The Tasting Menu at Corton – French/American (New) – Tribeca
September 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

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.

239 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013 (map)

28 Responses  
  • Cassie writes:
    September 22nd, 20111:38 pmat

    1. We’ll agree to disagree on the mayo stance.
    2. Approximately how many sweater vests does K-bear own?
    3. Those photos are amazing. And I’m jealous.
    3a. Do you think if you imagined that my kids were food, would you be able to capture them like you do the food?
    3b. Seriously.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20113:47 pmat

      1. What’s your favourite condiment? Ketchup, right?
      2. I remember when we bought his first sweater vest together, and now he probably has more than ten. And he wears one every day, 400 degrees or not.
      3. Thank you! I would love to photograph your kids. Like, for real. You’re doing a fiiiiiine job, though. The buttcrack on Mae-a-Day KILLED me.

      • Cassie writes:
        September 25th, 20116:03 pmat

        1. It just depends on what I’m eating. Lately it’s been home made honey mustard or a nice dijon. Ketchup is OK, of course, but only if it’s Heinz.
        2. Those sweater vests are amazing.
        3. I did the crooked buttcrack for you. Just you.

  • Serial/eleanorpie writes:
    September 22nd, 20112:05 pmat

    Daaaang katie. Amazing photos!

    And I don’t think tomatillo husk is edible. I mean, unless they did something to it, it would be hard to eat. I wonder if they recreated something that looked like the husk out of something actually edible?

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20114:10 pmat

      Thank you! The avant-garde-ness or whatever you want to call it of these plates made them really fun to photograph.

      Similarly to the tomatillo husk, Kamran and I ordered a cheese last night with its rind still on and weren’t sure that it was edible but ate it anyway. We pictured our server coming back to the table and noticing that it was gone and being like, “WTF?” But then we decided that restaurants probably have specific training for their servers on how to handle customers who accidentally eat the husks and rinds of things they’re not supposed to. Namely calling 9-1-1.

  • Jessica R. writes:
    September 22nd, 20112:10 pmat

    I have no idea what any of this even means: “Caerphilly Gorwydd: tomato clafoutis, frozen black olive oil”

    BUT, it looks like a delicious Mars landscape.

    I love pretty food and I would have asked for one of each of those little yummy things too.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20114:32 pmat

      Haha, me neither. The really scary part is the “Caerphilly Gorwydd”, and that’s just the maker and the name of the cheese. All of the French and names of dishes in quotation marks to show that they’re crazy plays on the classics . . . it’s intimidating. But fun to learn about!

      “delicious Mars landscape” is perfect and will be used in one of my future reviews, with credit to you, of course.

      • Paddy writes:
        September 29th, 201112:48 pmat

        In the melon course those were green zebra grape tomatoes, I think.

  • Ash writes:
    September 22nd, 20113:39 pmat

    Oh, Katie. Those photos made me want to eat my laptop.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20114:35 pmat

      Awesome! Do it! But at work, so they’ll pay for the damage from your acidic slobber.

  • LawandFood writes:
    September 23rd, 201112:58 pmat

    I’ve been twice now, and both times have been blown away with the creativity/flavors produced by Chef Liebrandt. Perhaps you weren’t completely overwhelmed by the experience because the chef isn’t afraid to challenge his diners. Regardless, your meal looks fantastic and only reaffirms why Corton is currently one of my favorite restaurants in NYC.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20114:53 pmat

      I was definitely challenged! It’s funny that I left feeling like, “That was good, but . . .”, but every time I tried to think of a reason why I’d give it less than 5 stars, I couldn’t.

      It does look like a “PL” on the dessert plate! Now that you mention it, it seems so obvious. Nice work.

  • LawandFood writes:
    September 23rd, 20111:00 pmat

    Also, the “mysterious” writing on the plate of your final dessert is for “PL” or Paul Liebrandt if I’m not mistaken.

  • Kim writes:
    September 23rd, 20115:35 pmat

    I am mostly interested in your server’s nail polish. And the frozen black olive oil.

    Your photos are stunning.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20116:05 pmat

      Hey, thanks! That really pleases me, coming from you.

      I definitely had to go back and look at the picture to remind myself of her nails. I’m sure I had never noticed them.

    • Paddy writes:
      September 29th, 201112:44 pmat

      Although I agree with you that the food is super creative and innovative I don’t feel it warrants the $600 dollar price tag that comes with it and we only had one wine pariing!

  • Jose M writes:
    September 24th, 20119:48 amat

    I wonder who helped to pick this place…
    Nice review, you write too much in addition of the stunning photos!

    I added a link to your blog on mine in the about section. There is no links column in my theme…

    So after Corton, what’s next?

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20116:10 pmat

      Yeah, so glad we saw your review and made that reservation! Thanks for the link; now we’re well on our way to joint world fame.

      Our next big one is Per Se again for my birthday. Hopefully we’ll do the extended tasting, but we’re not sure our stomachs are tough enough.

      Excited that you went to Le Grand Fooding! We were interested but of course lazed out on the reservations in the end.

  • SSM writes:
    September 25th, 20113:21 pmat

    In the cheese course that doesn’t look like tomatillo, but rather Cape Gooseberry. I could be wrong though. Both the tomatillo/gooseberry look similar and have husks alike–both of which don’t taste very good raw, but I’m sure can be eaten (though I’ve never tried it)

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 25th, 20116:16 pmat

      Ohhhh, boy, my boyfriend is mad that you caught that before he did. Now I’m mad that I was eating something I’d never had before and didn’t even realize it. Thanks for the correction, though!

  • Dishy writes:
    September 27th, 201110:55 amat

    It looks like a husk cherry to me, Katie. Which are absolutely delicious, though I’ve never eaten the husk!

    Your photos are absolutely superb. And the descriptions as otherworldly as the food itself. What an amazing life you and Kamran lead!

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      September 30th, 20114:36 pmat

      It DOES look like a husk cherry, too! Crap, this thing is confusing the heck out of me. Guess I’ll just have to go back. Tonight. In the interest of good blogging, of course.

      Thank you so much! Of course I think you lead an amazing life, too, but I sure do enjoy my foodz.

  • han writes:
    September 27th, 20116:14 pmat

    beautiful pictures! ive been intrigued by corton – so it was great to see what it is all about. i think i also need to take some photo tips from you since your dslr pics are fab!

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    September 28th, 20111:31 pmat

    Everything looks fantastic, but if the sweets were even HALF as good as the photos indicate, then this place KILLED the dessert portion of the evening.

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » New York’s Best Restaurants writes:
    April 6th, 20125:50 pmat

    […] Boi Sandwich Bouchon Bakery The Breslin (whole suckling pig!) Brushstroke Buttermilk Channel Corton Cupcake Crew Colicchio & Sons Craftbar Craftbar (2) Craftbar (3) Crêpes du Nord Daniel […]

  • S LLoyd writes:
    April 15th, 201210:53 pmat

    Corton is one of my favourite upscale restaurants in New York and your pictures pay justice to their beautifully well crafted dishes. Question: how were you able to take photos there? They normally have a strict no-picture policy at Corton.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      April 16th, 201212:38 pmat

      Thank you so much! I did a quick Google search and saw other diners complaining of the no-photo policy, but they must have changed their thinking at some point, because I definitely didn’t hide my camera, and no one said a word. Lucky me, I guess!

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