Introducing the Timeliest Restaurant of All Time, ’13
Meet Perrile and Rist Bleddyn. They’re a pair of Jewish-Welsh chef-brothers who live in Staten Island, NY, with their folks, Esther and Drwst Bleddyn. Last year, while reading Eater.com, they developed food fever. Shoving into their rucksacks their passports, some cans of Off!, a few of Esther’s chopped liver sandwiches, numerous bottles of Advil, and the goatskin flask given to each of them by their beloved father into their rucksacks, they took off for a whirlwind tour of the international restaurant scene.
After spending time in kitchens in Copenhagen and San Sebastián (you know the ones), they’ve returned to the roost — 20 pounds heavier, collectively (Perrile’s metabolism is frighteningly speedy; Rist is carrying the bulk). They’ve incorporated everything they learned on their journey into an original concept: ’13, housed in their parents’ hastily but tastefully refurbished garage. “It’s homey and harried,” says Perille, a.k.a. the Hotter Brother, who manages the front of house at ’13, while his gruffer, brooding, hirsute frère focuses on what goes on behind the ticking-striped curtain — a cast-off from Esther’s English country cottage design phase.
Things are unusual from the moment you sit down. Enchanted by the practice of foraging, the guys have applied the concept to tableware. Most of the cutlery and select pieces of dishware are foraged — or borrowed — from the many restaurants the Bleddyn boys visited around the world. Your knife might have gone, unseen, from the table at Mugaritz into Rist’s rucksack so that you can cut into your game bird. Were those chopsticks lifting your dumplings slipped into the waistband of Perrile’s trousers at the end of his meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro? Only the brothers know for sure.
The weekly-changing menu offers a tasting experience without too much tyranny. Diners are asked to choose four from a list of six savory options and one of two desserts. The five-course meal is priced at $120 a head, or, if you opt for Drwst’s “Bathtub Moonshine” pairings, $250.
Rist will start you off with an amuse-bouche — perhaps his shooter of African Zambian “tea” topped with freekeh “dust,” served, reluctantly, with a twisty straw.* Other compositions might include gluten-free horsecake pops; “Buckthorn” and “glasswort” “salad” with “seared” “faux gras” and “seared” “Yukon” “River” “salmon;” ramen-stuffed gyoza served in a charred bone-infused dashi and garnished with a tempura-fried beef heart, or smoked pine needle and “Tokyo” turnip “ravioli” with house-made Fernet sorbet. Rist uses that bitter, his current flask quaff of choice, in more than one preparation. His ember-cooked aged squab is accompanied by Fernet-and-oak-milk popcorn that has been kissed with smoked “sea” salt. (Are the brothers overly fond of quoted items in dishes? “No,” says Rist.)
Not to be missed at ’13 is the Nightly Terrarium: Diners forage among a miniature patch of bonsai-style fronds for bits of “bark,” “soil” and “truffles.” (The last would be tiny nib-like bits of what are most likely — but not definitely — truffles.) This course is served with tweezers for optimal morsel capturing. Then there’s the optional ($15 supplement) bread course, or what the brothers like to call the “Dolores” — a reference to Ms. O’Riordan, the lead singer of The Cranberries, who perform the siblings’ favorite song, “Ode to My Family.” Diners will also find the challah-based item listed as “JeWelsh Rarebit” on the menu.
The Hotter Brother shines when it comes to the cocktail program and pastry work. At the moment, he’s super-jazzed about his “Scandinavian” “glacier”-grown, “artisan”-“milled” ice sphere. This he serves “reverently”** at 31.5°F degrees in the chilly, uncomfortably quiet fallout shelter beneath the garage.***
If you get close enough to Perrile, you might notice he emits a subtle, sweet green odor; this comes from his daily rolls in the hay, currently his favorite iteration of grass. He has crafted a dessert to celebrate this newfound love. Featuring five different varietals of hay, each culled from a specific terroir and aged for a different length of time, he calls it his Baleful Tart. The crust is made from hay flour and is lined with a layer of hay jelly. On top of that rests hay-roasted bananas. Hay-dusted toasted cashews and a sprinkling of benne seeds serve as the garnish, and on the side, you’ll find — you guessed it — a quenelle of hay ice cream.
Open three nights a week (Tuesday through Thursday), ’13 feeds a mere ten lucky diners a night. It’s located at 2013 Van Name Avenue. Reservations must be made the same day by calling Esther on her cell (917-917-9177) and asking for “Mom.”
*Straws are not foraged.
**The sphere is $16 alone; there’s a $12 supplement for a mixologist-approved spirit (note: mixologist is synonymous with Perrile; so is sommelier).
***The glass vessel in which this ice sphere is served was purloined from NOMA, where the chef-owners "trained” (for a day, or really, an evening, during the course of which they enjoyed a meal).
****Must be ordered 48 hours in advance to account for hay inventory.
*****HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY from Charlotte Druckman, Kat Kinsman & Dan Saltzstein.