Paul Liebrandt may be British, but you’d hardly associate the exacting, Michelin-starred chef with Bangers & Mash, Yorkshire Pudding, or Steak and Kidney Pie. In fact, he’s best known for coupling contemporary French fare with a modern, graphic presentation while at Corton, as exemplified in an ode to the artist Cy Twombly, when he fashioned a plate of edible graffiti out of Skate, Razor Clams and Stinging Nettles. (Deep, right?) And Liebrandt has remained true to his signature style at The Elm, a sleek new eatery housed in the King & Grove Hotel in Williamsburg (albeit a whole lot more casual than Corton).
That’s why it’s particularly amusing that a recent menu addition is Fish and Chips, undoubtedly a tongue-and-cheek nod to the best-loved dish of his homeland. But this is still a Paul Liebrandt joint we’re talking about, so don’t think newspaper-swaddled planks of Cod blanketed with a greasy shroud of Malt Vinegar-slicked Fries, and a mound of Mushy Peas (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Like most items at The Elm, the dish is offered as part of a progression of small shareable plates, listed under “Raw,” “Sea,” and “Land.” And the price tag of $22 is a far cry from the five quid you’d expect to pay at an average Chippie along London’s Tottenham Court Road. Instead of the standard Cod or Haddock, Liebrandt goes with moist and flaky Hake, which clings to its airy, shatteringly crisp Beer Batter Crust. The fork-tender filet is nestled on a vibrantly yellow pool of Tartar Sauce, which delivers a citrusy wallop courtesy of Indian Pickled Lime, which cuts straight through the salty, savory fattiness of the fish. And instead of heavy fingers of fried potato, starch comes in the form of feather-light Root Vegetables, multi-colored Crisps arranged like petals across the plate.
Ultimately, Liebrandt’s fancified Fish and Chips may not be nearly as belly filling as its working class counterpart, but it’s a symphony of flavor, as well as a feast for the eye. Somehow, we think Cy Twombly would approve. Get yourself to The Elm for Liebrandt’s Fish & Chips 2.0.