One of the best parts about loving the food scene in Brooklyn–and the entire city for that matter–is that once you learn about one restaurant, one chef, you automatically learn about three or four more that are somehow related. Love a restaurant? Which other spots have the owners invested in? Like a specific chef? Check out the spot where she worked as a sous before picking up this gig. Following restaurant breadcrumb trails can lead you in all sorts of delicious directions!
This was my intention on a recent Sunday evening, venturing out to Josh Cohen and Blair Papagni’s restaurant Calyer. The husband-and-wife team who behind Anella and St.Vitus, who are also partners in Bellwether, opened Calyer last fall, and sad to say, it’s taken me that long to go. So it goes when caught in the web of the team behind one restaurant, which ultimately leads you to 10 others.
As the sun crept down on a pre-summer hot day in April, the room was dark and airy with windows open and ceiling fans working furiously above. The dark wood and warm greens and reds that span the space make for an intimate environment, and the gently arched wooden ceiling adds to a general nautical vibe–entering Calyer is sort of like going below deck on a very nice boat. The room would equally serve its purpose as a cozy spot for a hot toddy on a frigid night, or for a cold beer while seeking refuge from a hot, hot unrelenting sun.
The menu consists of eclectic pairings of familiar foods brought together into a small dish. It’s a distant relation to tapas-style meals, rooted in chef Gabriel Moya’s (Falai, Modern) Puerto Rican heritage. As it happens with tapas, the dishes here are meant for sharing, but be warned that the check climbs up quickly.
Starting out strong, the scallop ceviche came out first and was the highlight of my meal. The presentation was lovely. Beautiful ceviche speckled with green herbs resting in a sweet potato puree, yum. But what’s this? Crispy corn? Yes, but you can call them corn nuts. An unexpected addition, I ended up enjoying the crunch along with the limey brightness of the overall flavor.
Next up was the special of the night which combined sun chokes and arugula. Also an acidic dish that initially added a refreshing element on a warm day, the vinegar essence ended up having too much of a presence. A poached egg dish, which came out tepid and left me indifferent, was also in the line-up.
Of all the dishes I tried, I appreciated the true creativity of the menu and the unabashed willingness to experiment, but ultimately, I felt it was a bit too pricey for what I was actually getting.
Calyer is definitely worth a visit for a snack and a drink because of the atmosphere and cocktail list alone, which features updated twists on classics and one of the best pisco sours in the city. The Siren Song, pisco, St. Germain, cava and bergamot is light and bright, slightly bubby and girly but not sweet. Fear not, fancy cocktail haters, in keeping with the seaside feel, you can order a can of Narragansett at Calyer, too. So happy drinking, but if you’re really hungry, just know that you’ll be spending a lot for small dishes that might leave you wondering if it just sounded good, or actually worked.