Launderette, the hotly anticipated neighborhood cafe steered by chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki swings its doors open to the public Thursday. The longtime duo, previously behind La Condesa and Sway’s menus, join forces to present contemporary fare that’s innovative yet unfussy.
Sawicki explains that the restaurant conveys the "spirit of the neighborhood." She hopes that diners will experience a warm, homey sensation, created by Launderette's vibe of "grace and ease … with sincerity to it." The space, she says, is definitely "not contrived."
The refashioned laundromat has vast windows, clean lines and a modish charm. The long, polished bar is the focal point that grounds the airy space. The room is tied together with details like wooden slab tables on cast iron legs, plush leather wall benches, and cool gray chairs that offset aqua floors. Patio seating wraps around the front exterior.
Hailing from highly successful concept- and cuisine-driven establishments, the partners forego that structure entirely. In essence, their menu is indefinable. "There’s no theme or concept. It’s mind to stomach ... you either get it or you don't," explains Ortiz. "It’s what I eat at home."
The approachable menu draws from an eclectic mix of influences, accented with flavors such as anchovy, togarashi and scotch bonnet. A small plates section includes sharable "snacky bites" ideal for nibbling on at the bar over cocktails. Opt for the crab toast: chunks of crab meat dressed with a fennel aioli piled on semolina bread and topped with avocado, radish slices, a radish top and mint vinaigrette.
Speaking of the bar, Jason Kosmas of The 86 Company designed a streamlined selection of cocktails that nod to classics. The Breakfast of Champions, shaken with mezcal, lime juice, clementine marmalade, egg white, bitters and grated nutmeg is a smoky reinterpretation of the Pisco Sour. In addition, Launderette offers a sensible wine list and a rotating local beer on tap. Affordability was a focus when picking the wines. "We’re not here to gouge people," says Ortiz. "I want diners to be able to order two bottles instead of one."
More substantial dinner offerings include the wood-grill charred octopus with beluga lentils, brick chicken with sauce aligot and braised Swiss chard, and a plancha burger with "special sauce" and caramelized onion on challah bread. Oh, and don’t pass over the vegetables. The caramelized endive halves topped with blue cheese and thyme was especially noteworthy.
Once crowned as Food & Wine's best new pastry chef, Sawicki dishes out desserts with her signature stylistic, whimsical flair, with a generous dose of umami and an element of surprise. The sticky toffee pudding is accompanied with vanilla bean cauliflower purée, pickled apple, candied ginger ice cream and Bleu des Basques, a buttery sheep milk blue cheese. She also serves up unapologetically familiar desserts such as pie, ice cream sandwiches and a parfait just for kids.
This walk-in eatery is now open for dinner week-round, with breakfast and lunch rolling out in upcoming weeks (including grab-and-go pastries and coffee). Brunch service will follow shortly after.