I really like Bill Murray. Really, who doesn’t?
The buzz around 21 Greenpoint’s opening weekend back in 2016 slated Murray to bartend at his son’s restaurant near the waterfront. Of course it was invite only, of course a line of uninvited guests formed outside, and of course I was working anyway.
Despite my frequent visits to nearby Transmitter Park, I unintentionally put the restaurant out of mind. That is, until I read a review regarding a $21 tasting menu featuring food that would otherwise go to waste (think vegetable stems, extra fish, not full portions of short rib). 21 Greenpoint is closed Mondays and implements a tasting menu on Sunday nights (the only option for dinner) to clear its walk-in of excess potential wasted food. The menu consists of 5 courses and changes throughout the night, but follow the same categories: 1) soup 2) salad 3) starch 4) protein 5) dessert. The portions are small, as any tasting menu, but the meal allows one to leave satiated.
This model strikes a chord with my personal values of minimizing waste as well as embracing repurposing and recycling. Naturally, I made a point to dine at the restaurant the following Sunday, considering the location is also extremely convenient for me.
The space itself is beautiful. Airy, classy, yet humble. The bar is an oval with a triangular point and the High two-tops line the wall opposite the bar, behind the bar lies an open kitchen and more dining. Eavesdropping, I learn the restaurant was designed by the same person who designed the Life Aquatic. A quick glance around finds the kitchen staff in red beanies. Yes, this restaurant could be a Wes Anderson movie. In fact, I might be in one right now, as I sit at the bar.
I’m becoming attuned to the flow of the tasting menu, the sequence. It’s a little bit like the yoga classes I go to. I know that at about 45 minutes in, I will be in pigeon pose. Here, I know that after the salad comes a flatbread. Tonight, a froccia so well executed with the proper amount of oil that I am sure the sliver will go unrivaled in my mind for some time.
Okay, okay, but we write about cocktails here, let me not get to carried away with the food – perfectly portioned, well-flavored, and mindfully plated. Order food here.
Also order drinks. The backbar is brilliantly stocked – I spy Braulio, Sfumato, and other favorite Amaros among a well-stocked selection of browns, rums, and agaves. A glance at the cocktail list makes it hard to choose – every cocktail sounds unique in some fashion. The Indonesian Spring is my first (white rum, arrack, raspberry brandy, amero, maraschino, kafir lime). I expect something rich but am met with a delicate floral bouquet and kafir. The drink alone is complex and remains so with every sip out of the elegant and minimal vessel.
The bar is more full than I anticipate. I spot Jerry and move with Ben and Lizzie to greet him. After some confusion with the hostess and a party of two other girls awaiting bar seats, the four of us move to a table in the back, a porch-like room with windows to the main dining area. The flow makes the space expansive, bigger than expected.
“Let’s get a bottle,” Ben takes charge. “If it’s alright with you all, I’d like to try as much American wine as I can while I am here.” We nod in agreement, his enthusiasm for all things, especially wine, is immersive and contagious. Laughter at the table is ceaseless. A bottle of pink bubbles arrives and rolls over the tongue – a sweet rosebud and dry floral finish.
The courses land on our table quickly, in succession. We share a salad and slurp our individual soups before flatbread and pasta descend upon us.
I recommend two more American wines and curb Ben’s attempt to order both simultaneously. I doubt we will finish three bottles. “Let’s start with the white and once we finish that, we can order the red,” I suggest. The Clendenen Family viongier is refreshing, round, almost buttery with notes of honeysuckle and minerality. It accompanies the starch and protein courses brilliantly.
“Who wants to relive me of this egg?” Lizzie says, part an offer, part a plea.
“Me,” I eagerly accept what she calls baby bird goo and top my margarita flatbread with the over-easy egg.
Conversation turns to jokes, with one very elongated joke from Ben. “The father and son walk into a pub,” he corrects for American relevance, “a bar – in Williamsburg,” he continues making the scene tangible. The punch line hits as we finish the wine. Ben begins to fall asleep at the table, illustrating that jet lag is indeed real.
No, we will not be ordering the red.
“Good to see you again,” the bartender greets on my most recent visit. “Michelle, right?” he remembers my name but I must ask for a reminder on his. I spread out with Spanish homework, and slide down to accommodate a group of five who order Campari spritzes. I sip a delicate balance of Salers Gentiane and Cappalleti Aperitvo. It elongates over several courses before I switch to the ultra-herbaceous mezcal Derrumbes San Luis Potosí. I had been introduced to this mezcal on my first visit and immediately fallen in love with its aggressive vegetal nature and intensity. The mezcal is perhaps ordered a little late in the meal. As toffee ice cream lands for desert, the agave offers its own satisfaction after the sweet cream leaves my palate.
Since my first visit for the Sunday night tasting menu, I have invited almost everyone I know in my neighborhood to join me. This is the kind of experience I want to encourage. Well executed food and drink offer a gourmond’s delight. Who knows, one of these days maybe I’ll run into Bill Murray on a Sunday night.