On one of the more picturesque corners in Brooklyn, a new restaurant called Mettā opened this past March with a menu it describes as “sustainably sourced, vegetable forward.” As a vegetarian living amidst a Brooklyn restaurant scene that seems ever-more hostile toward vegetarians, I had some skin in the game of testing that description. On a recent weeknight, I got my chance.
I showed up to a fairly packed house, the first in my party of two to do so, and was offered an immediate seat at the “chef’s counter.” It sounded interesting, so I took it.
The chef’s counter turned out to be the second of two bars in this single-room restaurant. The first makes like a traditional bar and faces the cocktail-making operation. The chef’s counter faces the open kitchen. I’d recommend either of them over the cramped table situation, unless you can snag that darling window seat, but for pure entertainment value, you shouldn’t only take the chef’s counter when it’s offered, you should ask for it by name.
At four months old, Mettā feels like it’s been a local favorite for decades already, so much so that not until half an hour into my meal did I remember that I was sitting in my former neighborhood pet shop, which relocated to a space a few blocks away last year. My bar stool, in fact, sat just about exactly in the spot where I once heaved a bag of Blue Buffalo off a shelf on the regular. The décor reads vaguely rustic, vaguely urban, and willing to take a back seat to perfection of the location and the general hubbub inside.
The experience of dining at Mettā is indeed immersive, perhaps nowhere more than when seated overlooking the kitchen, which is the uncontested star of this particular event. At least five men—and yes, they were all men on the night of our visit—came together in something symphonic. At certain moments their collective movements appeared to have been choreographed. A couple of them worked over the roaring open wood fire upon which all the food is cooked, while others prepped and two more stood at the counter immediately in front of us, assembling the dishes that didn’t require heat. (See the Instagram video at the bottom of this page for a glimpse of the kitchen in action.)
The menu, as promised, had plenty of vegetarian options—all the more impressive once you know that the chef hails from and is influenced by meat-obsessed Argentina—although only one large plate (aka entrée) that fit the bill, a risotto. I ordered two small plates instead—the market greens salad and the charred beets. Both were interesting and delicious. My fella ordered the short rib steak, which we watched go onto the fire. When the waiter set it down in front of it, he thought it looked like a small portion, but a few minutes later was declaring he’d stuffed himself.
I made a point of passing on the $6 bread and butter, as I am emphatically opposed to this new trend in Brooklyn restaurants of charging for bread, I don’t care if it’s baked in-house or whether it was shipped in from the best bakery in Paris—this hits way too close to sitting in economy on a transcontinental flight. Even though I love bread, and even though I especially love sourdough bread like the stuff on offer at Mettā, I’ll never order it on principle. For two cocktails, one beer, one glass of wine, a single cheese, two small plates and one large plate, we paid $138 (including tax and tip) that evening. Throw us some bread with that, come on.
That quibble aside, this spot nestled deep in a Fort Greene neighborhood known for its well-preserved (and well-renovated) brownstone homes satisfies a particular desire of diners to feel as though they’re stumbling upon an unknown gem. The restaurant serves the space far better than the pet shop did, and feels at home on this corner. I liked being there, I liked eating the food, and I loved watching that kitchen in action from the chef’s counter.
Mettā | 197 Adelphi Street | Fort Greene, Brooklyn | website