21 Greenpoint in Brooklyn, New York has a special dinner service on Sundays.
For $US21 (about $A28) per person, you get anywhere from five to eight surprise courses, including items like mushroom pesto flatbread pizza and seafood stew.
And every dish is made with ingredients leftover from the week.
The goal of the Sunday service is to reduce the restaurant’s food waste, according to owner Homer Murray (son of Bill). Nationwide, about
50% of all produce in the US is thrown away, which adds up to some 60 million tons (or $US160 billion) worth of produce annually.
“We’re concerned with the idea of food waste — all the stuff that gets thrown away,” Murray says. “It seems like a crime against humanity, to see this food being tossed out.”
We decided to try it last weekend. Check out our visit below.
21 Greenpoint is located on the waterfront of Greenpoint, a neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York. You can see the East River from the entrance.
Owner Homer Murray (who has a famous dad named Bill) says he realised food was his passion at 19, when he started cooking at Murray Brothers, his family's restaurant in Myrtle Beach, Florida. He made simple things like salsa and shrimp cocktail. 'It was an excuse to meet girls,' he says.
When asked what Bill thinks of the food, Homer says, 'I bet he would tell you it's his favourite restaurant in Brooklyn, and he wouldn't be lying.'
The kitchen staff wears red beanies as an homage to 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,' a 2004 Bill Murray film. Homer has one, too.
The tables were eclectic. After we took a seat at one of the booths, the waiter told us there would be seven courses -- but they would all be a surprise. He also asked if we had any dietary restrictions or food allergies.
Everything is served family-style, and the chefs adjust the portions depending on how many people are at the table, according to our waiter.
The first course was a refreshing salad, made with greens, cucumbers, and picked onions. The same dish was served earlier that morning at brunch. (Except for this dinner, the buttermilk dressing was new.)
The second course was a carrot and ginger soup topped with green onions and nutmeg. The carrots came from leftover pulp from a cocktail with carrot juice served at brunch. The soup was rich and included just the right amount of spice.
Next, the waiter served us floured gnocchi, picked radish, shaved horseradish, and thyme. The braised brisket was leftover from an entree served two days before. Though the gnocchi was more dense than we were accustomed to, the meat was delicious and juicy.
A flatbread pizza came out before we finished the third course. The mushrooms on the pizza came from an egg custard soup, called chawanmushi, served earlier in the week. The chefs made the pizza's pesto from overstocked arugula and the ends of scallions and other vegetables. We loved the crispy crust.
For the last savoury course, seafood bouillabaisse (a fish stew with celery, tomatoes, croutons, and potatoes in a garlic aioli) was brought to the table. We weren't as big of fans of this one. Though the broth was tasty, the hake (leftover from a casserole menu item) was surprisingly fishy and the clam (leftover from a fish sandwich option) was a little too chewy.
Two desserts were our last two courses: an apple crumble with vanilla bean ice cream and a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. They once appeared as brunch and dinner menu items, respectively (though the waiter says the icing and crumble were new that night). We loved both, but thought the apple crumble would have been better with more ice cream.
21 Greenpoint's head chef, Sean Telo, came up with the idea for the Sunday service. 'I've worked in some restaurants that concentrated on composting as a rule and limiting food waste and using everything, and that's how I was taught to cook,' he says. 'We really wanted to make that a point when we were concept-ing the restaurant, and figuring out who we wanted to be.'
21 Greenpoint is not open on Mondays, so the special service allows them to use up the week's ingredients. Murray says that the restaurant is able to save money by doing this, since it's wasting less food. At the end of every Sunday, the staff usually only has one or two small bags of trash, Telo says.
Past services have featured dishes like delicata squash and hot and sour soup.
'What we're serving is not waste -- it's what will become waste,' Telo says. 'I wanted something that would be fun for everyone, would be challenging, be unique, and make people think.'
Since the leftover ingredients vary depending on the week, Sunday's dinner menu is always different. The dishes also change throughout the night if the chefs run out of a particular ingredient.
We loved that we could have a taste of many different dishes, and that the restaurant doesn't limit itself to a particular culture of cooking.
21 Greenpoint is also known for its specialty cocktails, like the 'Martinez,' made with Ransom Old Tom Gin, sweet vermouth, and maraschino liqueur.
If you're an adventurous eater, sharing a Sunday dinner with friends at 21 Greenpoint is a fantastic way to start the week.
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