When you first walk into Oxalis, you might start wondering why you don’t see any roast chicken. Perhaps they’re sold out. But you also can’t spot a single burger with housemade ketchup and hand-cut fries, or any of the other dishes you’re used to seeing inside this specific category of white-walled, light-wood-covered Brooklyn restaurants. Oxalis is on a quiet block near Prospect Park, with an open kitchen barely wider than a treadmill, a spare 30-seat dining room, bright lights, loud music, and a small bar area in the back. It feels a lot like other casual, neighborhood spots. But there’s nothing casual about the food at Oxalis.
You don’t just avoid the burger-or-chicken decision here - there are no menu options at all. Oxalis offers one tasting menu each night, which changes regularly and includes six courses for $70. But even the sheet listing the night’s dishes isn’t useful, since the simple ingredients don’t give any real sense of what you’re in for. You only get that once the food starts arriving. Then you’ll stop and stare into space like a decommissioned Westworld host while you search for ways to explain what you’re tasting.
The first course of crispy potato seems straightforward enough, but the little fried squares are topped with bay leaf and seaweed, and each bite is like a light, fluffy hash brown from an open-air diner by the beach. A plate of shredded rutabaga sounds like what your great-aunt would make you eat when you said that chores are stupid - but it’s covered in foamy fontina cheese and a coffee sauce that makes it taste more like a rich, sweet dessert than a bitter root vegetable. Three courses later, for the actual dessert, the menu just lists goat milk and honey. Rather than a secluded farmer’s take on a protein shake, you’ll get frozen custard and thick syrup made from goat milk, and the whole thing tastes like a funky vanilla sundae.
Despite the elevated menu, servers don’t lecture about emulsions and reverse-sears or lovage and nigella seeds. You’re not expected to observe a moment of silence whenever a new course arrives, and that wouldn’t do much anyway, as the alt-rock soundtrack is played at a pretty loud volume. You’ll feel totally comfortable asking for another plate of the excellent bread and butter, and you’ll find plenty of good wine bottles in the $40 to $50 range.
Oxalis’ food wouldn’t feel out of place in a large dining room with a Prius-sized chandelier a block off Central Park. But it doesn’t need to be dressed up like that. The food alone speaks for itself, and that’s what makes Oxalis different. And the fact that there’s no housemade ketchup anywhere in sight. You won’t miss it.
The menu changes often, but here are some dishes we’ve had on our visits.
You’ll definitely want to dip the beets in a custard that tastes like mint-flavored whipped cream, but the best part of this dish is the crispy, fluffy fried potatoes that are like hashbrowns that’ve gone to finishing school.
The bitter rutabaga noodles are covered in rich foam made out of fontina cheese and a sweet sauce made from coffee, and it’s tough to say if it tastes more like an appetizer or dessert. Either way, you want to eat this.
When the thin slices of scallop dissolve in your mouth, you’ll get hit with fishy, briny flavors that’ll make you think of ocean piers and traumatizing fishing trips. This is one of the best dishes here.
Fluke crudo tends to be a $21 starter that’s pretty to look at and forgettable to eat. This version, though, is one of the best we can remember.
The big portion of cod is served over sorrel juice that tastes kind of like wheatgrass. While that may bring to mind the time you regrettably let a friend convince you to take a shot of it, know that the taste actually works really well here.
A piece of smoky, peppery, really enjoyable fish.
The slabs of duck are perfectly cooked - with juicy meat under a layer of fat, crispy, salty skin. It comes with sweet potato that has the consistency and sweetness of sorbet.
We don’t know how alchemy works, but we assume that’s how they got this piece of chuck steak to be as tender as filet mignon. The beef is sitting in a pool of jus, but the whole thing comes off as surprisingly light thanks to the parsley and celery puree.
The desserts here are phenomenal. Our favorite includes frozen custard made out of goat milk topped with a thick syrup also made from goat milk. “Goat Milk Duo” may not sound like your go-to Ben & Jerry’s flavor, but this is better than anything you eat out of a carton.