What do you do when you have a very successful Belgian-style bar, by-the-pound barbecue restaurant, and high-end grocery in Williamsburg? Right – you open a place devoted to the grill! Joe Carroll and his wife, Kim, seemingly can do no wrong in Brooklyn, beginning with Spuyten Duyvil, branching out with Fette Sau and Spuyten Grocery, and now, they have relaunched St. Anselm, next door to Spuyten Duyvil.
The original concept called for high-quality sausages and sliders to be served along with beer and wine. And they were good… really good. However, for a variety of reasons (including a recalcitrant community board regarding a beer/wine license) that idea was scrapped, and while the red tape was dealt with, St. Anselm was reborn in its new incarnation, a restaurant full of interesting menu choices — and quite a bit of smoke.
Of course there’s beer, in the form of four taps. This is a blurry picture of a smoked Berliner Weiss — not the most normal of style mergers — which at 4% abv, quenched the thirst while not saddling me with unnecessary inebriation. The night was still young, after all, and this beer captured the essence of the restaurant.
The menu is divided into various sections, so of course my friend and I chose a bunch of different things. This is his “Smalls from the Grill” selection: salad topped with grilled haloumi, a Middle Eastern cheese; it had a texture and consistency more like… well, meat. It was proclaimed unbelievably good by my friend; I had a bit and was suitably impressed, myself.
My eggplant three ways fared less well. While yes, there’s a deep-fried chunk of Montrachet and several small slices of Japanese eggplant to go with the standard eggplants, these were fairly bland and forgettable, save the pleasant smokiness from being on the grill.
Of course, I looked forward to those items chosen from the “Bigs from the Grill” section. This lamb chop is topped with a big chunk of “mint gremolata” butter. My companion greatly enjoyed this, no gameyness — I had a chunk that was delicious — and the butter really added something to the dish, so creamy, but he seemed to be peering at my plate on a regular basis. Why, you may ask?
This, this beautiful homage to worry-free dining. The ham steak with redeye gravy. Oh lordy. Do you see the sheen from the gravy, created with pan drippings, strong coffee, and probably a lot of things I’d rather not know about? So rich and charred and smoky and… words cannot express the beautiful marriage between redeye gravy and ham. That thick slab of hammy goodness, a good dose of smokiness, fork-tender… just heaven.
A big bowl of grilled shishito peppers was brought alongside. The char and attendant smokiness did these well; they retained a lot of heat, which, considering they don’t start very spicy was vital. Lots of flavor, and definitely a bowl to share.
Fried mashed potatoes? Oh, you better believe we need to try this. This wins not just for the concept, but because it was lightly flavored with truffle oil, too, and that tasty sweet goodness permeated the dish.
After we’d finished our first beers, we decided that we ought to be drinking the wine, mainly because it was on tap and rather inexpensive. So, lambrusco, a sparkling red, was obtained — I highly recommend any lambrusco you can currently get, as the market will shortly be oversaturated with bad versions of this wine style, but at St. Anselm, a very tasty version was on-tap. You can purchase various quantities at once (like you can with the beer at Fette Sau), and the serving vessels are science room surplus. While our carafe size came in a beaker, larger amounts would have arrived in an Erlenmeyer flask. Something to think about when you decide to order.
In case you couldn’t figure it out from my descriptions, St. Anselm is a big recommend. The portions are huge for the price, at least on the normal dishes — there is a $65 lamb chop and occasionally a $75 ribeye for two, but otherwise the Bigs are under $20 for the most part. I get the impression that the menu will be changing on a regular basis as well. This visit was the second day back for St. Anselm, and yet the service was attentive and the food arrived at a fine clip. I can’t really think of a reason not to visit, so… yeah, give St. Anselm a shot!