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The Elm Grows In Brooklyn

Superstar chef Paul Liebrandt loosens up with his latest restaurant in Williamsburg

Paul Liebrandt’s Corton is easily one of Manhattan’s toniest restaurants. The Tribeca eatery earned two Michelin stars for its $155-per-person tasting menu and is consistently spoken of as one of the hottest tickets in town. It is, needless to say, a very fancy place. So tongues have been wagging since it was announced that Liebrandt, who was raised in London, would be opening his next eatery, The Elm, in the King & Grove  across the river in Williamsburg, the pulsing heart of Brooklyn cool.

“I was approached about a year ago by [King & Grove owner] Ed Scheetz to do this project, and I thought that it was a very interesting space in a very interesting location,” Liebrandt says. “I thought it would be a good move.”

The Corton chef was ready to embrace informal dining. At least a little bit.

“I’ve been wanting to do a more casual contrast to what I’ve been doing for quite awhile, but finding the right scenario takes time,” Liebrandt explains. “If you look at Thomas Keller or Daniel Boulud, they seemed to have done it pretty well.”

Liebrandt goes on to say that while the style of food at The Elm, set to open this Friday, will be similar to what he’s famous for—seriously, in 2011 HBO aired a documentary about him—the price point at the eatery will be more affordable.

“As far as the food goes, the cooking, the ingredients, the rigor, the execution—that doesn’t change,” he says. “Whether we do something very high end or a simple piece of fish, we cook with the same mentality behind it.”

And while The Elm will be serving a burger—practically de rigueur at any worthwhile restaurant in Kings County—Liebrandt, who’s working on a yet-to-be-named Manhattan project with Scheetz, isn’t interested in being portrayed as slumming it in Brooklyn.

“It’s Williamsburg, not the West Coast or another country,” the chef says. “It’s New York City. We are opening up a restaurant that’s very easy to get to from anywhere downtown in Manhattan, and because of the river in between Manhattan or between Brooklyn really makes no difference, we are doing a nice restaurant. That’s it.”

Or that’s almost it. In addition to the food at The Elm, Liebrandt will handle all of the hotel’s food and beverage, including in-room dining and the menu for its popular rooftop pool. Liebrandt says the poolside menu will feature lighter fare—chicken tempura sandwiches, BLTs and the like—but it’s in no way secondary to his dining room.

“It’s part of the scope of what we do,” he says. “The styles and technique don’t change. The fun part is being able to do something different.”

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