Updated November 11th, 2021
On their website, the Oxalis team refers to their restaurant as a neighborhood bistro. Similarly, at parties, a bashful, hot person in the corner might say they went to school in Cambridge, quickly glugging their Red Stripe to avoid further cross-examination.
Humility is sometimes just an arduous way to undersell reality. The truth? Said hunky party go-er holds a PhD in Linguistics from Harvard. And, no offense to your neighborhood bistro, Oxalis operates in a different league. Save this New American tasting menu spot for birthdays, special occasions, or a memorable meal with someone who will squeal at the thought of eating thomcord grapes grown in a backyard two blocks away from Prospect Park.
Oxalis opened on the Crown Heights side of Washington Avenue after starting as a pop-up series concept in 2018. Now they offer a $105 tasting menu that comes with nine or ten different dishes, spread out over six courses. If you can swing $105 on a birthday dinner or a special night out, do the tasting menu over a la carte. This way you’ll get the real razzle-dazzle of Oxalis since the a la carte has different offerings. Besides, it’s a good deal relative to other tasting menus in the city, which either cost well over $100 or slightly under $100 but leave you looking to gobble a 99-cent slice afterwards. Every time we’ve left Oxalis we’ve had to recline in our subway seat with our hands cupping our tummy.
The restaurant takes its name from a flowering wood sorrel, so it won’t surprise you to know that they operate in the capital “C” chef mode of “let’s change the menu as often as we can.” No matter when you eat here, though, expect your meal to do the distinct American cuisine contortionism of piecing together ingredients associated with original sources like West Africa, Japan, France, Sri Lanka, or Italy. Dessert might have Ceylon-cinnamon and puffed buckwheat, for example. Grilled chanterelles could be served in a light ponzu bath with a little bit of bone marrow for richness. During a meal at the end of the summer season, we slurped a creamy okra stew with mussels and celtuce. Naturally thickened from the excess moisture of the sliced okra pods, briny from mussel broth, and crunchy with fresh celtuce on top, this bowl tasted as close to the earth, the sea, and the sun as you could get in one dish.
When it’s treated with this level of care, is New American food...worth rooting for? That’s a thought we had at Oxalis once.
Oxalis does the most in their tiny kitchen space. Even as the dishes oscillate, you can always count on a guest appearance from a sourdough miche baked that morning. It’s usually served with a soft square of homemade salted butter and a shallow dip of smooth eggplant rimmed with olive oil. They cure their ham in house, they grow herbs and thomcord grapes in their garden, and they’ll probably use the whey from the butter in a tomato tart snack so it doesn’t go to waste. If you weren’t already a farmer’s market junkie before going to Oxalis, you will be afterwards.
Farm-to-table movement buzzwords can so easily come off as pretentious. And that would probably be the effect at Oxalis if the food wasn’t so good, and also if the service and room weren’t so low-key. The dishes at Oxalis might transcend the neighborhood bistro category, but the feel of the restaurant certainly lives up to that description. Walk into the plain rectangular space and the people working the line in the open kitchen will smile and say hi. If you’re celebrating a birthday, you’ll see a charming handwritten card on the table when you arrive. A playlist shifts through SZA and Paul Simon. The dining room’s only real decor involves flower bouquets and a long mirror above the banquets, and out back, there’s a plant-filled covered patio for walk-ins where they serve an a la carte menu.
Whether it’s your birthday or not, Oxalis will astonish anyone who spends the commute home talking about dinner like they’re recapping a season of The Real Housewives on Andy Cohen’s couch. This “neighborhood bistro” might be too humble to call themselves what they really are, so we’ll do it for them.
Oxalis is a Brooklyn restaurant quietly doing fine dining better than anywhere else in Brooklyn.
Since Oxalis changes their menu so often, we can’t predict the specificities of your seasonal meal here. But if it’s anything like the tasting menu dinners we’ve had, which we’ve detailed below, it’s going to be killer.
This $105, nine-ish dish tasting menu somehow manages to give an impression of familiarity and novelty all at once. Your meal will start with a couple one-bite snacks and then likely a cold fishy thing you’ll want to slurp in one go (but should probably do your best to savor). There’s always homemade bread and butter in the mix, a couple vegetable-focused saucy plates that are dressed better than you are, and a large meaty headliner. For dessert, you could very well get three desserts. We think that should be a policy moving forward whenever possible.
You can only order from Oxalis’ a la carte menu in their back garden room (which is technically outdoors but covered and comfortable) or in their alley set-up during the summertime. Most of the dishes on here, like chicory salad or sustainable bluefin tuna crudo with husk cherries, are shareable. We’d really only recommend this route over the tasting menu if you’re looking for an upscale place to meet someone in the neighborhood for a drink and a lighter meal.
Unlike many upscale places, no one will be on a heat-seeking mission to upsell you on wine at Oxalis. If you’re interested in being a beverage nerd, though, your server can casually rattle off a story about how a certain chenin blanc was produced by two guys on a centuries-old farm in France. For anyone skipping booze, Oxalis makes all their own sodas in house (like a delicious jasmine and pear drink that we can only describe as tasting fuzzy). There’s a beverage pairing for $60 that will get you good and drunk, extending beyond wine into things like makgeolli made in Brooklyn.