For people of a certain age, Cool World is a hazily-recalled movie poster flickering in the space between eagerly entering a theater and drowsily being carried out, set to a sort of aromatic soundtrack of popcorn perfume. It might have been a first exposure to something that wasn’t quite what it seemed—a cartoon—and especially wasn’t for those younger 90s babies—a sexy, noir human-imation, rated PG-13.
Cool World is also now a restaurant at the intersection of Nassau and Lorimer that opened in July. That its name surfaced the same patina of nostalgia among the people I mentioned it to is apparently an unintended coincidence. Instead, the restaurant is inspired by a couple of Keith McNally brasseries from that same decade, executive chef Quang Nguyen (previously of Wildair and Cosme) told Resy.
That kind of brasserie also has its own patina of nostalgia. Low, honeyed romance light. Stylishly distressed mirrors. Sweeping space or at least the feeling of it thanks to wide windows or high ceilings, even if the actual seats are cramped. The remembrance of cigarette smoke past.
Abandon those McNallyland expectations. Cool World, whose owners are also behind Dumbo viewstaurant Celestine, Rock Center’s recently previous hotspot du jour, Pebble Bar, and good Grand Army in Boerum Hill, does not hit those aesthetic notes.
From the outside, its white facade beams opposite McCarren Park as if somebody turned up the contrast on Nighthawks. The inside’s too bright, too, for any restaurant genre, but at least in keeping with a creeping trend. It’s neither small nor large and the tables are a standard distance apart. Everything seems crisp and new and absent any of those classically Balthazarian elements. It wouldn’t have invited the comparison, had the invitation not been made.
Dinner lands a little closer to Cool World’s stated conceit, if inconsistent across its one page menu. Certain serviceable staples like oysters ($24/half dozen) and steak frites, served here with umeboshi bordelaise and charred cippolinis ($34), would do just fine for a weeknight; easy to factor into semi-routine, as brasseries intended.
Pastry chef Amanda Perdomo’s "pretzeled" Parker House rolls ($6 for two) are good, capturing the classic flavors and textures of the original, zhuzhed up with the essence of that NYC cart fave, sans the pesky knot. They’re wisely served with a wonderfully airy butter prudently low on the salt that seems to cloak some other items.
The moules ($22), another expected brasserie staple, are appropriately plump in their shells and fortunately unspoiled by their slightly overly saline—just too much to discourage soaking their perfectly fine frites—broth. That the liquid’s a little shallow might be a feature in this case, letting the gentle bivalves be gentle bivalves, absent the concentrated oceanic wash below.
Excess salt is any confit’s natural predator, key as the mineral is to its preparation, and great care must be taken to keep it obedient. Cool World’s confit lamb shoulder ($32) doesn’t quite control the entry-level but quick-to-overpower seasoning at the expense of the otherwise nicely-textured, technically adept entrée. Its accompanying roasted cauliflower is on the opposite end of the taste spectrum but again, proficiently done with a fresh veggie snap. And the scallion sabayon bookends are clever in concept but quick to deflate from buoyant poufs seemingly intended to cut the rich confit to fallen deposits of near-tang.
Classification aside, brasserie, bistro or neighborhood boîte these would be less than ideal finishes in any restaurant. But skill and experience are demonstrably present in the kitchen, evidenced by the doneness of a vegetable or the firmness of a mollusk. And, often enough, the most important, or at least most frequent boxes everyday diners want to check are the ease of entry and welcoming hospitality that blot out a lot of other categories and make a place a local go-to. Cool World has those, plus promise. Even if it might not at first be what it seems.
The Vibe: Bright and daytime-y even in the evening.
The Food: Good “pretzeled” Parker House rolls, raw bar items, moules frites with a broth salt-lovers might love and confit lamb shoulder even they probably won’t.
The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer.
Time Out Tip: This is the rare new spot where reservations are still easy to come by; perfect for your been-everywhere friends.
Cool World is located at 905 Lorimer Street. It is open for dinner from Monday-Thursday from 5:30pm-10pm and for brunch and dinner Friday-Saturday from 11:30am-3:30pm and 5:30pm-11pm, respectively.