Saul Bolton’s Food to Highlight Brooklyn’s Multi-Cultural Heritage
The latest example of the convergence of art and food was the May 19 debut of The Norm at the Brooklyn Museum. The restaurant’s chef, Saul Bolton, presents food and drink that expressively represents Brooklyn’s cultural diversity in an evocative setting by renowned designer Anda Andrei, in concert with Bonetti Kozerski, that embraces The Norm’s location in the museum. The restaurant’s 80 seats will be augmented during the warmer months by another 55 on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Brooklyn Museum’s Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden, which will become a beer garden this summer.
A collaboration between the cutting-edge Brooklyn Museum and its food program partner, Great Performances, The Norm’s menu encourages a gastronomic exploration of the borough’s multi-cultural heritage. Chef Bolton, whose eponymous establishment was one of the first two restaurants in Brooklyn to earn in a prestigious Michelin star, has incorporated Indian, Mexican, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, Indo-Chinese and all-American elements.
Featured among the menu’s snacks: the carnival of flavors and textures of the Bombay Snack Mix, a riff on Southern Indian mix with spicy fried legumes, coconut, cilantro, red onion and limes; and the light-as- air Chicharones al Pastor, the fried pork skin accompanied by a salsa mirroring the essential taste components of classic al pastor, among the snacks. The Garden section features the likes of: Grilled Japanese Eggplant, kissed with a sweet tart tomato marinade, topped with sesame seeds, mint and pickled red chilies and nestled on a bed of tahini; Roasted Carrot Salad, with bulgur, Medjool dates, sumac and spiced yogurt; and Curried Cauliflower, a play on a popular Indo-Chinese dish for which herb infused batter coated florets are fried (twice), then tossed with curry leaves, cilantro, pickled yellow raisins and pickled mustard seeds, topped by micro-planed Pecorino sardo.
Entrée highlights include: Tonkastu Style Ramen, its rich broth cooked for 48 hours and Sun ramen Noodles garnished with slow poached egg, braised pork belly, mushrooms, scallions, black garlic oil and chili paste; Free Bird Farms Roast Chicken, local cage free chicken braised in traditional chocolate-tinged mole poblano, served with a tamale and watercress salad. Of course, there is a world class hamburger – the Dry Aged Norman Burger, a half pound of Pat LaFrieda rib eye, enveloped by smoked Cheddar spiked with butter and milk and graced by pickles and ketchup, both house-made.
Ms. Andrei, known for shaping Ian Schrager’s stylish hotel empire, was inspired by the maze of secret and mysterious storage spaces of the museum, to which only a few curators have access. She, along with Enrico Bonetti and Dominic Kozerski, created a space that is a seamless continuation of the museum that affords guests the opportunity to experience the institution in a completely new way – one that no other museum offers. Patrons are surrounded by art in the context of one of the Brooklyn Museum’s large storage rooms. They are flanked on one side by a huge pile of the museum’s custom made crates bearing the signs and stamps of their global travels and on the other by a massive wall of art in a floor-to-ceiling glass vitrine. There, paintings from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection referencing different eras and cultures are hung in no particular order, as though they are awaiting their turns to be showcased in an exhibition. Consequently, the space will conveys a sense of eating and drinking in the heart of the museum, an otherwise impossible experience, while evoking an appreciation how artwork travels and is stored.
That sense of having entrée to the museum’s normally off limits inner sanctum and that of a better understanding of how artwork “lives” is reinforced by Baron & Baron’s compelling graphic elements, including a menu design that integrates information about the rotating display of works awaiting their star turns.
The edible art in the room, including vegetarian and / or gluten-free options, embodies Great Performances’ and Chef Bolton’s commitment to seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. It is complemented by an accessibly priced wine list featuring high quality, but relatively undiscovered producers, and by a beverage selection rooted in Brooklyn-based breweries and distilleries. The beverages are curated by artists who have a special affinity and knowledge of certain spirits. For instance, Tom Sachs, whose Boombox Restrospective, 1999 to 2016 is currently featured at the museum, lent his expertise to the mezcal selection.
Artists also curated The Norm’s music playlist as another means of connecting the museum to the restaurant, which is named after Brooklyn Museum Trustee Norman Feinberg, who donated the funds needed to re-imagine the former Saul’s space.
Initially, The Norm is open from 11 a.m. Thursday through Sunday (with plans to expand operating days and hours in the future). It is located on the ground floor of the Brooklyn Museum at 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238. For more information, please call (718) 230-0897 or log onto www.thenormbkm.com.
Founded in 1823 as the Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library Association, the Brooklyn Museum contains one of the nation’s most comprehensive and wide-ranging collections enhanced by a distinguished record of exhibitions, scholarship, and service to the public. The Museum’s vast holdings span 5,000 years of human creativity from cultures in every corner of the globe. Collection highlights include the ancient Egyptian holdings, renowned for its objects of highest world-class quality, and the arts of the Americas collection, which is unrivaled in its diverse range from pre-Columbian relics, Spanish colonial painting, and Native American art and artifacts to 19th- and early 20th-century American painting, sculpture, and decorative objects. The Museum is also home to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which is dedicated to the study and exhibition of feminist art and is the only curatorial center of its kind. The Brooklyn Museum is both a leading cultural institution and a community museum dedicated to serving a wide-ranging audience. Located in the heart of Brooklyn, the Museum welcomes and celebrates the diversity of its home borough and city. Few, if any, museums in the country attract an audience as varied with respect to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background, and age as the audience of the Brooklyn Museum.
As New York City’s premier catering and food service organization, Great Performances (GP) is dedicated to seasonal ingredients, vibrant flavors and gracious service. GP is known for its celebration of contemporary American cuisine by crafting food that utilizes locally sourced seasonal ingredients, while taking inspiration from the global foodways and devising innovative, visually arresting presentations. Rooted in the arts since its inception, GP remains intensely involved as the exclusive caterer for more than 11 prestigious cultural institutions throughout the city. In addition, it operates some 16 restaurants, bars, cafes, concessions and food trucks in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Westchester Co., NY and Stamford, CT. All of which benefit from organic produce grown at GP’s Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, NY – the company was the nation’s first caterer to own and operate an organic farm.