Like many Brooklyn chef-restaurateurs, Rob Newton is known for small, neighborhoody restaurants — so the experience of opening within a hotel was a new one. The chef recently launched Black Walnut within Hilton Brooklyn, right in the borough’s downtown district. We talked with Newton about the new venue and his experience working within the context of the hotel.
The menu at Black Walnut is very distinctive, with both Southern and international influences, and defies easy categorization — how would you describe your own culinary style? I think I am like most chefs in that our style is a culmination of our upbringing and places where we have lived, worked, and traveled. That certainly is true for me. As to the style, I like ingredient-driven dishes with multiple influences inspired by my life and travels.
Tell us about one dish on the menu you’re particularly proud of, and why. I like our flatbread. It is simple and more inspired by tarte flambée than pizza. The dough cold-ferments, which gives it a nice, tangy flavor. Enriched creme fraiche is the glue that holds it all together.
What was the experience like of opening within the Hilton, as opposed to smaller restaurants? Are there different challenges and opportunities when working with a larger space? The opening has been wild. I have really learned a tremendous amount. Hotel guests are very different than the guests I see at my other places, but it has been great overall. I expect us to continue to grow and learn what both the hotel guests and locals alike want in a restaurant here.
What are the different demands and expectations from a hotel restaurant, as compared with an unaffiliated spot? Turkey sandwiches come to mind. Room service is a big one. And a proper kids’ menu.
[Photo: Melissa Hom]