Maison Premiere—the oyster and cocktail bar that has playfully led Williamsburg’s hipster-ification—has never been an establishment that does things half-way. With the only operational vintage absinthe fountain in America, a fine-dining-sized fleet of dapperly-dressed service staff, and an oyster selection that always manages to stay a selection or two ahead of Manhattan’s massive Grand Central Oyster Bar, Maison Premiere is one of the crown jewels of Brooklyn’s craft cocktail scene. And definitely one of our favorite ways to transport ourselves to New Orleans on a Friday night.

Frankly, 8 years after opening their doors, they are still one of the coolest bar-restaurants in New York City. As SAVEUR’s own Executive Editor put it to guests one night—when Maison Premiere joined us for a SAVEUR Supper: “If you haven't been to Maison Premiere, it's stunning. Everything from the floor to the ice in the glass has been thought through by these guys. They have exquisite taste.”

Will Elliott
Bar manager Will Elliott mixes up a dangerously delicious cocktail of St. Germain, gentian liqueur, and homemade lemon cordial in a sky high pilsner glass of crushed ice. The drinks were topped with a crimson splash of Royal Vallet’s Mexican amargo. “A lot of what we've done is just kind of flip the classics,” Elliott said humblyThomas Payne
Stacy Adimando
SAVEUR Executive Editor Stacy Adimando (left) taste-tests The Shining Path—a bitter-sweet, citrusy aperitif from Maison Premiere bar director, Will ElliottThomas Payne

The front of house team is still led by many of Maison Premiere’s old guard; bar director, Will Elliott, who has been with the bar since its opening, welcomed guests with a festive winter aperitif—”The Shining Path”—a mix of gentian liqueur, St. Germain, and homemade lemon cordial, in a sky high pilsner glass of crushed ice, topped with a crimson splash of Royal Vallet’s Mexican amargo.

Maison Premiere’s dining program originally offered only oysters and shrimp cocktail. However, the bar has since added a full kitchen, now lead by Executive Chef Jacob Clark, a Houston native with family roots in Louisiana’s Cajun country. Clark’s culinary and cultural influences blend seamlessly with the bar’s “retro New Orleans absinthe house meets NYC oyster bar” vibe. He taught us a thing or two about canapés, serving wagyu steak tartare on sunflower rye toasts, topped with shavings of cured duck egg and smoked olive oil; tiny celery root croquettes with raclette, black truffle aioli, and paper thin shavings of lardo; and deviled quail eggs, extravagantly crowned with Osetra caviar from Regalis.

“In France, absinthe bars are referred to as houses, absinthe houses. We were the first absinthe bar in New York so Maison Premiere is the first house, the first one.”

- Ben Crispin, former service director

Peter Cranz, Ryan Te, and Ben Crispin
General manager, Peter Cranz, floor manager, Ryan Te, and former service director, Ben CrispinThomas Payne
Meaty blood clams
One of the keys to serving great seafoods is sourcing great seafood in season. Pictured: Rare and meaty-tasting “blood clams” from MassachusettsThomas Payne
Sea scallop crudo
Sea scallop crudo and deviled quail eggs, awaiting their garnishesThomas Payne
Deviled quail eggs
Deviled quail eggs with Clark’s Cajun “Sexy Spice”, and Osetra caviar from Regalis FoodsThomas Payne
East and West Coast oysters
Maison Premiere is famous for its Friday oyster happy hour; for our Supper, Chef Clark brought East and West Coast oysters from Pangea ShellfishThomas Payne

As guests were seated, floor manager Ryan Te offered them their choice of 2017 Sancerre from Thomas-Labaille or a 2014 Grenache-Syrah-Carignan blend from Yannick Pelletier of Saint Chinan. The kitchen promptly brought the restaurant's massive, signature seafood plateaux—shellfish towers piled high with the day's best oysters from Pangea Shellfish and other specialty seafood treats; freshly killed Alaskan king crab from Regalis, raw sea urchin from Aqua Best with sweet mandarin kumquats; meaty blood clams with kiwi-cucumber-green apple brunoise and sorrel oil.

Ryan Te
Chef Jacob Clark and team put the finishing touches on their epic shellfish plateauxThomas Payne
Stacy Adimando
SAVEUR Executive Editor Stacy Adimando welcomes Maison Premiere and guest diners—including Olivia Aylmer from The Wing (left) and Naama Tamir from Lighthouse, Brooklyn (right center)—to the SAVEUR test kitchenThomas Payne
Steamed crab
Steamed crab also makes a stunning garnish for a bowl of gumbo, and it’s meat makes an ideal mix-in. This crab comes from Aqua Best Seafood.Thomas Payne
delicious gumbo
A key to delicious gumbo: Sear and cook the proteins—like crab and sausages—separately from the base, then arrange them together just before serving. This sausage is from D’Artagnan Foods.Thomas Payne

Clark looks to many of the dishes he used to cook with his family for inspiration, though gumbo in particular, which he learned to make from his father, holds a special place in his heart. “Gumbo is one of my favorite things in the world,” he told our guests over dinner. “When I first moved up to New York, I couldn't find it here. It's just something that I treasure. I really wanted to share it with people when I moved here.”

Clark and Chef de Cuisine Jordan Anderson
Clark and Chef de Cuisine Jordan Anderson, plating gumbo in the SAVEUR Test KitchenThomas Payne
Spicy pickled okra
Spicy pickled okra is a favorite bar snack and side dish at Maison Premiere. Get the recipe here »Thomas Payne
gumbo
New Orleans' style gumbo has plenty of color, spice, and seafood. Get the recipe here »Thomas Payne

“I think [Maison Premiere] really started to find identity and personality and character when chef Jacob came on board. He is cooking from memory, and you really can't fake memory.”

- Will Elliott

After polishing off Clark's spicy gumbo, a fragrant herbal digestif goes a long way (Elliott mixed up a bittersweet creation using Armagnac, Venezuelan Rum, forest schnapps, and PX Sherry.). All together, with full bellies and the scent of spice lingering in the air, New Orleans seems just a little bit closer.

OddFellows Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Ice Cream
Dessert should be a refreshing finisher to the spice-laden meal. This one is OddFellows extra-virgin olive oil ice cream, shards of pistachio meringue, and cape gooseberriesThomas Payne