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Distilled is More Than Just Wings (But the Wings Are Pretty Amazing)
Aug 8th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

It only took seeing “gochujang wings” and “Momofuku Noodle Bar veteran” in an article about Distilled to convince me. Our friend Colin had already visited and said the wings were “weird”, but they apparently weren’t weird enough that he wouldn’t come back, so he joined my friends Nik and Tim and me there one day after work to share what felt like a whole lot of food at the time but turned out to be just a little bit of southern comfort food and a whole lot of wine, mead, and cocktails made of wine and mead.

Distilled NY
Distilled wings

These wings are not weird. Well, unless you consider it weird that they were exactly as over-the-top crunchy as you’ve always wanted wings to be but never are. And unless you consider it weird that the sweet/spicy fermented gochujang sauce was so sticky I could peel the batter off in two-inch strips and eat just that if I wanted to. And I wanted to. The chicken was fine, too. But GOCHUJANG.

Distilled NY
chilled charred broccoli, peanuts, duck bacon, pickled watermelon rind

Tim insisted that we order this because he cares about health and bowel movements, and you can bet I was loudly protesting in my head, but there was so much going on in this dish I couldn’t be mad. Namely duck bacon in thick slabs. The crunch of the peanuts, the tang of the watermelon, the zesty little greens. I wouldn’t have been offended had this been my main dish.

Distilled NY
country fried duck & waffles, French toast style waffle, smoked chili maple syrup, whipped honey butter, Thai basil

I almost want to just let you read the components of the dish and leave it at that, because this was exactly as good as you think fried duck over a waffle with spicy maple syrup would be. The interesting part was that the duck was boneless and had the texture of pulled pork, like it had been cooked, torn apart, and then reassembled before being fried in that thick coating. I didn’t notice anything French toasty about the waffle, but it may have been that I was too busy licking honey butter off of everything in sight, including myself.

Distilled NY
glazed pork ribs, jalapeno, delfino (cilantro), compressed watermelon salad

The meat slid off these bones in one big hunk, disappointing those in our group who enjoy slathering their entire faces in sauce while trying to awkwardly nibble a rib, but those of us who will take a knife and fork to soup if given the chance really appreciated the opportunity to slice through these suckers. The jalapeno was just spicy enough to offset the sweet sauce but not spicy enough that a heat-hater would even take note of it. I expected the watermelon salad with its herbs and dressing to be very savory, but it was still a sweet watermelon salad, just a very dense one thanks to the compression.

Distilled NY
Nik was pretty excited about those ribs.

Distilled NY
New York strip steak, bone marrow black garlic butter, sauteed spinach, onion ring

If there’s one thing I took away from dating a Persian guy, it’s a love of black garlic. His mom had homemade jars of the sweet and sour fermented stuff in her garage, and I wanted to order this based on it alone. Oh, yeah, and the bone marrow. Also the onion ring. The steak was overcooked for my taste, but I’m not in the habit of expecting a perfect medium-rare at a non-steakhouse. It was still plenty tender and made all the more luxurious by that rich, silky butter.

Distilled NY
the view from the patio at Distilled

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

Sitting on the raised patio outside Distilled, eating this southern food with an Asian twist and watching the fine people of TriBeCa with their dogs and on their longboards, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that particularly New Yorky. The food was delicious and hearty if not challenging and delicate, and the cocktail menu with mead from upstate NY reflected that same dedication to solid, unfussy pub fare. I stepped inside only to check in with the hostess, so I can’t comment on the interior atmosphere, but I can say for sure that the patio will be one of my go-to places this summer.

Distilled
211 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013 (map)

The Tasting Menu at Bouley
Mar 13th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

My boyfriend and I have long had Bouley on our radar, but when we wanted to try a David Bouley restaurant, we went for his newer, Japanese kaiseki one, Brushstroke, and had a 4.5-donut experience. We’ve been trying to cover some new ground lately, though, and thought maybe it was time to pay respect to his eponymous restaurant that was so huge in the 80s and recently saw a facelift in the late 00s.

We booked dinner simply because we saw a reservation available on OpenTable, but as we looked into visiting, we wondered if we hadn’t made a very costly mistake. Dinner at Bouley is $175 for six courses, $280 with wine. Lunch is five courses for $55. So the darkness and that one extra course cost you $120. We thought about trying to switch to lunch. We thought about canceling our reservation completely after reading some of the unflattering reviews floating around the Internet. But we ultimately decided to go for the full dinner tasting menu and judge for ourselves, expectations appropriately set.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

Bouley (pronounced “boo-LAY”, just in case you’re like me and assume every name has an American pronunciation) is opulent. It’s like a country home where everything has been coated in gold leaf. Heavy drapes, tall candles, fresh flowers everywhere. Wood, iron, vaulted ceilings. Bathrooms the size of most NYC apartments and laden with enough tapestry to dress every diner for life. Private dining rooms where every inch seems to be covered in red velvet. Even the picture frames are upholstered in purple velvet. And the foyer is lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of apples so that the room smells like an orchard.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
amuse: blue cheese foam, beets, pecans

Very beety, with plenty of blue cheese flavor and nutty sweetness.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
amuse: kuzu, black truffle, aligot

Japanese flatbread, truffle, potato and cheese sauce. Yes.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
fresh Malibu sea urchin terrine

On top of and inside this cold aspic (savory gelatin) was uni made extra sweet by broiling. The complex ocean flavor of this dish was balanced by the cream and caviar underneath.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
forager’s treasure of wild mushrooms, sweet garlic, special spices, grilled toro, black truffle dressing

If you knew me just a few years ago, the idea of my ordering an all-mushroom course would be hilarious to you. I remember being at Cafeteria in Chelsea one night on one of my first dates with my boyfriend and piling millimeter-long chips of mushroom from my risotto on one side of my bowl and hoping he wouldn’t notice. But ever since I had the wild mushroom salad with jalapeno puree at Momofuku Ko forced on me and found it one of the most unforgettable dishes of my life, I’ll give any mushroom a try.

These were sweet, a little spicy with something like cinnamon or nutmeg, and so umami with that Parmesan foam and black truffle. There were so many textures on the plate, including an entirely different one from the grilled tuna.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
bread service

The bread man with his cage full of fresh loaves came to our table and offered us slices of anything we wanted. The flavors were varied and interesting: saffron, sourdough, black currant, French onion. I loved how different and personal the service was.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
porcini flan, Alaska live dungeness crab, black truffle dashi

Our server described this as a chawanmushi, but all of the chawanmushis I’ve had have been thick, broth-less custards. This was more like a creamy crab soup with a broth flavored like yuzu and cardamom. They sure didn’t skimp on the crab, though.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
live Scottish langoustine, bay scallops, some sort of mango sauce

Sweet, with perfectly-cooked langoustine and scallops. The sauce was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Maybe it could have been more spicy and salty for my taste, but it really let the natural flavors of the scallops and langoustine shine through.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
pistachio miso marinated fresh black cod

Flaky fish, smoky almond milk, and so much sweet ginger.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
Chatham day boat lobster, turnip, black truffle

Tender, buttery lobster with a crunchy black truffle julienne. I enjoyed the texture contrast between the slice of turnip on top and the puree underneath.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
Japanese true Kobe mille-feuille, toasted garlic, frisée, carrot, turmeric ($50 supplement)

We’ve had a lot of Kobe, a lot of Wagyu, and a lot of Kobe and Wagyu that were probably not actually Kobe and Wagyu, so we wanted to try this “true Kobe”. Just to be sure. We were both entirely underwhelmed. The point of eating a really good piece of beef for me is to cut through it and notice how tender it is, but with the way this was sliced so thin, any cut would have been tender. Although I liked the crunchy texture with the beef, the watery frisée completely diluted the taste of the Kobe. Having just had the much-better calotte de boeuf at Per Se last month, this was an unfortunate let-down, and one that came with a hefty price tag.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
organic Long Island duck, black Nevada dates, Hudson Valley organic hand milled polenta, Washington huckleberry

Delicious crispy skin aside, the star of this was the date “paper” spread on the bottom of the dish. When heated, it became like a sauce, and it formed such an interesting new flavor when eaten with the lima beans. I loved the black pepper chunks in the polenta and the buttery fingerling potatoes served on the side.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
white chocolate cloud, green tea foam

Light and fluffy on top, a little icy on the bottom, and milky throughout. When the server put this down, my boyfriend and I immediately went to work imagining how it was made, and when the woman next to us tried to ask her date the same thing, he said, “Let’s wait for our neighbors to figure it out.” Food nerds!

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
tangerine, clementine, Mandarin parfait, lychee sorbet

This very sweet and lychee-ful sorbet made the accompanying fruits VERY tart. This was a complex dish that I secretly wanted to simplify by just eating a big, ol’ scoop of that delicious sorbet.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
chilled fall rhubarb soup, Santa Barbara organic strawberries, buckwheat gelato

Mmm, grain-flavored gelato. I wasn’t a huge fan of it on its own, but the creamy soup and strawberries (which were such a treat out of season) were so pleasant with it, and my boyfriend actually liked that it was like eating a field.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
tree ripened golden Hawaiian pineapple soufflé, pistachio melting core, 10 exotic flavor sorbet

Not a souffle in the molten cake sort of way but more like a meringue. “Pineapple egg foam”, we called it. So many things were good about this, from the warm pineapple chunks throughout to the sugar granules on the bottom to the unexpected pistachio core. The “10 exotic flavor sorbet” was really just two flavors for us: pineapple and yuzu. But it was very intense and delicious.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
hot Valrhona chocolate soufflé, white coffee cloud, coffee ice cream, chocolate mousse

This was the souffle I was expecting, with a liquid center and a little crunch to the exterior. I liked the semi-sweet mousse and the crumbled cookie crisp, but the coffee ice cream really made the dish.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

Truthfully, the food at Bouley was only okay. It looks like it should have three Michelin stars, but it only has one, and the reviews about it wavering from delicious to just decent were spot-on. Date paper duck? Delicious. Kobe that should be pretty hard to not make amazing? Just decent. For the price, which is well above a lot of the better tasting menus in the city, I would either expect plenty of off-menu courses (think Eleven Madison Park, where you could almost make a meal of all of the amuses they bring you) or at the very least, much more complete courses; two langoustines and three bay scallops does not a complete dish make. This was the same complaint I had about the three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, though, so perhaps the protein with very little else is just the mark of a really French-y restaurant.

And yet, we left Bouley talking about what a great time it was. Despite not loving all of the food, we loved the experience of eating here. The decor is completely different than in any other fine dining room we’ve seen in NYC–not modern and simple but full and almost flamboyant. When I asked the sommelier, who was excellent, if I could take photos of the bottles, he said, “You SHOULD!” The guy on the bread cart joked with us every time he wheeled by, while the more serious servers would slide the food down in front of us, rattle off the ingredients in their French accents, and turn on a dime to go back and stand in their corners. It didn’t feel stuffy here, just professional and special. Maybe I’m not dying to go back for the food, but the overall dinner was something I’ll talk about.

Bouley
163 Duane Street
New York, NY 10013 (map)

The Tasting Menu at Corton
Jan 30th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

My boyfriend and I were looking for a tasting menu for last weekend. We mentioned Corton and then moved past it, figuring that there’s a whole world of NYC restaurants we haven’t been to. For days, we mulled over Gramercy Tavern, Corton, Scarpetta, Corton, Ai Fiori, Corton, Aldea . . . and then we actually read the menu on Corton’s website. SOLD. “Wacked-out modernist cuisine”, my boyfriend calls it. With two much-deserved Michelin stars to boot.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

This is the $155 tasting menu with wine pairings also at $155:

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

This cracker with a micro shiso leaf (that’s Japanese mint, although it has a flavor all its own) came way too fast for me to have my memory-bearings about me. You can’t beat the cuteness of that leaf, though.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
arugula Gorgonzola cake

Soft and slightly bitter, with a kick of blue cheese.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
lemongrass tuile and some fried balls of something

The tuile (or crispy wafer) tasted like Froot Loops, and we seem to think the fried balls were cheesy, but don’t make this your sole reason for making a reservation just in case I’m wrong. They were served alongside a homemade XO sauce (that’s Chinese dried seafood sauce, although I think any non-seafood-lover would like it), and we love XO, but the fried ball was sadly the wrong vessel for the sauce, and I didn’t get the flavor of it at all.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
XO sauce

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
pretzel and candied chestnut brioche

Pretzels in the bread basket make me swoon. So did the candied square of chestnut at the center of this roll.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
sweet cream butter, apricot black olive butter

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
black bean chawanmushi, confit citrus

There was about an eighth of an inch of custard in this pot, but it packed a salty flavor punch with notes of bacon and leafy greens. The confit citrus peel was a deliiiiicious crunchy addition. Black bean and orange–who knew?

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
black truffle: classic foie gras and black truffle spiral, toasted buckwheat, kombu toffee

I love how the menu calls this a “classic foie gras and black truffle spiral”. I’ve never seen anything remotely resembling it before. The foie torchon (so smooth, so creamy) was surrounded by a gelee layer of black truffle that was unfortunately overpowered by the flavor of the liver, but the dish overall was really nice and really savory. For someone who likes the flavor of mushrooms but thinks they’re kind of weird-looking and weird-feeling, this completely homogenous sauce-like preparation was perfect, and the apple sliver and crisp kombu (kelp) strip added the necessary crunch. A scoop of radish added brightness and sourness. The toasted buckwheat roll on the side was perfectly soft on the inside but provided enough structure to make a great foie vessel.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
spirit of sweet potato: sweet potato gnocchi, pumpkin seeds, warm Serrano ham consomme

The juxtaposition between the rich potato gnocchi and ham consomme and the fresh leaves and tiny romanesco (prettiest vegetable ever, right?) made this a much more complex dish than I expected at first glance. The egg nestled next to the gnocchi broke to spread a single drop of balsamic, making the consomme even richer.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
smoke and winter: flavors of smoke and winter–smoked cod cheek, smoked mackerel, ricotta whey, whole grain mustard and hazelnut, green olive paste

I was excited to try my first cod cheek (foreground), but the sliver of smoked mackerel (background) was actually more flavorful and more tender. This wasn’t the first fish in whey I’ve had recently, and I still love the tenderness and simplicity it lends to a seafood dish. I also liked the crunchy whole-grain mustard and the meringue-like texture of the triangular black . . . thing.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
kalamansi mandarin mochi, Persian lime

This little sweet and sour ball was delivered in a box dotted with ripe calamansi (sour citrus) fruits. I almost didn’t expect it to be sweet, coming so soon in the meal, but it was a whirl of orange-y, lime-y, yuzu-y ice cream wrapped in a mochi skin. I loved the little speck of gold leaf, because I am a glutton for luxury.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
Atlantic turbot, fine mousseline of white pine and black truffle, delicate puree of Winesap apple and pine, bergamot paste, creamy veloute of chestnut and mussel

Wonderfully gelatinous charred turbot belly (foreground right), a curry-like sauce, sweet apple gel, a tender mussel, cabbage stuffed with chopped chestnut and resembling a little brain (background left), a tiny caterpillar-like cylinder of something crunchy like a radish (background right). The “tarte rouge” served on the side was like a side salad with fresh beets and radishes and a cracker instead of croutons. The yuzu cream on the edge of the plate–heaven.

This dish was a huge mishmash of textures and sour and bitter flavors. I’m not sure how composed you can call a dish with so many elements, but I’m not sure I care about composition when everything is so delicious and interesting.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tart rouge

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
buckwheat soup dumpling with oxtail, truffle, sweet bread

I’ve had a soup dumpling or two hundred in my time in NYC, but this sour-rich-deep-dark one was completely new to me. We debated about whether the oxtail, truffle, and sweetbreads were all necessary since none of those specific flavors came through, but we decided that the dumpling wouldn’t have tasted the same without each one of them, that the overall outcome was more important than the presence of individual ingredients. My boyfriend said it reminded him of a Persian beef stew with Persian lime.

Also: gold leaf.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
calotte de boeuf cooked in black birch, slow-cooked oxtail, turnip and white miso puree

Apparently the calotte de boeuf is the meat that forms that cap of a prime rib. This is either the best part of the cow or the part that butchers throw away, depending on which blog Google directs you to. Apparently this cut is sometimes called deckle but is different than the deckle used in pastrami. I’m confused. But I’m not confused about how totally tasty, totally homey, totally sausage-y this calotte was–completely at odds with the sour black miso and onion served on the side. I loved the tender artichoke slice (foreground right), but the best part of the dish was the little chilled cube of gelatinous tea (background left). Something about how delicious it was just sent me over the edge, and I had to stop eating for a second to keep from crying. WHAT.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
black miso and onion

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tartare de boeuf, delicate gelee of beef shin, green mango, hazelnut cream

Served on the side of the calotte was this tartare with chive and onion flavors and that sweet and fatty gelee underneath. The “bread” was a puffed beef tendon similar to the one we saw at wd~50 a few months ago. It’s like a packing peanut covered in movie popcorn butter. This one wasn’t as buttery as theirs, but I was happy to see it on another dish at all.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
beef tendon

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
Salers raw cow’s milk cheese from the Auvergne region in France, lemon date gelee, sable of Malabar pepper

“These cows graze on shoots”, our server told us, “so it’s a very floral cheese.” What he meant was that this was going to taste like a really stanky barnyard. Luckily, it was diluted by the sweet fig and Malabar (Indian) spice-covered bread sliver that reminded us of gingerbread. The gelee was unfortunately unflavored, but overall, I thought it a well-composed dish.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tarte a l’orange

This was shown to us whole and then whisked away to the kitchen so that we’d forget about it and enjoy the two bites that would arrive on our next plate.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

The sommelier, if it’s not clear, was excellent.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tarte a l’orange: blood orange tart, blood orange sorbet, blood orange dentil

This blood orange sorbet tasted like the white Smarties candies. My boyfriend observed this with his extra-attuned palate, and he was entirely correct. The tart was like an old-fashioned cream pie with a pink iridescent top, and the sorbet was almost too sour for how tame the flavor of the pie was, but both were delicious in their own right. They also made our glasses of Sauternes taste herbal. I can’t find any information about what a culinary dentil is that doesn’t involve Chef Paul Liebrandt, but its traditional definition calls it an architectural detail, so maybe the delicate slice of blood orange candy garnishing the sorbet is the architectural detail on this dessert in Chef Liebrandt’s eyes.

Also: gold leaf.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
fig: cremeux of Mast Brothers Moho River Chocolate, black mission fig ice cream, tarragon gelee

There was again no discernible flavor to this gelee, but the creamy dark Brooklyn chocolate with notes of peanut butter made up for that in spades. I loved the texture of the seeds in the fig and the fact that it was cold.

Also: gold leaf.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
mulled wine pate de fruits

Just as bursting with flavor as you want them to be.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
nougat

Is anything more seemingly-boring and yet actually-delicious than nougat? It was so good that I got distracted and have no idea what the pastry was. But I do know that the chocolate on top is Chef Liebrandt’s initials.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Something chocolatey!

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

A tray of French macarons being lowered onto the table.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
banana and gingerbread French macarons

Perfection.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
assorted chocolates

Included a grapefruit one that we both agreed was straight-up gross, and I say that as someone who simply loves grapefruit. Luckily, I had saved the salty caramel one for last and made up for it.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Even as someone who has given Corton a perfect rating both times I’ve visited, I can see why the reviews of it include extreme highs and extreme lows. It has, for instance, only three and a half out of five stars on Yelp but also two out of three Michelin stars on a list that only includes about fifty New York City restaurants. The “problem” with Corton is two-fold:

1) There are a LOT of ingredients on the plate. You can rarely taste all of them, which leads you to question how necessary they are.

2) The portions are extremely small. It’s not a matter of my being a glutton, because I always leave Corton satisfied with plenty of dessert left on the table. The problem is that I want to taste each element on its own and with the other elements on the plate. This just isn’t possible when there’s one bite of smoked mackerel, one petal of artichoke, a piece of turbot belly that isn’t even equal to a single forkful. Once you taste it, it’s gone. I think this could come off as too precious to someone who doesn’t have patience for rarefied food.

Despite these complaints, the overall effect of the dishes at Corton is still, for me, sheer bliss. To me, the preciousness feels special, not stupid. Because there’s so little of everything, every single bite has to be perfect. And I haven’t been anywhere in NYC that’s making this kind of tiny-yet-hugely-thoughtful food. But let me know if you do, because my life is pretty low on five-donut dinners at the moment.

Corton
239 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013 (map)

Atera and the Art of Foraging
Jun 20th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

The moment the four-star, accolade-laden reviews started rolling in for Atera–not all of them from people who had actually been to the restaurant, naturally–I called for a reservation. And then freed up every Saturday for a month in case the waitlist paid off and my boyfriend and I could get a spot. It was being compared to Momofuku Ko, our favourite restaurant in NYC, and Brooklyn Fare, our favourite restaurant in NYC to hate on. The chef, Matthew Lightner, trained at the #1 restaurant in the world and the #3 restaurant in the world, was named Best New Chef and Rising Star and everything else in Portland, and has brought his foraging-centric cuisine to NYC, where foraging is kind of foreign.

Luckily, this isn’t just nuts and berries but molecularly gastronomical concoctions made to look like nuts and berries. And also rocks. And moss. And it tastes just as natural as it looks.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
beer and goat cheese French macaron

This whipped frozen macaron started airy and sweet and melted within seconds, leaving a cheesy finish.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
flax seed cookie

Crisp, with a note of coriander and pine nuts to add texture.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
sunchoke skin with buttermilk filling

Sunchoke skin rolled into a crunchy/chewy vessel for bright herbs and sour buttermilk cream.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
lobster roll

This meringue “bun” was made with yeast to add bread flavor and filled with some of the sweetest lobster meat.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
horseradish parfait with halibut and mustard

Frozen but dissolved immediately, leaving behind nothing but pure horseradish flavor. The halibut was strangely lacking for both of us, but there’s a reason this is called a horseradish parfait and not a halibut one.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
foie gras peanuts

Sweet, salty, creamy, and just a little funky.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
quail egg

Not actually an egg but a thin skin holding a dollop of aioli. It was like eating a spoonful of garlicky mayonnaise, and I’m quite sure I couldn’t have eaten more than one.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
malt flatbread

The burnt bottom of this cracker helped to cut through the richness of the foie and aioli. The charred flavor was verging on unpleasant, which is how I like all of my food.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
razor clam

Slices of clam with a thick edible shell of bread. Plenty of ocean flavor packed into just a few slivers of shellfish.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
lichen crisp

Yes, lichen. As in algae. Really taking that foraging thing seriously. The dominant flavor was fennel, and a sort of rock salt formation covered the skin. A malt vinegar and herb emulsion dotted the underside like moss on a rock.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
the first of many drink pairings, a beer

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
yogurt, shad roe, rhubarb, licorice

Another truly foresty dish, this combined the cool temperatures of spring with the florals of summer. The licorice-dusted disc broke to reveal a savory yogurt center surrounded by the ring of flowers. Artful and inspired with a perfect Austrian mead pairing that really accentuated all of the right flavors.

mead: Die Hochland, “Lime Blossom”, Austria

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
diver scallops, yuzu, gin botanicals, pickled white strawberries

Strips of creamy scallop, the packing peanut texture of freeze-dry, juicy but sour pickled strawberries, a burst of citrus in the crevasse on either end. The meat was so mild it’s hard for me to imagine even my scallop-hating friends–yes, these people exist–resisting.

sake: Kamoizumi, Komekome, “Happy Bride”, Hiroshima, NV

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
peeky-toe crab, tapioca, toasted shrimp, angelica gelee

Gelee studded with chewy tapioca, topped with sweet shredded crab and crisp, vegetal red snap peas.

chenin blanc: Francois Chidaine, “Clos Habert”, Montlouis, Demi-Sec, 2008

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
rye bread

Salted rye bread with a distinct coffee flavor and a doughnut-like roll basted in mangalitsa pork fat, served with house-made butter made from creme fraiche and Winnimere cheese rind.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

This bowl arrived with curlicues of noodles on one side and a packet full of herbs and spices in a thin gelatinous skin on the other. A server poured a test tube of mild but lovely chicken broth on top, disintegrating the packet so the noodles could be seasoned. I loved the powerful cilantro, but even better was the onion, which tasted just like French onion soup. We knew the noodles were too chewy to be pasta, but we couldn’t decide if they were tofu or squid. The smallest hint of ocean flavor confirmed the squid for us, and our server cemented it when she delivered the next dish. We were wondering, though; if we hadn’t asked, would she have told us? Did anyone without our vast food knowledge and achingly discerning palates (j/k) notice?

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
“noodles”

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
a test tube presented before our next dish

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
dried beet, trout roe, crustacean sauce

It looked like a chunk of stone fallen off the side of a mountain, surrounded by smaller shards, but our knives sank into it just like any old beet. The roe wasn’t just salty but added a real ocean dimension that the crustacean sauce was oddly lacking; it actually tasted just like Parmesan cheese.

riesling: C.H. Berres, “Urziger Wurzgarten”, Auslese, Mosel 1997

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
north coast halibut, young garlic, whey

One of the simplest and yet most striking dishes I’ve had in a while. The line-caught halibut was poached in whey that draped over it like a warm icing, a cooking method that left it tender and unfussy. The garlic was roasted until sweet and provided the only strong flavor, yet it somehow seemed like a wonderfully complex dish.

furmint: Kiralyudvar, “Sec”, Tokaj, 2009

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
squab, pheasant-back-mushroom sauce, pear, tarragon

A tart vinegar sauce soaked this sweet, sticky squab and its accompanying pear skins. A lemony herb and the mild bite of the garlic scape rounded out the profile with bright, “green” flavors.

sangiovese: Felsina, Chianti Classico Reserva, “Berardenga”, Tuscany, 2008

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
mangalitsa pork, wheatberries, lamb’s quarters, ground ivy

Spice-rubbed pork as savory as bacon was topped with chewy sprouted wheatberries in a thick, rich duck egg yolk sauce. The oniony flavor of the leek the perfect compliment.

nerello mascalese: Calabretta, Etna Rosso, Sicily, 2001 Magnum

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

We opted for a cheese course in place of one dessert and were a little put-off that it didn’t have the same level of creativity as one you might see at Per Se or Momofuku Ko, but we nonetheless enjoyed what we were given, namely the Rupert and the Mountaineer hard cheeses. The supermoist apple bread with chunks of fruit baked right into it was a lovely accompaniment, but with all that space left in the breadbox, we wanted jams and honeys, too.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
making coffee

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
“rock”

Bergamot orange sorbet in a shell with the consistency of chocolate but the taste of a popcorn hull on a bed of brown butter crisp. It was super acidic, wildly tart, and as clever as it was delicious.

muscat: Jaillance, “Cuvee Imperial”, Clairette de Die, Rhone Valley, MV

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
parsley root split, banana ice cream, chiffon, dried milk skin

A study in textures from slick banana ice cream to chewy marshmallow to crisp shards of milk skin. It may have been delicate in presentation, but the banana flavor was bold.

semillon: Chateau Petit Vedrines, Sauternes 2007

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
“churro”, salsify, white cardamom, cinnamon

This is evidently . . . salsify? We’ve had it roasted and caramelized and used in place of potatoes, but never have I seen it like this. Sure, the churro was uncharacteristically chewy, but I never would’ve guessed it was anything but dough. I may have taken embarrassingly small bites of it to make sure I had enough churro to pick up all of the Nutella, but I may not be sorry about it.

bual: Vinhos Barbeitos, “Boston Bual”, Madeira, NV

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
bourbon ice cream sandwiches

The perfect amount of booze in a super-melty ice cream that was more icy than creamy. This was so simple but left a big impression on both of us.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
truffles

As chocolatey as they look.

Atera NYC Tasting Menu
black walnuts

Actually salty caramels, presented in the most beautiful way.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Atera NYC Tasting Menu

I’m not sure we said a bad word about this place. Maybe we wanted more substance on the cheese plate, and maybe I could’ve used some spice on the churro, but the overwhelming sense was that Atera was everything everyone said it was and more. Never once did it seem kitchy or schticky. Never once did we question a flavor pairing nor a preparation. Mostly, we compared it to the restaurants it’s being compared to and found that it comes out on top. The one thing Momofuku Ko is lacking in–desserts–Atera had so many of we gave one up for a cheese course. (Oh, yeah, and you can take pictures at Atera, unlike at Ko.) And Atera was basically everything we’d hoped for from Brooklyn Fare: cool music, unstuffy service, comfortable chairs, and an atmosphere worth dressing up for. Maybe the food at Ko and Brooklyn Fare is more assertive, but I loved the subtleties of Chef Lightner’s food, the pear skins and the milk skins and the lichen. Where food like this can often come off as frou-frou, these dishes all tasted like they really had just been plucked from the forest. And at $150 for 22 courses, it’s the kind of place you can return to as often as the menu changes. Not that you can get a reservation.

Jungsik is Worth the Trip – Korean – Tribeca
Mar 13th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

I’ve never seen a negative review of Jungsik. And it’s lucky that people are talking about it, because it’s not the kind of place this American-comfort-food-lovin’ gal would seek out on her own. Luxury Korean food? In Tribeca? It seemed so exciting when I made the reservation, but in the days leading up to the dinner, it started to seem scary and foreign. In the moments before we entered the restaurant, I was almost dreading it.

And then I loved it. And then I couldn’t stop exclaiming over it.

Jungsik NYC
amuse bouches

• squid ink chip with kimchi aioli: the salty familiarity of a light-as-a-feather potato chip with the sourness of squid ink
• tofu with soy gelee
• shrimp with cucumber cloud
• fried chicken with spicy mayo: pure comfort food; perfectly crisp shell with the juiciest chicken inside

Jungsik NYC
bulgogi sliders

The perfect little bite, with a substantial bun that didn’t buckle under pressure. With the slice of tomato (have I mentioned that I hate tomato? I loved this tomato), it tasted exactly like a sloppy joe. And I mean that as the greatest compliment.

Jungsik NYC
smoked potato soup

These very hefty bowls arrived at our table carrying a folded bit of prosciutto and a couple of brioche croutons, and a server followed with the soup itself. We thought this dish a little “precious” in its presentation, as we’re not sure that pea-sized croutons and a one-inch square of meat needed to be brought separately from the liquid, but we had no complaints about the taste. The soup was smoky and onion-flavored, gel-like in consistency, and accented by the crispy sourness of the croutons.

Jungsik NYC
Schramsberg, Blanc de Blancs, California, 2007


The menu at Jungsik offers three courses or five courses with wine pairings using one-word titles, much like the menu at Eleven Madison Park. Unlike EMP, though, Jungsik offers a little more description to help in the ordering process; someone who might not order a dish based on the word “apple”, for instance, might be convinced by the words “light foie gras mousse” underneath. The back of the menu displays the chef’s suggestions for the perfect tasting menu, and while my boyfriend and I are usually happy to put our palates in the hands of the chef, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to try as many dishes as possible and each ordered different things.

Jungsik NYC
apple gelee, foie gras mousse

The thinnest spread of smooth foie gras topped with a layer of apple gelee and studded with apple shavings and cilantro leaves. The sweetness of the apple made the foie subtle and less bitter than usual, and spread over the warm housemade rye bread, it was like butter and honey on toast. I took a cue from the incredible foie gras and salt tasting at Per Se and dipped each spoonful of foie into the chunky salt provided with the table bread and went into a blissful sodium coma.

Jungsik NYC
four seasons: parsley, zucchini, quail egg

The one bite I tried of this seasonal salad left me feeling like it was almost too fresh, the flavors too subtle; I know it’s a sin, but I prefer my salads deep-fried and covered in ranch powder, like the one at Tenpenny. My boyfriend, who actually got to deconstruct the thing, said there were enough powerful flavors–sundried tomato, beet, herbs–to suit him, though. We both liked the hearty zucchini base, the thick herbaceous sauce, and the apple foam.

Jungsik NYC
champs-elysees: foie gras, kimchi

The ingredients in these mod-looking bowls arrived separated with instructions for us to mix them together. This worried my boyfriend, who finds that this preparation leaves dishes tasting one-note, but he was impressed by the strong flavor of ginger, the meatiness the foie added, the sweetness of the port wine reduction, and the risotto quality of the overall mix.

Jungsik NYC
sea urchin, Korean seaweed rice, crispy quinoa

My favourite way to eat uni is to hide it in other foods so I can taste it without looking at it–I can’t get over how gloopy and tongue-like it is with those ridges on top–so the mixing entirely worked in my favor. The regular quinoa with the crispy puffed quinoa added unexpected crunchiness to every bite, and the uni’s organ-y iron flavor managed to be noticeable without overpowering the onion and rice.

Jungsik NYC
arctic char, kimchi sabayon

So beautifully presented, this char was accented with smokiness, sourness from the kimchi, and even a little cheesiness in the sauce. My boyfriend said it was rich enough to stand up to the sauce but delicate enough to feel refined. The grapes and chips provided a juxtaposition of sweet and salty and soft and crunchy.

Jungsik NYC
Tribeca lobster, butter-poached, Korean mustard

This was easily–easily–the best lobster I’ve ever had. Even my boyfriend agreed, and he’s not prone to melodramatic, absolute statements like I am. It was just simply the most buttery sauce covering the most tender lobster mitts and tail with the most perfect accoutrements. The $10 supplement to the tasting was so worth it I felt the urge to get up from my table and dance around the center of the room, making sweeping gestures with my arms, declaring my love for the lobster, and not sitting back down until everyone in the room had thrown their plates on the floor and demanded a helping of it for themselves.

Raspberry and lobster? With pimento chutney? There’s no reason it worked. But it was spicy and sweet, bright and rich, buttery and citrusy. The sauce was so lobster-flavored itself that it tasted as if the lobster shells had been cooked in it. The lobster was the perfect amount of chewy and the perfect amount of tender. I don’t have a bad word to say about this dish–nor even a so-so word–and if what the manager says is true and we can walk in any time and have this at the bar, you can bet I’ll be doing so. Forgive my capitals, but this was SO GOOD.

Jungsik NYC
five senses pork belly: spicy, crunchy, sour, soft, and sweet

My boyfriend and I fought over who was going to order this dish, but I luckily gave it and let him have it. This was the only misstep of the night, and it was partly a misstep just because we expected so much from it. Pork belly is like pizza, right? You can’t do it wrong. But like pizza, some pork bellies are righter than others, and this one just wasn’t flavorful enough. In terms of texture, it was outstanding, with the very crunchiest skin and fat cooked down to near-disintegration. But in terms of taste–well, there almost wasn’t any. We didn’t get the spiciness nor the sweetness; the pickles were more flavorful than the pork. It’s a shame, because the chef who created that lobster dish should do wonders with pork belly, so I’m going to hope that it was just a fluke that night.

Jungsik NYC
classic galbi: beef short-rib, rice cake ball

The galbi, on the other hand, was succulent, rich, homey, and fork-tender. It tasted like it had slow-cooked for 36 hours and then simmered for 24 more. The rice cakes were crispy on the outside but still able to soak up the beef broth. The whole dish reminded me so much of a Sunday dinner made by a mom who really cares, and we both agreed that it was far superior to the pork.

Jungsik NYC
apple rice wine baba, Calvados cream (apple brandy)

Dessert began with a palate cleanser of an Asian pear sorbet topped with a goji berry granita. It was tart and fresh, crunchy on top and smooth on the bottom. The texture of the sorbet was like the actual texture of an Asian pear.

My boyfriend ordered the baba, which was so good on its own it didn’t even need the “side dishes”, but I loved them all. The dish was a study in opposites, with plays on cold and warm, smooth and crunchy, soft and hard. The apple ice was intensely flavorful and complimented the pear flavor so well.

Jungsik NYC
pumpkin panna cotta, cinnamon crumble, amaretto panna cotta

I can’t resist the flavors of fall and was filled with all of the warmth and sentimentality of pumpkin pie with my first bite of this creamy, spicy dessert. The top layer of panna cotta was sweet, the bottom layer almost savory, both leading to a flavorful crumble with a texture that tied together with the crisp squash strip adorning creamy topping.

Jungsik NYC
chocolate pot de creme

Though it wasn’t on the menu, this post-dessert was my favourite of the sweets. The creamy chocolate was complimented by the crunchy, nutty cocoa nib topping and crystal clear sesame tuile, and the whole thing had a slight celery flavor that we loved. Our server told us it was angelica root, which is used as a digestive aid; she said that made it a healthy dessert. Wink, wink.

Jungsik NYC
mignardises

• yuzu macarons: not the least big yuzu-y, these actually tasted like peanut shells (what?)
• mango balsamic truffles: mango yes, but balsamic no; still fruity and delicious
• mugwort financier: buttery!

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Jungsik NYC
the ceiling at Jungsik

To think that I was worried Jungsik wouldn’t be “comforting” or that it wasn’t “my kind of food”! The amuse bouches alone were enough to convince me that my fears about it being too far removed from the French and New American upscale food I enjoy so much were unfounded, and then every subsequent course only served to prove more and more that there’s a place for Korean cooking in the high-end New York food scene (and that place is in my mouth). The flavor combinations were inventive, the presentation was pitch-perfect, and even the service–which some have said is too stiff–was friendly yet professional, helpful, and never intrusive. Aside from not giving me enough pork in my pork, Jungsik was spot-on and on-par with the best restaurants in NYC, and I expect to continue to see nothing but positive reviews coming out of it.

Jungsik
2 Harrison Street
New York, NY 10013 (map)

The Tasting Menu at Brushstroke – Japanese – Tribeca
Dec 21st, 2011 by donuts4dinner

A good review can entice me to eat almost anything. David Bouley’s Brushstroke, with its very traditional and structured Japanese menu, isn’t exactly a comfort food haven for this corn-fed Ohio diner, but Adam Platt’s New York magazine review somehow had me craving kaiseki. Partly because I liked that they wouldn’t let him order sushi in the dining room and partly because there’s no way I’m resisting a restaurant once I see the words candied duck breast in a review.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
the book room

Brushstroke is all recycled blonde woods, reclaimed steel from ship’s hulls, and 27,000 paperback books formed into walls inset with Japanese street scenes in the bar area. (Apparently these low, cushioned tables are where Platt had to eat his a la carte sushi.) Having read that sitting at the sushi counter was a special experience, my boyfriend and I traded the privacy of a dining room table for up-close sushi-making action. And the best part was that we still had servers, so the chef wasn’t distracted by having to chatter with us, and we could talk quietly to ourselves while we enjoyed his display of skills.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
sushi chef forming maki rolls

For our menu, we chose the $135 seasonal tasting:

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
amuse bouche: persimmon, fig

This bite was a nice balance of sweet fruit and slight heat. The greens were very tender, but out of nowhere came a bit of invisible crunchiness from within the mound of them. The flavor of yuzu in the sauce overwhelmed all of the other elements, but I’m a huge fan of that distinct citrus taste and found it a plus.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
steamed chawan-mushi egg custard, dungeness crab, black truffle sauce

A thick layer of creamy custard in the bottom of the bowl was covered with even more broth thick with the crabbiest of crab hunks. It was like chicken noodle soup for pescetarians. The strong crab flavor, crunchy scallions, and pudding-like custard were the main standouts of the dish, while the truffle and ginger were conspicuously absent for me.

array of sashimi

As I took the last bite of fish, I turned to my boyfriend and said, “I didn’t take a picture of that.” It was a beautiful plate of expertly-sliced tuna, kampachi (yellowtail), and hirame. The tuna was oddly nearly flavorless, but the hirame was lemony and firm, and the kampachi was meaty and fell apart in my mouth. The tuna was served with soy sauce, while the other two were to be eaten with a super sweet chunky radish and ponzu sauce that was delicious even when eaten by itself. For me, this just didn’t compare to the sashimi plate at Momofuku Ko, in which every piece of fish is outfitted with a distinct yet complementary topping, but I appreciated the simple beauty of it.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
guinea hen soup

This soup looked pretty tame when it was placed in front of us, but lurking inside were treasures untold. Namely, a whole chunk of the crispiest, slightly-charred-tasting hen skin. The soup was thin yet somehow creamy and again had the flavor of yuzu, and the golf-ball-sized meatball had a citrus flavor and the very soft texture of a paté. I got the feeling that this fowl would have been very juicy even without the broth.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
Pacific oyster

I’m still not BFFs with oysters, so having this one served to me chopped into four pieces was helpful, even if it allowed me way too much freedom to examine the meaty interior. It was very lemony, with a bit of texture from the seaweed underneath. I wouldn’t say it got me any closer to loving oysters, but it sure didn’t take me a step back, and the presentation was really striking to boot.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
lobster with kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin)

I love pumpkin, and kabocha in particular is supposed to be extra sweet, so I was salivating a Slip ‘N Slide out of the corner of my mouth just thinking about popping these squash-sauced niblets of lobster into my mouth. Weirdly, yuzu was once again the main flavor of the dish; we could just barely get any pumpkin flavor. I did like the creaminess of the sauce, though, and the chewiness of the lobster was just right.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
rock fish, chrysanthemum petals

This dish was beautiful but freaky. The dashi was exceptionally gelatinous, making it very difficult to eat with chopsticks; I really needed a spoon and some fruit cocktail to make a classic Midwestern Jell-o salad. The dish was kind of one-note, with that note of course being yuzu.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
black cod, uni, buckwheat

I don’t ever think a dish needs additional uni, but I actually both thought it worked here and that the dish wouldn’t have been as good without it. There was yuzu in the chrysanthemum puree, naturally, and it paired nicely with the earthy buckwheat. I guess maybe cod is the epitomical fish for me, because its flavor just seemed perfectly oceany.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
sake

My boyfriend gets mad when I don’t take any pictures of the drink pairings, so this is for him. Pairings were $90 for the ten courses and ranged from absolutely perfect to slightly questionable, but the sommelier admitted that at least one of the dishes had been exceptionally hard to pair, and it has to be rough pairing a menu that changes monthly, as Brushstroke’s does.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
pork belly, cippolini onion puree

I was as ecstatic about this course as I was ambivalent about the fish courses. I kept looking at my boyfriend’s wagyu and telling him my dish was better, but he refused to believe me, and rightly so; there’s no situation where pork is better than beef.

Except for this one.

We joked about it changing our lives once my boyfriend finally tasted it, but I’m not sure either of us were actually joking. The cippolini puree was so sweet and oniony. The sauce tasted of bourbon. The pork was crispy on the outside but tore apart so easily with chopsticks, the thick layer of fat disintegrating instantly. It was so clearly the better of the two meat dishes, and I’m not someone who undervalues steak.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
wagyu

Smoky and perfectly-cooked, this beef was tender and complemented by the sweet crunchy vegetal strips on top. And that’s all I remember about it, because I only cared about the pork.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
array of sushi

My boyfriend said this was the best pickled ginger he’d ever had, which is kind of a funny thing to notice amidst a plate of expertly-prepared fish, but he has sushi for dinner way more often than I’d like, so I believe him. This was tuna, fluke, mackerel, and yellowtail with a tuna maki roll. Notably, wasabi was already smeared on the rice under each piece of fish.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
tuna maki roll

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
red miso soup

This was one of the chef’s mother’s recipes. And it tasted like miso soup to me, so that’s something.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
lobster karaage

As weird as noting the excellence of some ginger is caring more about the pickles on the side of your lobster dish than the lobster itself, but they were just so firm and ripe. The lobster pieces didn’t have noticeable batter, but they tasted deep-fried and were slightly crunchy. The rice was sticky and starchy and tasted of vinegar, which contrasted with the fresh herbs garnishing the dish. It was a filling, warming dish.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
pickles

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
soy sauce ice cream

As if soy sauce ice cream isn’t strange enough on its own, this was topped with groats . . . and wasabi! It was rich, nutty, and salty, with a surprising caramel flavor. I loved the heat from the wasabi, the crunch of the buckwheat, and the salt from the dehydrated soy sauce topping. I would eat this over my usual Ben & Jerry’s any day.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
green tea pudding, crushed pistachios

I’m not what you’d call someone who appreciates subtlety. I like my desserts oversized and oversweetened. But this was so creamy, so rich, that I couldn’t help myself. It had a slight flavor of coffee and a slight sweetness from the syrupy brown sugar topping.

Accompanying it were mostly-savory red beans and slivers of chestnut with a little tooth to them.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
red beans, puffed rice, chestnut

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
matcha green tea

A bowl of matcha green tea, extra frothy, washed everything down, and then we were finally served dusted squares of rice paper in a wooden box. I have to admit that I was least-excited about this part of the dessert and had considered eating them before the pudding just to get them out of the way and save the best things for last.

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
rice paper

But these were the best things. The piece dusted in green tea was super sweet, with the flavor of burnt popcorn. The salty-sweet shiso piece had pine nuts between its thin layers that were soft and flavorful. Both dissolved in my mouth like cotton candy and were gone far too soon, but their intense flavors lingered.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Brushstroke NYC Tasting Menu
sushi chef cutting tuna

I’ll admit that Brushstroke was a little too timid for me at times. I like my sashimi a little more done-up, my cooked fish a little less one-note. But if kaiseki is all about balance, I have to give the restaurant its due: every dish was seasonal, beautifully-presented, and full of interesting textures. There was so much going on in the kitchen (unlike at, say, Momofuku Ko, where most of the preparation has happened ahead of time, and many dishes are constructed from elements pulled from plastic storage containers), and even more going on in the restroom, which my boyfriend and I had to visit several times to play with the electronic Japanese toilet. (Would it be wrong to give a restaurant an extra donut just for giving me my first bidet experience?) With a menu that changes monthly and the chance to have our butts dried by a toilet, we’ll no doubt be back.

Brushstroke
30 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013 (map)

Muscle Maker Grill – Healthy/Sandwiches – Tribeca
Dec 2nd, 2011 by donuts4dinner

I know it’s awful to talk about dieting on a gluttonous food blog, but the truth is that when I’m not shoveling sweets into my piehole at fancy restaurants, I’m trying to avoid carbs at home. Not being much of a cook, it can be rough trying to find anything for lunch, so I was pumped to randomly type “low-carb” into Seamless.com‘s search function and find Muscle Maker Grill. With a menu full of items made from lean meats and low-fat cheeses and served on low-carb and whole wheat wraps, this is the kind of place that makes me feel guilty about the food I’m eating until I remember that it actually fits into my diet.

Muscle Maker Grill Rocky Balboa Wrap
Rocky Balboa wrap

With grilled chicken breast, turkey meatballs, reduced-fat mozzarella, and marinara, this is like a pizza in a wrap. And pizza is the thing I miss most while low-carbing, so this is one of my favourite items. I would never guess that the cheese is low-fat, and the marinara is present enough to flavor the wrap but not so obvious that I feel like I’m eating a bunch of sugary tomatoes.

Muscle Maker Grill Turkey Meatball Parmesan Wrap
Turkey Meatball Parmesan wrap

I ordered this on my friend Ash‘s recommendation and found it to be a great substitution for the bready meatball parm sandwiches I love so much. It was so gooey-cheesy and well-seasoned, and they didn’t skimp on the meat at all. I actually didn’t like this as much as the Rocky Balboa nor the XXL Cheeseburger wrap, though, because both of those have two different kinds of meat, so every bite is diverse. (The XXL Cheeseburger with its turkey bacon and BBQ-esque sauce is my very favourite thing to order.)

Muscle Maker Grill Turkey Meatballs
turkey meatball side item

All of the wraps come with a side of baked potato, brown rice, cucumber salad (cucumbers with herbs, Ash says), steamed broccoli, pasta salad, rice & beans ($1 extra), turkey meatballs ($1 extra), or turkey bacon ($1 extra). I love the option of broccoli but sometimes don’t feel like being quite so healthy, so the meatballs are a favourite. They’re well-seasoned, a little spicy, and a lot better than most of the meatballs I’ve had from non-healthy restaurants downtown.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

Muscle Maker Grill is one of those places where you eat the food and think, “Why am I paying $10 for this? I could make it at home for much cheaper!” But you can’t, and you won’t. All of the ingredients are much more flavorful than you’d make them, and you’d never know that the cheese is low-fat nor the bacon is turkey here. On a scale with every restaurant everywhere, I’d obviously want to eat at the places with more butter and more sugar, but I have to give this place four donuts for making healthy food craveable.

My only problems with it are that they charge extra for low-carb wraps ($.79) and delivery ($1.50). I know that neither of those amounts is significant, but I find it pretty audacious to charge for delivery when I can only name one other restaurant in the city that does. It bothers me enough that I only let myself order from Muscle Maker once a week; I wouldn’t order from them at all on principle usually, but the food is just too good.

Muscle Maker Grill
10 Murray Street
New York, NY 10007 (map)

and

92 8th Avenue #1
New York, NY 10011 (map)

The Tasting Menu at Corton – French/American (New) – Tribeca
Sep 22nd, 2011 by donuts4dinner

Corton NYC

Corton wasn’t on our restaurant radar for a long time. I knew it had two Michelin stars, and I’d never heard a bad thing about it, but it took my boyfriend seeing someone else’s review before we figured out that this is exactly our kind of place. “Wacked-out modernist cuisine”, he calls it. Like wd-50 and Momofuku Ko before it, Corton’s Chef Paul Liebrandt is making familiar foods unrecognizable and unrecognizable foods fantastic.

We opted for the nine-course, $155 tasting menu, with wine pairings. Wine pairing isn’t mentioned on the menu, but sommelier Shawn Paul introduced us to some really unusual bottles and knew when to give us more extensive information on a particular grape, so I’m glad we knew to ask. (So was the couple next to us, who immediately requested the pairings, too.)

Corton NYC
amuse bouche: turmeric cracker, potato croquette

The amuses came at us fast. Before a menu was even presented to us, these crackers and croquettes arrived on a bed of wild rice; I barely had time to get my white balance in check before Dr. Boyfriend snatched his away. The color was indicative of that spicy turmeric flavor that puts me in the mind of curry, but it was the textures that I really remember. The cracker was thick and airy like a graham cracker, and the croquette was creamy with a liquid center. I probably should’ve stolen my boyfriend’s and made s’mores out of them.

Corton NYC
amuse bouche: black sesame financier, mornay-filled potato cracker

Presented on an invisible layer of plastic wrap, these tiny treats appeared to be floating above their metal dish. I was pretty juiced about the one that looked like a Totino’s Pizza Roll, but it was actually a very, very crisp cracker filled with a buttery cheese sauce. I honestly can’t remember anything about the taste of the financier (nutty?), but I definitely remember its pound cake texture.

Corton NYC
amuse bouche: black bean and corn custard

Maybe I had my hopes a little too high for an amuse combining one of my very favourite flavors on Earth, corn, with its favourite Southwestern companion, the black bean, in my favourite presentation, the egg cup. I loved the idea of it, but the corn jelly at the bottom of the egg was basically unflavored. The black bean was airy like a mousse and stained our teeth wildly, so we used our champagne like mouthwash. The really enjoyable part was the corn itself, which was slightly chewy and reminded me of the excellent freeze-dried corn in a soup at The Modern.

Corton NYC
amuse bouche: tuna

Even back when I was a major fish-hater, I was eating tuna salad, because, you know, mayo makes everything palatable. Now when I think about myself eating fish out of a can–out of a can, people–it blows my mind that I could’ve been having this instead. Raw tuna is just so beefy. And this piece in particular was just so salty. The grilled lime added brightness, not to mention a little pink-salted ambiance.

Corton NYC

Corton NYC
Melon: almond ‘chaud-froid‘, razor clam, melon dashi

I had no idea what chaud-froid was and found this description when I Wikipediaed it: “a meat jelly that includes cream is called a chaud-froid.” Who can resist a good creamed meat jelly, right? Apparently–and excuse me if you already know this–the name means hot-cold in French and refers to meat that’s cooked but then chilled again and glazed with aspic, or meat stock gelatin. Mmmmouth-watering.

This was the most elegant presentation, from the gold leaf to the contrasting colors to the watermelon dashi our server poured into each bowl at the table, melting the clear jelly coating the bottoms. The jelly was acidic like the watermelon but wasn’t itself flavorful. The green orbs were beautiful but puzzling; were they baby watermelons? caper berries? cucumbers? They were crunchy and not sweet, and I would eat them on everything every day. With the chewy razor clams, the crisp vegetables, the gritty melon, and the smooth, rich foie gras, it was a delight for the texturally-inclined. This was one of those dishes where the sum total was much greater than the individual parts.

Corton NYC

Our server used a spoon to tap a layer of dried chanterelle mushroom shavings over our plates.

Corton NYC
Blowfish: ‘gnudi’, puffed grains, girolle (golden chanterelle) powder

When we saw this blowfish, my boyfriend I gave each other the “whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?” look. “Aren’t these things poisonous? Am I really going to eat a fish with its tail still on? What about the bones?” Any trepidation we had was forgotten before we were done chewing the first bite. I love Indian food, and this fish was soaked through with tandori and curry flavors. There were about two bites of meat on the thing, but I ate enough bones to round it out, and those two bites were tasty enough to make the potential for a slow, lingering poison death worth it. The leaf underneath seemed to be soaked with citrus, probably lime, and was a bright accent to the spicy fish. The octopus was just too thin to really make an impression on me, but I loved the creamy gnudi with the chive blossom.

Corton NYC
Green Market: vegetables, herbs, lettuces

I would never ever order something described as “vegetables, herbs, lettuces”, and yet this was one of my favourite dishes of the night. Hence the joy of the tasting menu. The beet was perfectly earthy, the fennel extra salty, the yuzu a pleasant citrusy surprise. There was a crispy, thin-as-can-be eggplant chip to provide some contrasting texture, along with a “crumble” underneath it all that tasted like spicy buttered breadcrumbs. Even the tomatoes were fresh and unoffensive to me, which is really saying something; I assume it was the wonderful herbs overpowering the acidity I don’t care for.

Corton NYC
Grilled Potato ‘Tiramisu’: lemon, garlic

The way to my heart is through savory ice creams in the middle of a meal. Unfortunately, there was approximately a thimbleful of sweet potato ice cream hidden under all of this lemon foam. I just loved the cold of the ice cream, and the foam ruined it with its room-temperature-ness. The foam, admittedly, was very exciting to a lemon-lover like me, and I was also a fan of the tiny textured cubes of what I think were scallions at the bottom of the dish. There was also a smooth olive puree to add a little bitterness.

Corton NYC
Turbot: green crab laquet, black garlic, hibiscus, black garlic jus

If someone could explain to me what a laquet is, I’d appreciate it. Bewilderment was the general feeling surrounding this entire dish, but I’m not complaining. The confusion centered on the following:

1) What the hell is anything on this plate?
2) Why am I not eating black garlic every day of my life?
3) Is that cous-cous inside my tomato?

Whew. “Wacked-out modernist cuisine” indeed. The turbot was a nicely firm, not-fishy fish. I approve. The black garlic puree was smoky, thick, and sticky; I’m having mind-drools just thinking about it, and I barely even like garlic. The “tomato”, definitely the weirdest part, was a gelatinous tomato-flavored skin encasing what reminded me of cous-cous. Most of this dish left me absolutely befuddled, though. I liked everything, but I would finish a little log of something with a Jell-o texture and just be like, “Welp, I guess that’s that.” I’m not sure why I see this as a positive thing, but I guess I like a challenge to my know-it-all-ness.

Corton NYC
snapper, pickled quail egg

These were the side dishes to the turbot, although we’re not sure how they were supposed to be connected to it. The snapper was super fishy and served over a puffy rice cracker. The quail egg tasted neither pickled nor even eggy; it was more like a floral, herbed spherification, which was actually preferable to me.

Corton NYC
Squab: smoked anchovy crème, sour plum, coconut

These little birdie cylinders seemed to be wrapped in fat, but the fat wasn’t melty, and it wasn’t crisp, either. It was certainly much beefier than a chicken dish would’ve been, though, and I took a lot of joy in picking up that bone with my hands and chewing the unctuous meat off with gusto in a two-Michelin-starred restaurant. The disc of plum with the gelatinous top was both a nice flavor pairing and continued the gelatin texture theme. The log of coconut was an airy, savory foam.

On the side was a dish of consomme jelly with a center of brunoised fennel and crispy, crumbly top like the breadcrumbs in previous dishes. It was honestly more weird than delicious, but I really appreciate the work that goes into a consomme.

Corton NYC

Corton NYC
Caerphilly Gorwydd: tomato clafoutis, frozen black olive oil

Dr. Boyfriend and I had a nice Caerphilly at Per Se, so I was maybe a little disappointed to be served the same cheese here, but this turned out to be one of the best dishes of the night and certainly the one we still talk about most. The cheese was funky, the frozen olive oil intensely bitter. The gooseberry was sweet (is that husk edible? ’cause we ate it), and the tomato and basil combination made a marinara sauce in my mouth. But it was that tomato clafoutis that really sealed the deal. I’m under the impression that clafoudis should be sort of like a cheesecake in texture, but this was straight up cakey. It really mellowed the cheese and provided a texture contrast. The truly beautiful presentation wasn’t lost on us, either.

Corton NYC
Fennel: blueberry tapioca, fromage blanc

Again, looking at this dish was almost more satisfying that actually eating it. The blueberry tapioca looked like individual black raspberry drupelets (I just learned that word!) but were chewy. It was surprising and delightful–my favourite part of the dish. The fennel was a major flavor player for my boyfriend, but I cared much less about the ice cream than anything else. The rice balls provided crunch, and the base of a shortbread-like cookie made it a heartier dessert. It was really a complete plate, from flavor to texture to leaving me completely satisfied even without chocolate.

Corton NYC

Corton NYC
chocolate, caramel, vanilla

But of course there was chocolate. And caramel. And some character written on the plate that we could only assume was Arabic for “you’ve overstayed your welcome”. This was a spongey chocolate cake, a chocolate disc that was really way too firm to be cut without ruining the rest of the dish, caramel that reminded me of the best ones from my childhood, and an intense vanilla flavor that we both loved. This was salty almost to the point of being savory, but there were plenty more sweets to follow.

Corton NYC
mignardises

Our server came around with a tiered acrylic box full of truffles, chocolates, and French macarons. We have a history of feeling awkward and not wanting to appear gluttonous when the petit fours arrive, but this time I sucked it up and asked for one of everything. Well, I actually asked, “May I have one of everything? Is that too much?”, as if our server was actually going to say, “Hey, fatty, take it down a notch and just get two or three like a normal person.”

Corton NYC

There was a caramel, a raspberry, and a mint chocolate, a Pimms and a Mai Tai macaron, a truffle . . . and some others. They were all wonderful, and I was glad I got one of each, because I could’ve eaten twice as many.

Corton NYC
pate de fruits

I know pate de fruits are easy to make, but that doesn’t keep me from loving them unconditionally. They look so unassuming, but they always punch you in the face with flavor. These were grapefruit . . . and something else. Sorry, but I was really too fixated on the fact that the girl in the silver lamé dress at the neighboring table had left hers behind to commit the second flavor to memory.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Corton NYC

I have to admit that I’m a little torn about this rating. On one hand, I have very, very little to complain about. There were a few dishes with components that were throwaways, but there were more dishes where every single ingredient seemed to matter. I really missed the pork and the beef, but there was a salad that I actually took joy in eating, and there was so much creativity all around that I probably didn’t even appreciate it all.

On the other hand, I didn’t quite feel the overwhelmed sensation I usually do at my five-donut restaurants. The desserts were absolutely spot-on as far as delivering me exactly the quality and quantity I needed, but I don’t remember many moments in the savory courses where my boyfriend had to quiet me because I was embarrassing him with all of my exclamations like he usually does. Maybe that’s a side effect of the creativity, though; if there’s not a pile of potatoes and butter, my vocal cords don’t emit the requisite yummy sounds.

It also may have something to do with the fact that the space doesn’t feel as luxurious as your Crafts and your Asiates. Nor as cool as your wd-50s and your Momofuku Kos. It’s somewhere in the middle, with an interesting flower-textured wall and an overall cave-like feel but a patch on the seat next to you and no maître d’ to greet you at the door so that you’re left feeling totally awkward as you just stop a random server to help you find your table. It’s perfect for the diner who feels intimidated by the plushness of Daniel but doesn’t want to sit at a counter and listen to indie rock while he eats, either.

I don’t mean to say anything negative, though. I think most of the food is great, the rest of it exceptional, and all of it wildly imaginative.

Corton
239 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013 (map)

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