Paul Liebrandt's The Elm In Williamsburg

The Elm shows Paul Liebrandt's softer side

These days, joining chef Paul Liebrandt for a meal is a whole lot easier.

In early July, Liebrandt debuted The Elm at the King & Grove Hotel in Williamsburg, and then announced he was severing ties with his Michelin two-star restaurant, Corton.

Now, owing to the fact that the new restaurant is located in a hotel (which lends the slightly uncomfortable feeling of dining in a lobby)–you can breakfast on his housemade granola with sheep's-milk yogurt and huckleberry compote ($12).

Leather softens the hard lines of the dining room.

But the dinner menu (described by the restaurant as the contradictory "classical yet forward-thinking French-European fare") is clearly where Liebrandt's cooking heart lies.

Take what he does with the chicken "Kiev Style" ($52). All the flavors of garlic, lemon, parsley, rolled chicken breast and crisp skin are here–but the plating for two in a Staub pot and a side of puréed potatoes aligot is all ninja precision.

See him do the same with ricotta gnudi and scallops floating in a coconut "Tom Yum" sauce ($17), and a square of tilefish resting among mussels, fennel, orange confit and clam broth that deftly conjures the "Flavors of Bouillabase" ($24).

It's as if Liebrandt said he was going to serve a comfort-food menu to ingratiate himself with Williamsburg–and then pulled a fast one by revealing his version of comfort food includes razor-sharp flavors and dishes that have, in his words, "a strong sense of memory and identity."