiked with cumin.

The root vegetables -- some pickled with coriander, others glazed and still others infused into a yogurt -- suffuse the restaurant with a heady perfume.

Ask for the summer beans ($12) on your tasting; the kitchen takes requests. Gwynnett tosses haricots verts with smoky bits of paprika streusel.

Lobster mushrooms don’t taste like lobster. To be fair, they’re not supposed to, but I’m reasonably certain these guys possess the culinary whiz-bangery to make that happen. No matter. The earthy fungi sit atop a hash of sweet corn, sweeter husk cherries, tomatoes and a light corn puree. Love it.

Oddball Combos

Crispy-skinned dorade ($27) collapses in the mouth with the ashen ease of a toasted marshmallow, while monkfish ($28), the poor man’s lobster, actually tastes like lobster.

Roast duck brined in peach pits and paired with peaches, faro, chanterelles and pecans is even better than it sounds. Lamb is fussy and complex in the best possible way: tender loin, crispy belly, red pepper juice and aubergine in various incarnations (smoked eggplant puree, grilled fairytale eggplant and charred japanese eggplant).

Finish with the raspberry dessert, a loose salad of berry mousse, beet meringue and minty shiso. It would make Paul Liebrandt, the brilliant master of oddball combos, quite proud.

Let’s just hope Gwynnett raises the tasting to $90 and tosses in the bread. No one wants to be nickel and dimed at these prices. It’s not a 99 cent store, after all.

Rating: ***

The Bloomberg Questions

Price: Mains at $30 or less; tasting at $85.

Sound Level: Around 70-75, about average.

Date Place: Worked for me.

Inside Tip: Skip the wine pairings; order cocktails.

Special Feature: Try roast chicken marinated in oil made from roasted garlic and burnt hay ($22).

Back on My Own Dime: Especially for the tasting.

Gwynnett St. is at 312 Graham Avenue. Information: +1-347- 889-7002; http://www.gwynnettst.com.


What the Stars Mean:

****         Incomparable food, service, ambience.
***          First-class of its kind.
**           Good, reliable.
*            Fair.
(No stars)   Poor

Sound-Level (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse. 56 to 60: Speak up. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: You’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.

(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on a $2.5 million Bugatti and Rich Jaroslovsky on tech.

To contact the writer of this column: Ryan Sutton in New York at rsutton1@bloomberg.net or qualityrye on http://twitter.com/qualityrye

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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