Kofi Ansong

Meticulous is the adjective that comes to mind every time I eat at Olmo. I imagine it’s like a time when mass-produced breakfast sandwiches didn’t exist, and I’d have to bring back the eggs from the local farm and scramble them myself. If I wanted bread too, I’d have to wake up extra early and wait for the dough to rise.

In circumstances like these, there wouldn’t be much time or resources for me to make a sumptuous dish. Instead I’d fine-tune the basics, I’d labor over every second my egg was in the skillet if I wanted to create something special.

Olmo has bro-chefs who do this dedicated cooking for us. Bros is another word that frequently comes to mind. The kitchen is stationed on one side of the rectangular brick dining hall. The chefs down Pellegrino’s as they work and joke with each other, while their audience is sectioned off only by a white bar counter. And for as much time as they spend trying to be funny, they put in twice the energy succeeding at being delicious.

Customers who do not sit at the bar are on the restaurant’s opposite side. They eat on black bistro chairs and over a wooden table, where they are close enough to the kitchen for a waiter to pick up an order from the chef, turn around and hand it down. Despite the compactness of it all, there is still enough space and a high enough ceiling to not feel tucked-in. The space takes in the noise; the volume is just right to enjoy a conversation with a friend, or to drown everyone out and focus on the meal.

For brunch this meal could be an everything bagel, a dish the manager assured me is “very Brooklyn.” Thin slices of salmon, horseradish, onions, olive oil and a housemade everything spice layer on both of the bagel’s sides. The bagels, which Olmo also bakes, were crisp.

It did not shock me that the strips of bacon on Olmo’s sandwich tasted good. The fact that a hash brown within the sandwich took up the same amount of space as these strips, however, made it so that all the parts were familiar. The result was like nothing I had eaten before. Crust crunchier than the toast, the hash brown’s tender insides justified the chef’s by-the-minute inspection of it as it fried.

The inspector was Alex Lishchynsky, a co-owner and co-chef of Olmo who along with Craig Hutchinson formerly ran the kitchen of Caseus, a now closed restaurant that operated in the same building. As it sounds, these two restaurants are more similar than they are different. Jason Sobocinski, Caseus’ sole owner is also a co-owner of Olmo. So, rather than a shift in bistronomic intention, Olmo signifies the pair’s promotion and their control over the restaurant’s business and creativity.

And with them in charge, great things are happening. Every Monday, Olmo forgoes their typical menu, and instead, the two serve food based on whatever theme piques their interest. When I went to Olmo for my last visit, Chinese pendant lights had transformed Olmo into a night market.

The fun, though, at times, came at the expense of taste. The fried rice on the menu would have been more accurately called snow-peas rice; the abundance of these vegetables diminished the value of bits of carefully scorched rice. The sauce on top of the General Tso’s chicken was too flavorful to indulge in more than a few bites.

Yet, on this theme night the chefs also displayed their fine-dining expertise more patently than they do with their bagels and sandwiches. The last meal I ate at Olmo was twice-cooked pork, where the pork bellies had been reduced into balls of dark purple and were glazed in a sweet braising sauce, thickened with slurry. The sweet meat was offset, visually and taste-wise, by tangy slices of fermented bamboo shoot.

Clearly, I am torn by the theme nights. If they carry over the same meticulousness they have for the food on their normal menu, it can be just as brilliant. I will revisit on these days; the prices were slightly less expensive than Olmo’s typical menu, which can be pricey. If anything, I will definitely be there this upcoming Monday: The theme is fried chicken.

Kofi Ansong | kofi.ansong@yale.edu