Good times. Good people. A welcoming atmosphere that defies precise definition. In Denmark, they call it hygge, and the essence of the word stands at the center of Brooklyn’s Four Horsemen. Opened by LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, Christina Topsøe, and Randy Moon in 2015, the neighborhood restaurant and natural wine bar offers an elegant, grown-up option for Williamsburg’s Restaurant Row. If you want the usual tin ceilings and roast chicken combo, look elsewhere. If you’re craving a glass of funky Languedoc and a plate of pig’s head terrine, you’re in the right place.
The room is modestly sized, with seating for just over twenty in back, plus room at the bar. The decor, lightly hued and rife with cedar, brings to mind elements of both Japanese and Scandinavian minimalism. Overhead, the music is curated, providing whole-album soundtracks throughout the evening. The menu is helmed by Franny’s veteran Nick Curtola, who stretches his talents with an outstanding series of small and large plates that change seasonally. While meat makes its fair share of notable cameos, vegetables are the star of the show. Curtola has the ability to make a bowl of roasted sunchokes satisfying enough to convince even the staunchest carnivore. Rounding it out is an unparalleled wine list, deftly manned by Justin Chearno.
In this episode of The Interrogator, we got to chat with one part of this Brooklyn dream team. Here, Nick Curtola talks Alain Passard, sparking wine, and the undeniable appeal of a bodega breakfast sandwich.
Place of residence:
Bed Stuy–Brooklyn, NY
Executive Chef, The Four Horsemen, Brooklyn, NY
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Retired and spending a lot of time with my family.
Quote to live by:
“If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”
First job you ever had:
Snack bar kid at my grandfather’s public golf course when I was 14 years old.
Least favorite part of your day:
Leaving my wife–Sara Jimenez, GM at Momofuku Ssäm Bar and Nichi–and our dog in the morning.
Windows down, the song you’re playing is:
Major Lazer–“Get Free”
Two guilty pleasures:
I still play the occasional video game. Bodega breakfast sandwiches.
If you had to watch one movie on repeat for eternity, what would it be?
Sunset Boulevard. Chinatown is a close second.
You have a million dollars to spend on art, you buy…
Oh, man. Just a million? That would be tough. I have an affinity for Renaissance art and modern art. Not sure any of that can be bought for a million. Maybe I’d just donate it to the Met and MoMA so my friends, family, and I could have lifetime private access without any crowds, lines, etc.
Plane, train or automobile for a road trip?
What IS your favorite road trip?
I drove from Amsterdam to Sicily and back with a good friend a few years ago. That was incredible. The constant change of scenery, our tiny rental car, good music, visiting some friends along the way. That trip will be tough to beat.
Personal travel ethos:
Don’t plan too much. Leave time for exploring and relaxing.
Drink of choice:
Sparkling wine. I’ve been drinking a lot of that these days. I had a Partida Creus Cartoixa Vermell last week that was just so light and refreshing. Low alcohol and just fun to sip on around the house. Casual bubbles is always the way to go.
Beach house or tree house:
Where was the best meal you ever had and what was it?
Etxebarri, Spain, 2010. It was a meal that changed a lot about the way I look at food. Also, L’Arpège in Paris a couple years back. My wife and I had an incredible meal there, and meeting Alain Passard was really special. His enthusiasm and energy has always been inspiring to me. I thought maybe the food wouldn’t live up to the hype or that it just wouldn’t be what it once was. That was not the case. His cooking was so simple and beautiful. Somebody that’s been cooking for that long and is so confident in what they do and only has one restaurant… it’s rare to find that–that’s what I think makes that place so special. He doesn’t give a shit about expanding or going “fast casual” or having a food cart. There are very few like him in this day and age.
What is the best news you ever received?
Getting the job offer at The Four Horsemen. It’s the first restaurant I’ve worked where I’m excited to go in every day and to discover new challenges. I work with some amazing people and we’re all just really happy and incredibly focused. I have to pinch myself sometimes. I’m constantly thinking about how lucky I am.
Who or what is largely overrated? Explain.
Fussy and over-complicated “Instagram” food.
Briefly describe the best concert you have ever gone to.
Rock the Bells, 2007, in San Francisco. Seeing Rage Against the Machine, Wu Tang, and The Hieroglyphics in one show was pretty epic. My first show ever in NYC was TV on the Radio at Radio City. That was super memorable, too.
Where do you go for inspiration, peace of mind?
I—like many chefs and cooks—have way too many cookbooks that I have been collecting over the last decade or so. I go to those books for inspiration. When the second Noma book came out and René’s journal was part of it, I thought that was really interesting and offered access to a great mind. Here’s a two-Michelin-star chef at the top of his game and he’s going through the same creative blocks, staffing issues, ordering issues, etc. that all chefs go through. It was just really honest and gave me a lot of perspective on things. I love getting into the minds of the top chefs. There are always bits and pieces to pull from their books even if your food is completely different.
Photo by Atisha Paulson for SIXTY Hotels