Update (January 2014): Take Root no longer incorporates yoga as part of their restaurant concept, and now is tasting menu only, served on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00. The restaurant no longer has communal seating.
Chef Elise Kornack has returned from the kitchen with a clove of black garlic, which she passes around the 10-seat table for each diner to smell and touch as she explains how garlic is fermented at high temperatures until the sugar and acids turn the bulb dark, loaning a deep, tangy flavor.
This is a fairly typical moment at Take Root, the unique dining-and-yoga concept Kornack and partner Anna Hieronimus recently opened on a quiet side street in Carroll Gardens, a spot where sharing and conversing about a meal is as highly valued as the food itself.
The concept began when the pair moved to Brooklyn in 2011 and Kornack, a former Aquavit sous chef, started using their giant backyard space to grow everything from heirloom tomatoes to raspberries, and hosting dinner parties to share the bounty. Hieronimus, a certified yoga teacher, was running lessons out of their second bedroom, and the couple thought they might be on to the makings of a business plan. They upgraded to the ground-floor Carroll Gardens space, where they built out a kitchen, along with a space for dinner in the front and a room for yoga in the back.
Take Root offers a la carte dinner Tuesday through Thursday and brunch on Saturday, but the focus is the weekend “Rooted” concept–a 10-seat tasting table offering five courses for $85. The menu changes weekly, but a recent visit started with pickled popcorn then moved into hearty dishes like a cannellini bean bisque filled with young fennel, seared skate, peanut potatoes and mussels. On the less traditional side, granola and yogurt is reconfigured as a dinner dish, with mushrooms, kohlrabi and beets spicing up a salty-crunchy combo. That black garlic was used in an exceptional linguine topped with brussels leaves, dehydrated garlic chips and Holland peppers brined in sugar–a spicy, deeply flavoful combination that lingers in my mind a week later.
Everything from the peasant bread to the brown butter to multiple types of yogurt is made in-house, and Kornack, who prepares the whole meal herself while Hieronimus handles service, comes out tableside to explain each dish. All guests are seated at a communal table, so it really does feel like a private dinner party–the hostesses check in to make sure you approve of music choices; the night I went the evening stretched on for three hours as the other guests and I ate and drank slowly, chatting as if we were old friends.
Hieronimus brings a similar slow-is-good concept to her yoga practice. Pre-registration is required for workshops that last two to two-and-a-half hours, incorporate time for tea breaks and focus on meditation and full-body wellness.
As someone who tends to get antsy if my morning latte takes more than 90 seconds to appear, I understand Take Root might not be for everyone. On the other hand, we could all stand to move a little slower once in a while, and if there’s a smorgasboard of top-notch food being served as we do so, what’s not to like?