Just steps away from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is neo-bistro Oxalis, where guests can enjoy a six-course tasting menu for $70.
“There aren’t a lot of places where diners can have what we consider fine dining caliber food without paying $300+ per person, which is extremely inaccessible for most people,” says Oxalis director of operations Steve Wong. “The same can be echoed for experience—most high-end experiences can feel extremely formal and austere, and there was a huge missing market for high-end food and drink that felt comfortable, casual and accessible.”
The restaurant’s mission is to create purposeful, boundary-pushing food in a format that prioritizes affordability so the larger Brooklyn community can participate. Even the name Oxalis ties into this, as Wong says oxalis is a plant in the wood sorrel family that’s commonly found in California, where he and Chef Nico Russell are from, and the two view it as a “humble” and “accessible” ingredient. Russell adds that the menu is based in utilizing humble ingredients as well as seasonal produce. Some of the notable dishes Russell has created include stewed young potatoes, ramps and braised kombu; corn with braised lettuce and lemon verbena; and a caramelized white chocolate, Meyer lemon and spruce dessert. In addition to the $70 carte blanche tasting menu in the dining room, guests can also enjoy an à la carte menu in the Garden Room and Bar.
A wine and cocktail program, developed by Piper Kristensen, accompanies Russell’s kitchen creations. Kristensen notes that the beverage menu highlights hyper-seasonal foraged elements and utilizes unorthodox ingredients, such as burrata water and mineral blends.
“The cocktails on our seasonal list all work in conjunction with the kitchen to highlight products we’re receiving,” Wong says. “The wines follow a similar inspiration: all natural, low-intervention wines that highlight time and place. Our list is heavily focused on indigenous grapes and capture the spirit of the places where they are produced.”
Inside the restaurant, which was recently awarded a Michelin Star, diners can find an aesthetic that focuses on simplicity. Wong notes that this was purposeful as “the Neo-bistro dining movement is in large part a departure away from extravagance and bringing attention to fresh, seasonal ingredients. Our guests are paying for the food and service, not for the extravagant decor. We want to bring the attention to the food and drink.’’
Oxalis originally started as a pop-up dinner series that ran in 2016 and 2017, and the team sold out over 50 pop-ups in the course of those two years. The experience allowed the team to learn what worked best for diners before they established their home in Prospect Park. Wong and Russell say they were drawn to the neighborhood for its diverse community, personality and proximity to Brooklyn institutions and transportation stops. Going into 2020, Wong says the team is planning to do collaborations and dinners with winemakers and other restaurants.
“No matter what happens and how we grow, [we’ll] always [be] rooted in the idea of humble ingredients and accessibility,” Russell says.