“It’s a welcome-to-my-world kind of thing,” Fertik told me
in a phone call after my visits. The storefront doubles as HQ and
kitchen of Orange and Olive Caterers, the partners’ true bread and
butter, launched in 2011. The interior, which he and Nemani de-
signed and largely built themselves, is simple and serviceable, hip
in a rustic way but far from any conventional notion of $150-a-
plate luxury. The kitchen is open, not just in an architectural sense.
Stand near the chef as he works, pepper him with questions, take
pictures, kibbitz. It’s all good. “I wouldn’t have built the restau-
rant,” Fertik said, “if I wasn’t willing to let you see everything.”
There is just one table, a 17-foot pine beauty that the chef and
his girlfriend’s father built from unfinished planks schlepped
from Home Depot. It seats up to 20, but the partners like to hold
attendance to about 12 so everyone can sit facing the kitchen,
with no one’s view obstructed. They themselves serve the food.
The Chef’s Table is a bit like sitting at a sushi bar. It’s easy to
converse with the person on either side of you, less so with those
a few seats away. (Then again,
talking with someone on the
other side of a round table for
six or eight isn’t always a picnic.)
In my experience, only David
Chang’s masterful Momofuku
Ko in Manhattan’s East Village
(essentially a counter with 12
seats) offers a closer view of
chefs doing their intricate work.
But good luck striking up a con-
LITTLE WONDERS: Clockwise
from top left, raw salmon belly
in a beet gastrique; rack of
lamb on celeriac purée with
spinach pudding; kaffir lime
broth with flourless butternut
squash noodles; and pink peppercorn goat cheese in an herb
cylinder with a carrot soufflé.
versation with the Ko
maestro intently assembling your plate. And
don’t try to snap even a
phone photo of the dish
he sets before you. I was
reprimanded for doing
O+O is novel in other
ways. Even if you wanted to walk in, you can’t. You must buy a
“ticket” online (from one seat to a full table) using a credit card.
The payoff, so to speak, comes at the end, when you hug, kiss,
shake hands and simply stroll into Central Avenue’s neon jangle.
No bill is presented. Really nice if the evening is a gift.
Fertik changes the menu roughly every three weeks, tweak-
ing dishes as inspiration and seasonal opportunity strike. Every-
one receives the same 10 courses plus little extras, so there are
no choices to make (a plus or minus, depending on your point of
view). But the chef happily accommodates dietary restrictions.
Fertik’s flavors are varied and vivid, his combinations un-
failingly modern. So are his presentations. In my two visits, the
starter—diced, raw Scottish salmon belly—arrived in a tiny, tee-
pee-shaped white tagine. A bit precious, perhaps, but the unc-
tuousness of the sparklingly fresh fish was accented by barely
visible lemon zest and minced shallots, and brilliantly offset in
color and taste by a thick, tangy-sweet beet gastrique. Nearly
as memorable was the second course, a skewer of raw hamachi
YOUNG GUNS: Aaron Nemani,
left, runs service and sales; Sam
Fertik is the kitchen wizard.