On a frigid night, any restaurant seems inviting. (I can recall negotiating the merits of getting into a bar fight in lieu of abandoning central heating; I chose the latter). But The Saint Austere draws you in with a different kind of warmth—also, thank god, the actual kind.
Run by brother-sister duo Fabrizio and Jackie Pirolo, The Saint Austere is a slip of a restaurant tucked into Grand Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And “austere” really has nothing to do with what’s inside. A long, gleaming silver bar runs the length of the space, with a few high communal tables in the back to accommodate neighborhood crowds and encourage general chattiness.
It being such an ungodly cold night, the usual diners-out seemed to have stayed home with their Seamless accounts, so my friend and I were rewarded with a fairly open space: warm, dimly-lit and studded with tea candles—perfect for slurping oysters in the dark, for the mysterious seafood lovers out there. And that’s just one reason to visit: oyster happy hour until 8pm. We ordered eight to save room, but I’m sure we could’ve eaten (and afforded) at least eight more: briny, creamy, a sublime taste of the ocean for a buck each. As for pairings, we went for some tartly dry English Aspall cider, but the wine and beer list is carefully crafted, prime for exploration; they’re also working on getting a full liquor license as we speak.
If you choose not to glut yourself on oysters (though no one would blame you) explore the menu like a treasure hunt. Skip around categories like “By Land & By Sea,” “Big Things,” and “Mixed Bag” and you’ll be rewarded with dishes like the Creamy Polenta—already the stuff of Yelp review legend. Then there are the Patatas Bravas, tucked into a cast iron pan, roasted to just-crisp perfection and liberally drizzled with sriracha, putting zing where there was no zing before.
The Boquerones also subtly shirk tradition, trading more traditional grilled bread for a bed of pistachio-mint crumble under each little curl of bright, tender, vinegar-marinated sardine (even for an ardent boquerones traditionalist like myself, this worked). We finished with the Bone Marrow, because if you can’t order a charred bone sheared clean in half and dripping with fat in January, when can you? Served on a carving board, it was just the right kind of rustic hedonism—dip grilled bread into the luscious marrow, top with arugula and radish salad (or don’t), rinse with regular sips of cider/wine/sherry/beer, and pity the poor suckers who stayed home.
The Saint Austere
613 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211