2006_8_GothamPlatanos.jpgIt’s not enough for a chef to just make food anymore. In this age when diners want to know more and more where the food comes from, what’s the next step? Demanding the origin of the restaurant’s furniture? At Cookshop, the seats are made of sustainably raised American oak. At Sparky’s Manhattan outpost, the tables are eco-friendly pressed board. But at the new Palo Santo on Union Street in Park Slope, the chef, Jacques Gautier, went so far as to make the furniture himself. Gautier set out to create a place that would be as welcoming as stepping into a friend’s living room. So he fashioned the wooden tables and chairs himself, working with a carpenter whom he has now trained as his sous-chef too. He calls the menu “eclectic Latin.” It takes the Greenmarket ethic and injects some cool—his last gig was in Williamsburg—that this neighborhood could definitely use.

As the restaurant awaits its liquor license, only breakfast, brunch, and lunch are being served for the next few weeks. Among the inspired brunch offerings is a fish and grits dish. A fillet of local bluefish (you have to get over the gray color and just focus on the meaty flavor) is crisply fried and placed on a bed of creamy full-flavored grits then topped with a finely minced salsa verde. The platanos con crema answers the sweet-salty brunch dilemma by satisfying both cravings. Chunks of plantains are fried crisp with a wisp of salt and served with Mexican crema and brown sugar on the side for dipping. Eggs come with a complex mix of heirloom tomato salsa, and you can get a mean café con leche. The prices are refreshingly low, and the vibe with all the wooden furniture and exposed brick walls is one of laid-back comfort. In fact, the chef lives on the floor above in this townhouse situated on this mostly residential block. It all gives new meaning to “homemade.”