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A greenpoint restaurateur’s take on nouvelle Mediterranean—served in a re-purposed glass factory—casts its light on bright, evocative flavor

By hannah petertil

The beauty of the Glasserie is very much in its details, and the deep history of its space is immediately apparent upon entering—sometimes in a passel of artifacts. In this former home of Greenpoint Glass Works (the building dates from 1860, built by Alsace immigrant Christian Dorflinger to house his glass factory), subway lights from 1895 hang from above the bar, period pendent lights grace the dining room, and crystal globes—modeled after an etching style developed by one of the former glass factory tenants—spill a gentle glow over the original subfloor and untouched brick walls.

Sara Conklin, the restaurant’s owner, spent months researching the origins of the building, allowing for a seamless transition from two turn-of-the-century glass manufacturies to a hip and timely eatery. Even now her free time is spent scouring the archives for interesting pictures or strange newspaper articles about the Glasserie’s history—a passion that extends to an interest in Brooklyn broadly, her neighborhood specifically.

“As soon as I was here five years,” Conklin said of the borough, “I’d been here longer than I had been anywhere else,” She said, adding that there is ongoing pleasure for her in simply thinking about what inhabited the space in its previous forms, and how to communicate that to patrons.

Restaurants, of course, cannot be built upon history alone, and the owner—a seasoned veteran of the Cipriani Group—is highly attuned to this reality. Finding the home of what would become the Glasserie took a year and a half of hunting, but when Conklin laid eyes on the 95 Commercial Street space in Greenpoint, she knew she had found the spot for her future food project. It was the courtyard, however—complete with an original kiln door, skylights, and perfectly uneven cobblestone—that sold her finally.

“Parties!” was Conklin’s initial reaction when first seeing the outdoor space, and “…although parties were not necessarily what I wanted to do, I know the finance of restaurants.”

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She motioned to the semi-enclosed outdoor area, in all its bohemian charm, and it was easy to imagine waterfront photo-ops that could make even the most reluctant couple eager to tie the knot under the vaulted ceilings.

“I think of this place as a tiny village under a roof,” Conklin said and the hidden passages, secret rooms, and ever expanding space support her analogy.

The Glasserie’s Middle Eastern flavor profile comes from Conklin’s formative years spent traveling with her parents—soaking up the culinary cultures of her Lebanese mother, Midwestern father, and the various countries she called home in both the Persian Gulf and Europe. Conklin’s desire to bring Lebanese heritage specifically to the restaurant stemmed from what she considers the city’s relative underrepresentation of Arabic foods, and was quick to express a corollary passion for healthy, responsibly sourced food options.

Eldad Shem Tov, the Glasserie’s chef of six months, hails from Israel and has a number of impressive culinary gigs under his belt, including a stint at Noma in Copenhagen and a range of experiences working under three-star chefs in New York. Tov and Conklin “…have very similar feeling about creating and cultivation a team,” she said, making it clear that they want “everybody participating.”

“[Tov] is more about freshness, less manipulation, less spices,” Conklin offered when explaining the chef’s culinary point of view. “He prefers to do as little as needed to get where he wants to go. Rustic is his middle name. He is all about keeping it simple, fun, and a little whimsical, especially in presentation.”

As if on cue, a warm, slightly caramelized lamb babka appeared on the pink marbled table—soft squash, gently spiced lamb, aromatic sage, and a slew of poppy-seeds just barely spilling out of the delicately rolled dough. Sweet, moist, and kissed with fire, the sensation was lovely. And though lamb and chicken (along with Yellowfin and squid) are the principal meat options, vegetarians will find the place a playground, particularly the “Aged Goat Cheese, Olive Sourdough, and Lavender” and “Squash Kataif Pastry with Fresh Ricotta and Okra” main courses. Crisp, bright, and blessedly undersauced, Tov’s take on Mediterranean is long overdue.

95 Commercial St.
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Hours: Every day
5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. (12 a.m. Fri/Sat)
Weekend brunch 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Price: Appetizers $7 – $14
Entrees $18 – $24
All major credit cards accepted
Service: Friendly, professional
Bar: Full bar
Parking: Street
Private Parties: Yes