The Intrepid Chef
New York Times critic William Grimes once likened Paul Liebrandt to “a pianist who seems to have found a couple of dozen extra keys,” and there’s no denying this London-raised chef has astonished diners with his artful if sometimes misunderstood interpretation of French cuisine.
So after relinquishing his post at Manhattan’s much-lauded Corton where he earned 2 Michelin stars, the last place you might expect to find this fine-dining maestro is across the Brooklyn Bridge in hip-and-happening Williamsburg.
But here he is indeed, heading up an open kitchen at The Elm in a lovely airy basement space with light spilling through the floor-to-ceiling windows, delicately whipping together his signature fresh ingredients with a painterly refinement. In true Liebrandt style all dishes are noteworthy, but highlights include foie gras layered with a spiced strawberry gelée, pickled strawberry, almond cream, and candied ginger; and the Summer Garden (subtly slated as vegetables and fruits en cocotte) is in fact a painstaking arrangement of miniature foliage, fresh herbs, al-dente carrots, summer-sweet tomatoes and golden beets. Even dessert, like the Summer Red Fruit Tart crowned with berry sorbet, summer fruit, lemongrass marshmallows and shards of lemon confit meringue, strikes an unusual note between sweet and fresh – proving that this pianist certainly hasn’t lost his touch.