Having logged hours in such prestigious kitchens as Spain’s Mugaritz and New York’s wd-50, Justin Hilbert certainly faced a change of scenery upon arrival at East Williamsburg’s Gwynnett St, what with the restaurant’s nondescript façade and no-fuss, brick-walled interior. But a year into service, following much critical acclaim as well as Esquire Magazine’s title of ‘Best New Restaurant’ 2012, both the restaurant and the neighbourhood have become somewhat louder and livelier, with the comings and goings of so many voracious New Yorkers in search of its food.
Well deserving of its winning reputation, the menu is a short-but-sweet list of six starters, six entrees, and four desserts, where bay scallops and parsnip and apple ‘blood dumplings’ are on offer alongside the smoky, flavourful Amish chicken and formidable lamb and duck breasts (the former served with curry and quinoa, the latter cabbage and brussel sprouts). The seven-course chef’s tasting is a great bet, as are the cocktails (which, during happy hour, are $6 each – a value near unheard of in Manhattan). The ‘Dark Horse’ with vodka, black plum, ginger and lime, and ‘Road to Nowhere’ with Sazerac rye, Luxardo bitter and orange, are equally delicious, and pair perfectly with the must-order whiskey bread. Mugaritz it may not be, but our gal Gwynnett has more than a few tricks up her own sleeve.