Walden – In Williamsburg, not Concord, Massachusetts

Nestled a few blocks from the Lorimer station in Williamsburg Brooklyn, Walden is a cozy neighborhood restaurant that maybe even Henry David Thoreau would be proud of. Thoreau lived on beans and other plants that he grew himself, and similarly, restaurant Walden, with the motto “from farm to table food,” uses ingredients from local farms, giving each dish a local dimension.

The restaurant is small, seating about 35-40, but you don’t feel like you are sitting on top of the table next to you. Included in the figure is the bar, which features comfy bar stools with a back (this is more important than you might think). Walden only serves wine and beer, but the both lists are quite extensive and should offer something for everyone.

Full disclosure: my friend works as a cook in the kitchen. I have written about my days working at his previous restaurant here and here (shortly after the meal described in this post, I worked a brunch shift in the kitchen, so Part III of my “day in the life of a cook” will come soon). The Vegetarian and I decided to stop in to check out the new dishes and see what they had to offer.

From the time we entered the comfortable restaurant to escape the cold, the staff was friendly, polite and helpful. Our friend popped out of the kitchen to greet us as well to give us info on the menu, and to tell me about my “special entree.” I was lucky enough to get a piece of pork belly for dinner, despite the dish not being offered until brunch the next morning.

Prior to ordering, a small little amuse bouche was brought out: chickpea “chips.” Little crispy chickpea pieces were a nice start to the meal. The menu at Walden is not large, which is not a bad thing as it’s constantly changing. You know that each dish is prepared with the freshest ingredients. The items available are either “snacks” or “dishes.” The dishes are not as small as a little appetizer, but aren’t enormous plates of food either. They strike a nice balance and are also good for sharing if you just want to sit and sip wine.

To start, we ordered a single deviled egg, just to try it. I normally hate these because they are often cooked improperly. Not the case here. The yolk was creamy and full of flavor and the egg white was not overcooked and still had a nice texture. For our “first” course, I went with the Chef’s suggestion of the duck confit salad, while the vegetarian picked the fennel and apple salad. The duck itself was tender and not fatty in the least, and a very sizable salad. The apple and fennel in the other salad was fresh and the dressing was vibrant. A very nice start to the meal.

For our “entrees” I was served the pork belly, which was a small flattened square with a perfect crispy skin. The polenta were practically melt-in-your mouth good. The two together makes for a great meal. The vegetarian had the mushroom “ragout” with polenta. The dish was excellent, with the same polenta but topped with fresh mushrooms. Each dish was well executed and while they were filling, you didn’t feel like you had gorged yourself with food.

The desserts, like the main dishes, appear to change regularly, but for a few days Walden offered 4 fresh-to-order chocolate chip cookies served with a glass of milk. How great is that? While the vegetarian was hesitant to dunk the cookies, I would have gone all out!

Overall, the food, service and warmth of the setting made for a great meal. The restaurant would be a great place to enjoy some small vineyard wines (or beer) and sample little tastes like olives or deviled eggs and then finish up with some perfectly cooked polenta. I promised the chef I would be honest with my review, and I have. I wasn’t told to make the food sound better than it tasted — the food was excellent all on its own. I will soon tell the tale of working at Walden for a brunch service. Until then, go to Williamsburg and check out Walden.

About Evan Halperin

I like to eat. I like to cook. I like to eat what I cook. Now, I will share with you what I like to cook. My wife and I may be a vegetarian and a carnivore, but it doesn’t mean we can’t cook a nice meal with both, without compromising taste. I will share my creative meals of the Carnivore and the Vegetarian.
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