The Governor Is In: Colonie Spreads Its Brooklyn Reign in DUMBO

When a group of servers who formally worked at Public got together and opened their first restaurant Colonie, it was gamble to see if people would take the trek to Brooklyn Heights to check out the place. After all, first time restaurateurs Elise Rosenberg, Emelie Kihilstrom, and Tamer Hamawi, were running it. Even before it opened, people were excited, and once they unlocked their doors, it was packed daily. Later, chef Brad McDonald joined the team and a scant year-and-a-half after opening Colonie, the team debuts their third restaurant Governor, which opens in DUMBO today.

“Brad was ready to do something of his own in New York and in his neighborhood,” said Rosenberg. “He had recently moved to DUMBO and was appalled by the lack of dining choices, which is very similar to Colonie’s situation in Brooklyn Heights.”

The new restaurant focuses on foods dear to McDonald’s heart, meaning he takes dishes from his training at Per Se and the famed Noma in Copenhagen.

“We [at Governor] are more creative than Colonie and here it’s more about comfort and innovation without being pretentious,” said Rosenberg. “We want to be the neighborhood restaurant where you can walk in wearing jeans and grab a snack or come in for a full-on tasting menu.”

The tasting menu isn’t in full swing yet, they are after all just opening today. But the regular menu is chock full of options that stem from McDonald’s foraging expeditions and, like the other restaurants, uses local and seasonal ingredients. The space is key too. Located in the Clocktower Building at 15 Main St., Governor boasts 18-foot ceilings that allowed them to add a mezzanine to the restaurant. They are right next to the water and the 60-seat venue has a full bar where they have created a seasonal cocktail list complete with fresh juices.

Now, the team has to see if Governor will garner the same crowds as Colonie and their Mexican restaurant Gran Electrica, also in DUMBO. But, if it takes after its namesake,Robert Gair, who was nicknamed Governor and who the building was erected in honor of oh so long ago, it will be strong and good. 

Danish Chef Having the Last Laugh

Today, the Wall Street Journal is featuring an interesting interview with chef Rene Redzepi, whose restaurant in Copenhagen, Noma, was named the “best restaurant in the world” in April on the annual S. Pellegrino “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list. Redzepi uses only Scandinavian ingredients at Noma, a limit which requires a lot of creativity and means no foie gras, olive oil, or even tomatoes in the off season. When the 32-year-old top chef originally conceived of doing a haute Scandinavia restaurant, he says his fellow Danish chefs mocked him, asking if he planned on calling his eatery “The Stinky Whale.” Now that Noma’s just about the hottest restaurant reservation on the planet, the joke’s on them.

Redzepi apprenticed at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and worked at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Spain before opening Noma in 2003. In taking the number one slot on the S. Pellegrino this year, he ousted El Bulli from the top place, where it’d been the past four years. Before working at El Bulli, Redzepi says he’d always planned to focus on French cuisine. “After that,” he says of his time at Adria’s foodie funhouse, “I felt opened.”

Redzepi goes to great lengths to use only Scandinavia ingredients, working with biologists and food historians that specialize in the region and putting strange leaves, flowers, and mushrooms in his mouth without abandon. The obscure ingredients make for labor-intensive dishes that require multiple preparations. Such preparations might include instructions like “burn a pile of hay for 2-3 hours until it turns to ash” or “adhere vegetables to a flat-topped rock with mashed potato.” But, don’t get too excited about eating at Noma. Today, Travel + Leisure call getting into the restaurant a Sisyphean challenge, and advises you where to go when you don’t get in there.