How does a Swedish actress based in New York find herself the head of a French brasserie? “I like to party, I like to eat and drink and spend good evenings with my family and friends,” says Karin Agstan, star of the series Doomsday.
Agstam may be a bon vivant, but she is also an experienced entrepreneur. Born in a small village in northern Sweden, Agstam opened Brasserie Saint Marc, in the East Village, with her partner and husband Greg Lebedowicz and chef Frederick Piccarello (formerly of Le Baricou, among others). This isn’t her first try at the industry: the brunch at her previous restaurant in Brooklyn, Station, was packed, renowned as one of the best in the area.
After Station, now closed, opening a French brasserie in New York was an obvious choice for this passionate cook. “My family cooked a lot of French food, my father hunted, he fished, my mother had her own vegetable garden.” Her attachment to France comes from her time spent in Paris at the age of 18, when she studied art at the Sorbonne for five years before moving to New York.
To create the menu of the Brasserie Saint Marc, Agstam confesses to having been inspired by certain dishes she discovered in Parisian brasseries during her years at university. Amandine trout, one of her favorite dishes on the menu, is something she discovered for the first time in a restaurant in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
The rest of the menu returns to the classics: escargots de Bourgogne, steak tartare, coquilles Saint-Jacques, frog legs, salade niçoise, steak au poivre, filet mignon and canard confit. “That the customers love the food, that’s the most important thing for me,” says Agstam.
Her perfect menu? A few oysters with a good champagne, preferably vintage, a bouillabaisse (the special of the day on Friday) and a homemade tarte tatin to finish, with crème fraîche for her, and vanilla ice cream for her husband.
In this place, which took almost four years to renovate, the actress, who put her career on hold for this project, wants to make it more than a restaurant, a meeting place. “With the brasserie, I want to create a meeting place for artists, for people who have left the theatre, the cinema, to talk about what they saw, over a drink, something very downtown.”
Brasserie Saint Marc, 136 2nd Ave, East Village, NY 10003. Open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch, and soon for lunch. Website here.