After a year and a half of controversy, a changing of menus and of the guard, one of Prospect Heights most talked about restaurants has found its culinary compass—and it's pointing due South.
Simon Glenn, of the critically renowned New Orleans-style Tchoup Shop pop-up at d.b.a. in Brooklyn, has officially become Dean Street's new executive chef. And he's coming out of the kitchen harder than the Brooklyn Nets.
"He's not just taking what he's doing at Tchoup Shop and putting it on the menu, it's a completely new thing," says Dean Street co-owner John Longo. "Naturally, there is some crossover, there are always intense flavors, but what he's doing is specific to this restaurant."
Glenn, who previously worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten and French Master Chef René Bajeux, was first introduced to owners Rob Gelardi and John Longo by Dan Eardley (of Carroll Gardens' dear departed Chestnut), when the pair swooped in to restore peace to the kitchen after Spotted Pig alum Nate Smith was famously ejected.
Once the dust had settled, Glenn began renting space from Dean Street to prep his Tchoup Shop pop-ups.
"That's how the tenant and subletter relationship started," says Glenn.
Working in close quarters together downstairs, in the rabbit warren of rooms devoted to cooking and storage, inevitably some of Glenn's creations began making their way onto the menu. Before long, Longo and Gelardi asked the chef if he would come on fulltime.
For the last three weeks the restaurant has been soft-rolling Glenn's new additions onto the menu in an effort to open up the palates of loyal patrons.
"It's handcrafted food but in a very casual, neighborhood-driven setting," says Glenn. "Yeah, there are some people looking for jerk wings, but there are plenty of places in the neighborhood where they can get jerk wings. Here, they can get something a little different: crispy confit wings with a chipotle jam."
If that sounds appetizing, consider also Glenn's brisket-duck boudin balls, with their crunchy fried crust and melting insides. Three hot golf-ball size globes sit expectantly beside slices of homemade dill pickles and a pot of proprietary blend mustard that is so addictably smearable, it should be illegal.
Longstanding hits on the brunch menu, such as the Carolina Sunrise featuring a homemade buttermilk biscuit with pulled pork, eggs and a side of grits, will remain. But make room for grass-fed chicken-fried steak with red eye gravy, riffs on Eggs St. Charles, and Bananas Foster French Toast, to come.
"We have a lot more freedom to use stoves and fire," says Glenn, expanding on the differences between what he will feature at Dean Street and what he has done at Tchoup Shop. "It's nice to make dessert for a change."
One testament to the powers of a full range is the house gumbo. Swimming with sausage, shredded chicken, okra, rice and slivers of green onion, it is the most elegant we've ever tasted—and the most authentic you're likely to find this side of Orleans Parish.
But speaking of desserts, the Caramel Chocolate Pecan Tart currently on offer is a salty sweet masterpiece, dusted with large flakes of Maldon, framed by a cornmeal crust and cozied against a perfect fluffy quenelle of fresh whipped cream.
Other sweets include a key lime pie with blackberry sauce, sweet potato pie with molasses bourbon caramel and a banana bread pudding with rum butter sauce. But if that isn't enough for you, Dean Street is also now making its own ice cream.
"The food needs to be fresh and vibrant and dynamic," says Glenn. "We're trying to hit a lower price point than previous chefs, but get the quality back in line."
To that end the chef is also smoking his own bacon and ham, producing homemade mustard and mayo, and hopes to make ketchup in the next month as well as sausage down the road.
"If it leaks a little bit higher for increased labor costs, it's worth it to us for the quality," says Gelardi of the attention to detail.
The refined ingredients yield more flavor to even simple dishes, such as the Smoked Bacon Salad.
"It's pretty amazing," says Glenn, describing the giant slab of house-smoked bacon cooked on the grill until it's crispy then dressed with blue cheese, tomatoes, tarragon, sherry vinegar and olive oil.
"What a salad should be," he jokes, "based on bacon."