Chef Greg Baxtrom’s dad built the sunny space, where diners can play petanque and sip sake negronis.
Greg Baxtrom and the Olmsted team opened their new Brooklyn restaurant, which feels like the neighborhood spot you wish you lived down the block from, at the end of April. Part Parisian bistro-café, part Tokyo yakitori joint, Maison Yaki serves a menu of shareable items that are all less than $9. High-end ingredients like summer truffle, duck, and escargot litter the menu, making it one of those rare places you can take both your thesising graduate student friend as well as your hard-to-please pal who works in investment banking––half of the restaurant’s fifty-two seats are specifically reserved for walk-ins. There are blue and mustard-colored tiles and a neon sign that reads, “Oui Chef.” There are king trumpet mushrooms (which make their way into delightful skewers served “a la Grecque”) growing in boxes above the bar. On any given night, the soundtrack might include Hall & Oates and Paul Simon, but also Kanye West.
“Maison Yaki is full of energy,” Baxtrom says. “The design and food are meant to feel young, fun, and evoke excitement. The music is loud, plates are coming at you from all angles, and the flavors are familiar and different all at the same time.”
Some of the dishes, like the cauliflower okonomiyaki streaked with kewpie mayo and topped with scallions and crumbled hazelnuts, or the beef tongue “sando” sliced in half and drizzled with what, on first blush, resembles ketchup but is actually gribiche, photograph perfectly. Others, like the pickled green beans and cucumbers that arrive in a weck jar, or the basket of miniature baguettes with yuzu kosho (a fermented Japanese paste made with chili peppers and yuzu peel) butter, are relatively less sparkly on the outside, but are still items you’ll stop politely trying to share––these are the plates worth fighting over that last bite for. Baxtrom says that while the scallop and ribeye skewers “sell themselves,” he’s pleasantly surprised to see that some of menu’s more adventurous offerings, like the tempura frog legs and escargot in shiso butter, are proving to be extremely popular.
With this second restaurant, Baxtrom says he and his team are finally doubling down on making fine-dining fun and approachable. “We were very careful not to abandon any thing that makes Olmsted so exciting, such as sourcing sustainable and high quality ingredients and preparing them in new and fun ways, as well as having an on-premise agricultural element,” he says.
For the beverage program, Baxtrom opted to offer a number of zhuzhed-up classics––like a cherry blossom manhattan and a ginger French 75––on tap.
“Using a tap system allows us to be built for consistency, speed and value,” he says. “We want everyone to be able to try as many things on the menu as possible.” There’s also a number of wines, beers, and sakes by the glass, all of which are a delightful break from the usual “$16-with-tip” drinks so common in this area of Brooklyn.
As for the Olympic regulation petanque courts and tables on Maison Yaki’s patio, Brooklynites have chef Baxtrom’s dad––who drove out from Chicago with the materials and tools––to thank for that.
“At Olmsted, the garden fills up really quick and there isn't anywhere great to stand,” Baxtrom says. “So learning from that, we wanted to not only create more space but give them something fun to do.”