Photos in context are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2013/03/...
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 great 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 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.
• amuse: blue cheese foam, beets, pecans
Very beety, with plenty of blue cheese flavor and nutty sweetness.
• amuse: kuzu, black truffle, aligot
Japanese flatbread, truffle, potato and cheese sauce. Yes.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• pistachio miso marinated fresh black cod
Flaky fish, smoky almond milk, and so much sweet ginger.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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!
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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.
Wish I could read your blog! I definitely liked my second visit to Corton even more than the first; glad to know you had the same experience.
So glad to know I've had your favourite beef dish!
Interesting! I can't remember ever having uni at Per Se. We had a similar bacon-wrapped rabbit that was soooo good.
I noticed a couple of similarities between what we had at Per Se this weekend and what we had at Corton the weekend before. I wonder if these guys are reading each other's menus.
So many memorable dishes! The calotte was outstanding, the foie gras with bananas was a strange and wonderful combination, and the lobster with radicchio was the right kind of bitter. My favourite dish of the day was the halibut, though, with a red pepper piperade and squid ink ravigote and fatty potatoes. I would definitely want it again.
I don't like olives, either! We thought our server said the cheese course had olives in it, but what looked like slivers of green olive turned out to be pear–weird. I need to look at the menu and figure out what we misheard.
Thank you! So glad to hear you love the food, too; I guess I'm not surprised when people complain that they don't understand it, but I'm disappointed for them. I totally agree about the pretzel bread and was happy to see it at Per Se this weekend, too; I hope to see it everywhere now!
Photos in context are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2013/01/...
My boyfriend and I were looking for a tasting menu for dinner two weekends ago. 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.
This is the $155 tasting menu with wine pairings also at $155:
• arugula Gorgonzola cake
Soft and slightly bitter, with a kick of blue cheese.
• lemongrass tuile and some fried balls of something
The tuile 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, 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.
• 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.
• 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?
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• mulled wine pate de fruits
Just as bursting with flavor as you want them to be.
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.
• banana and gingerbread French macarons
• 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.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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-star dinners at the moment.
I went last night, and they weren't making the pot pie! So sad I didn't call ahead and happened to go on the one night they were taking off. Luckily, the lobster roll was killer.
Skip Brooklyn Fare if you want the service to match the price. They make you pay ahead of time, the dress code is strict despite the very casual setting, the seats are uncomfortable, and the chef won't answer any of your questions about the cuisine.
Momofuku Ko serves amazingly delicious and inventive food in a super hip environment. Per Se serves amazingly delicious food in a super luxurious environment. Nothing else is remotely as good as those two in my experience.
Great idea. MenuPages seems to think there are at least 11 lobster pot pies being served in the city. And they will be mine.
Thanks for the heads-up! I'm a pot pie fiend and have been wanting to do a pot pie feature on my blog. Thinking this would be an amazing one to start with.
Thank you so much!
I'm going to print out twenty-two copies of this comment and hang it all around my apartment for all of the times I feel down on myself about my photography. Officially in love with you.
Photos in context are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2013/01/...
When I wrote in my Torrisi Italian Specialties review that Italian food in NYC is terrible, bland, and uninspired, the good people of Chowhound went crazy, telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about if I hadn’t been to Del Posto, the Joe Bastianich/Lidia Bastianich/Mario Batali behemoth with one Michelin star.
So in the name of knowing what I’m talking about, my boyfriend took me there for the $165, eight-course Captain’s Menu for a tasting of Chef Mark Ladner’s finest. Our first impression was that the place was gigantic and cavernous, decorated in dark, heavy fabrics that made it seem like the perfect setting for cigar smoking, back door dealing, and hiding mistresses from wives. The staff was friendly despite the ominous feel, we were seated at the most perfect banquette that allowed for plenty of people-watching, and our server treated me like I was the first blogger to have ever entered the place once she saw my camera. Likewise, the sommelier kept talking up the special bottles he was opening up for us and even introduced us to this new contraption called a corovan or coravan or cordovan that separates the cork from the wine bottle without puncturing it so that the wine can be enjoyed without fully opening the bottle; he said that it was invented by a heart surgeon and that Del Posto is the only restaurant on the East coast to have one. Ooh-la-la.
Now, on to the food!
Cauliflower and leek vellutata in the little cups
• wine: Ca’ Del Bosco, Franciacorta, Erbusco
secondi assaggi (second samples):
• tuna wrapped in daikon, jalapeno, sea salt
• chickpea, black truffle, lemon
Like eating truffle hummus.
• fried mozzarella with tomato powder
A beautifully diverse bread basket that was replaced halfway through the meal when it became cold. Our server also switched out our napkins at that point, which I loved.
• lardo and sweet cream butter
For the bread. In case you thought it was just for spooning.
• wine: Paolo Bea “Arboreus” 2008 Umbria
• insalata di verdue, robiola, swiss chard, sour apple
They call this vegetable salad brutte ma buone–ugly but good. I didn’t even think it was ugly, but it certainly was good. The sugary carrot cake crumble under this was almost candy-like and really worked with the super-acidic apple cider vinaigrette. The dressing was so sour that I felt like I was choking when I encountered too much of it resting in a little cup formed by the curve of an onion slice, in fact. But hey, what’s a little choking amongst friends?
• wine: Gravner Ribolla Gialla “Anfora” 2004 Friuli
• fluke, chestnut due, shallots, watercress, truffles, trumpet mushrooms
The many crunchy elements–watercress, water chestnuts, black trumpet mushrooms–made the dish what it was. I’ve never cared at all for watercress, but it was welcome and almost necessary here to add just a touch of freshness. This was also the first time in a long time that I’ve thought truffles really added something more than just an extra $50 to the bill. All in all, I think this was my favourite of the night, and I say this as someone who still totally thinks of fish as poo-drinkers.
• wine: Aldo Conterno Barolo 2007 Piemonte
• tortello puzzone, taleggio dolce, black truffle butter
I think the name of this dish literally translates to stinky tortello, which is entirely correct. I’m not used to such a strong cheese in my ravioli, so the juxtaposition between the creeeeeamy, buuuuuttery texture of the cheese gushing from the broken tortello and its pungent taste was intense. In a good way.
• wine: Scarzello Barbera d’Alba 2008 Piemonte
• orecchiette, lamb neck ragu, orange carrots, toasted rye
My boyfriend thought this was a little too one-note, especially following a dish that really was quite simple, but I actually found it complex with plenty of depth of flavor. The pasta was of course cooked perfectly, and then the spicy lamb sauce so complemented the sweet dollops of carrot puree and the dark, rich rye crumble.
• wine: Maine Beer Co. “Peeper” American Ale, Portland, ME
• cacciucco (fish soup), diver scallops carpaccio, garlic bread soup
A plate of assorted sea creatures arrived, a broth was poured over them, and the result was a seafood soup with tons of garlic and super-bright, super-acidic tomato flavor. The tender seafood was complimented so nicely by the citrusy marjoram in the broth.
• wine: Fontodi ‘Vigna del Sorbo’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2000 Toscana
• veal and beef, cosa viene prima, potato torta, soft spinach, Calabrian spicy tongue stew
A veal medallion surrounded by beef deckle was placed in front of each of us, and then a ragu of tongue was added tableside. I was more excited about this dish than any of the others because of its familiar beefiness, but the lack of seasoning on it was a real letdown; both the veal and potato torta seemed to be entirely lacking salt. However, the deckle (fatty brisket) was perfectly seasoned and perfectly crusted, and the tongue stew was both tender and spicy. Cosa viene prima translates to “what comes first”, which I took as a play on the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg–or in this case, the baby veal or the adult beef.
• wine: Chartreuse
I had never had Chartreuse before this. It’s a monk-made herbal liquor from France, and it made my mouth pucker worse than any lemon ever could. It’s interesting. And beautiful. And vegetal.
• sfera di caprino (sphere of Caprino cheese), celery, fig agrodolce, celery sorbetto
This was like a cheesecake rolled in thick, crispy breadcrumbs, paired with the most celery-flavored and refreshing sorbet and a fig dried as sweet as a raisin.
• wine: Marion Valpolicella Superiore 2007 Veneto
• warmed La Tur, charred bread, chocolate
This was Del Posto’s take on s’mores, and while it seemed simplistic to me at first, I thought it was a really nice take on a cheese course in the end. The La Tur was really funky, but the sweetness of the chocolate balanced it so nicely, and their flavors were so complimentary. I always love the difference in flavor between raw cheese and melted, so I was pleased to find this gave me an idea of both states of a La Tur.
• wine: “10 Anni,” Marsala Superiore Riserva, Marco de Bartoli NV
• butterscotch semifreddo, melon agrumata (citrus), crumbled sbrisolona (cake)
This semifreddo was like a thick, rich, brightly sweet dulce de leche with a crunchy crumble. I thought the fruits on the side seemed like such a weird, uncomplimentary addition, but I actually loved them–particularly the melon. And I’m not a person who cares about melon.
• torta di zucca (pumpkin pie), candied pumpkin, sage gelato
My boyfriend got the raw end of the deal with this course. Instead of the semifreddo, he was served this pumpkin cake that was a little too dry, a little too simple, a little too not-at-all pumpkin-flavored. The sage gelato, on the other hand, was so overwhelmingly sage-y that I didn’t care much for it, either. It sure was pretty, though.
• chocolate sculpture
To end the meal, our server brought a drawer full of small bites, this chocolate sculpture, a cookie jar, and a plate with a giant almond cookie on it. She held the cookie up to show how delicate it was while my boyfriend and I secretly thought, “Why are you touching our cookie?” She explained to us that this type of cookie is commonly passed around the table after a family meal so each person can take a piece for dessert. The Del Posto version of this involved our server smashing the cookie down on top of the cookie jar so that cookie chunks went all over the table. It was quite the spectacle. And quite the delicious, crisp cookie.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Del Posto was solid on all fronts, from food to decor to service. It’s clear why the restaurant has a Michelin star, and it’s clear that the staff are working hard to make it a destination, a place where you can expect a special bottle of wine to be opened for your special dinner. If this was an up and coming restaurant, I’d bump it up half a star, but I expected a little more wow from the food of the Bastianiches and Batali; I didn’t feel creative boundaries being pushed here, and I realize that’s probably because the restaurant is known amongst out-of-towners who don’t want any surprises, just traditionally good food. The better choice for dinner here for us probably would have been the five-course menu, which focuses more on pasta–the thing Del Posto is doing so well. I think this is the sort of place you only have to go to once to get the full experience, and I’m happy to have had mine.
I admittedly haven't been to Forgione, but I've been to the other two a number of times and can safely say that Ko is easily my favourite of the two (and my favourite restaurant in the city). The food is the kind you think about years later, the drink pairings are interesting, and I love being able to watch the chefs. wd-50 may be at times more interesting, but Ko is just more delicious. As long as you don't mind not being able to photograph your meal, it's Ko all the way. If you're interested, my super-long write-up of my first meal there is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/741557. Enjoy!
Love you for this.
Ha! I would love to take credit for that. Either way, sounds great! Lucky you.
Thank you! We loved how wildly serious the coffee guy was. I was having a pretty good time there with my wine pairings, and he did NOT find me funny. Too bad about the pork; I would tell you that ours was like the thick-cut bacon you find at steakhouses, but I don't want to make you jealous.
I'm excited for you! The drink pairings were $90, I believe, and we were actually served a few more than I've mentioned here (not all of them were included on the menu they sent home with us). They were also very quick to fill up our glasses if we emptied them sooner than expected.
My concern was definitely that it was all looks and no soul, but it didn't disappoint on either front.
All photos in context are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2012/06/...
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.
• beer and goat cheese French macaron
This whipped frozen macaron started airy and sweet and melted within seconds, leaving a cheesy finish.
• flax seed cookie
Crisp, with a note of coriander and pine nuts to add texture.
• sunchoke skin with buttermilk filling
Sunchoke skin rolled into a crunchy/chewy vessel for bright herbs and sour buttermilk cream.
• lobster roll
This meringue “bun” was made with yeast to add bread flavor and filled with some of the sweetest lobster meat.
• 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.
• foie gras peanuts
Sweet, salty, creamy, and just a little funky.
• 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.
• 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.
• razor clam
Slices of clam with a thick edible shell of bread. Plenty of ocean flavor packed into just a few slivers of shellfish.
• 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.
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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.
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?
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• cheese course
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.
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
• 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
• “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
• 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.
As chocolatey as they looked.
• black walnuts
Actually salty caramels, presented in the most beautiful way.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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.
Agreed. I stand by my review of the extended tasting, of course, but as I said in my last review, I continue to think the regular chef's tasting (and now vegetarian tasting) are worth it any day of the week.
Thanks! Pretentious is the very last thing I want to come off as, even if I like my food that way.
Excellent! Thank you! I can see how it might not be popular to order and review the vegetarian menu–we were a little skeptical ourselves–but it and the non-alcoholic drink pairings were just great. I shouldn't have ever doubted it, right?
Ha! Thank you! I actually went on vacation right after posting this and didn't see that no one commented on it for a few days. Appreciated nonetheless!
All photos in context are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2012/05/...
The last time my boyfriend and I left Per Se, we were unexpectedly underwhelmed. We’d called ahead and requested the extended tasting menu, a many-extra-course/many-extra-dollar fine food feast that left us feeling as if we were actually treated worse by spending more. The responses to my review were generally along the lines of “it’s a privilege to get to eat there, and you’re paying for the opportunity to be one of the elite, so quit complaining”, which left me with an even more sour taste.
But Per Se is the best restaurant in the city. It’s the most lavish and the most luxurious, and it lends any special event the sort of weight that only a bowl of caviar and oysters served six plates high can. So when my boyfriend passed the California bar exam recently, we considered other options momentarily but probably knew all along that we’d ultimately go with Per Se once again.
And this time, there was nothing to complain about.
The setting was simply elegant as always, with big comfortable armchairs you don’t mind settling into for three or four hours. We were seated at the same table as last time and given a set of menus congratulating my boyfriend. I chose the usual chef’s tasting menu, this time with non-alcoholic beverage pairings, and he chose the vegetarian tasting with wine pairings.
• The usual Gruyere gougères started the meal in the huge handle-less spoon I love so much, but if it’s even possible, they were warmer, filled fuller, more flavorful than ever before.
• My cone was the traditional salmon with creme fraiche and was just as much like a sour cream and onion chip pulled from the ocean as I remembered. His was markedly lemony with a nice grainy texture from the pureed beans.
• scallion “panna cotta”, daikon glaze, dashi “pearls,” pickled jalapeño pepper, bagel crisps, white sesame purée
A clever accompaniment to my caviar, his salty, umami-ful panna cotta was flanked by “roe” formed from dashi broth. Scallion was the stand-out flavor, but the dish wouldn’t have been the same without the spice of the jalapeño sliver.
• “oysters and pearls”, “sabayon” of pearl tapioca, Island Creek oysters, sterling white sturgeon caviar
On my third time enjoying this signature dish, I found still more to love about it. The oysters were still as melt-in-your-mouth as always, but the tapioca in the creamy base seemed larger and more abundant and acted as a link between the smaller but firmer caviar and the larger but more tender oysters.
• “torchon” of Elevages Perigord moulard duck foie gras, Kendall Farms’s creme fraiche, Cherry Lane strawberries, Hakurei turnips, rolled oat tuille, mustard cress
One of the densest foie gras preparations I’ve seen, this torchon was thicker than peanut butter and barely wanted to spread on our soft rolls. It was sweet and mild, complimented by the strawberry slices and contrasted by the sour pickled onions. The bread, sprinkled with cartoonishly large cubes of salt and replaced three times by our server to ensure its freshness and warmth, peeled apart in crescent-shaped hunks to form the perfect vessel for foie gras filling.
• salt tasting
From the black lava salt to the 3,000-year-old pink salt to the flaky fleur de sel, I’ve thought the salts that have accompanied our foie gras supplement have been interesting in texture each time, but this is the first time that I’ve actually tasted flavor differences as well. Either my palate is improving or my imagination is.
• Parker House roll with unsalted and salted butters
Our server told us that a woman with six Jersey cows makes the salted butter for Per Se. You kind of want to roll your eyes and give her a hug at the same time.
• sunchoke “chawanmushi”, brooks cherries, Sacramento delta green asparagus, morel mushrooms, candied almonds
My dish may have been mushroomier, but they were more the star of his dish, highlighting the egginess and the density of the custard with their savory flavor and airy texture. He loved the crunch of the honey nuts especially.
• sautéed filet of black sea bass, honshimeji mushrooms, cauliflower “florettes”, cherry belle radishes, pickled ramps, young parsley
Perfectly cooked, of course, with a hardy crust that I welcomed amidst a bowl of otherwise tender elements. The thick, near-gelled sauce tasted of dill, and the array of tiny marinated mushrooms seemed like they must have been labored over back in the kitchen all morning.
• non-alcoholic pairing: chamomile tea with cardamom and a strong honey/lemon flavor
• milk poached white asparagus, “grenobloise”, hen egg yolk, green garlic “subric,” haricots verts, arugula, brown butter “gastrique
Tender, peppery, with an incredibly flavorful little cake, the so-called “subric”. Amazingly, we both liked this better than the lobster.
• butter poached Nova Scotia lobster “mitts”, glazed sweet carrots, pea shoots, ginger “mousseline”
With the sweet carrot and fresh peas, this was the perfect representation of summer. Though I loved the texture of this lobster in particular–ignore what they say about avoiding shellfish in months that don’t contain an R–I like my lobster a little richer and less healthy.
• non-alcoholic pairing: grapefruit tonic with basil leaf (two of my favourite things in life together in one glass)
• “endive en feuille de pommes de terre”, “ragoût” of fava beans, “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, parsley coulis
This was the only dish of the day that we weren’t gaga over. It wasn’t as flavorful as endive should be, and the breading was at odds with the stringy vegetable. Though the breading was delicious, it seemed like a way to cover up a sub-par filling, though of course everything at Per Se is meticulous, so I’m sure the endive wasn’t supposed to be an afterthought. The fava beans with Parmesan were the highlight of the dish; I could’ve done without the endive entirely.
• herb roasted Thomas Farm’s pigeon, “pastrami” of foie gras, thompson grapes, garlic scapes, mizuna, “sauce perigordine”
I can’t say for sure that it was invented by him, but chef David Chang of Momofuku Ko made famous the shaved frozen foie gras torchon, and we’ve had it on all four of our visits. There, it’s paired with sweet elements like pine nut brittle, lychee fruit, and Riesling jelly. Here, it took on an entirely different personality over the peppery pastrami-style spices of the squab. The burnt-bread-crumb flavor of the sauce had me scraping my plate for every drop.
• broccoli and semolina “agnolotti”, young onions, broccolini, navel orange confit, black winter truffle “mornay”
Pasta! Truffle! Onions! Citrus! It was all of my favourites in one dish. Creamy, truffley, cheesy, and orangey.
• Elysian Fields Farm’s lamb “en crépinette”, merguez sausage, chickpea purée, English cucumber, holland eggplants, lamb jus
The peppery coating on the tender, not-the-least-bit-funky lamb went so well with the fresh cucumber spheres, which tasted to me like the green rind of a watermelon.
• non-alcoholic pairing: English breakfast tea, cola, black pepper (“Cola and tea?!”, I thought. But they were perfect together.)
• Per Se “ricotta”, English pea “barbajuan,” picholine olives, pickled eggplant, toasted pine nuts, garden mint vinaigrette
Everything on this plate tasted green, from the mint sauce to the pea pastry. I’m only just developing a taste for the salty bitterness of olives and thought the flavor worked well here with the overall sweetness of the dish.
• Maplebrook Farm’s “burrata”, Paffenroth Farms’ heirloom tomatoes, petite onions, pearl barley, petite basil
I was worried that the summer menu would include tomatoes (still my most-feared ingredient) in every dish, so I only cried a little when this was put in front of me, and I even tried a little bit just to make sure that yep, I still hate them. Otherwise, I loved the fresh, salady flavors of this dish, which managed to make cheese–which is a shell of semi-soft mozzarella with creamy super-soft mozzarella inside–seem like a light, summery affair. It didn’t compare to the tempura-battered Hittisau we had last time, but the cheese course at Per Se is always memorable.
• caramelized banana sorbet, banana bread, compressed golden pineapple, black sesame buttercream
These flavors were at odds. The super-moist banana bread and sorbet were so sweet themselves, and the pineapple only added another dimension of sweetness. The dollops of white gel–no clue what they were–tasted like lavender soap might. It was a sweet, flowery, romantic dish. And then I got a taste of the black sesame buttercream. It was bitter and sour and never got any less intense, but it wasn’t uncomplimentary to the banana, and I loved the complexity of the dish.
• “raspberry and shortbread”, “granité de créme de cassis”, raspberry soda, Greek yogurt “panna cotta”
Fizzy and ultra sour with a cooling yogurt center and a buttery, crunchy base. The different crunches of the frozen top layer and cookie bottom layer made this a pleasure to dig a spoon into.
• chocolate milk
My final non-alcoholic pairing. It was fizzy like an egg cream, and our server refilled it when I finished it halfway through the mignardises, god bless him.
• “glace à la vanille”, macerated blueberries, vanilla pancakes
I’ll never know if my boyfriend really wanted this dessert or not, because I exclaimed so much when I saw it as a choice on his menu that he might have just ordered it to be nice, but I don’t think he regretted it either way. Because this used the best. maple. syrup. ever. (BLiS Gourmet, I’m coming for you and your $20 bourbon-barrel bottle of glory.) The dish was sweet and sour, warming and cooling, haute and homey.
• “honeyed cherries”, mint “génoise,” compressed brooks cherries, cherry crème “diplomate”, burnt honey ice cream
At the end of your lunch at Jean-Georges, your server will bring out a giant glass pharmacy bottle full of housemade marshmallows and pluck one out for you with a pair of tongs. She’ll make a ceremony of it, and it will seem like a big deal at the time. But hidden in this dish at Per Se was a much, much better marshmallow, and no one made a big deal of it at all. Except for my boyfriend and me, I mean. I believe the word we used was crazy. “This marshmallow is crazy.” I loved the crunchy honeycomb, the fruit-leather-like compressed cherries, the rich honey of the ice cream. The sponge cake was too light for me and needed about a pound of icing on top, but I appreciated the airy texture amidst the other dense elements.
• graduation cake with liquored ice cream
In celebration of my boyfriend’s bar exam achievement, he was presented this simple, elegant little mousse cake. I’ll take any chance to eat more of Per Se’s chocolates.
• fudge, French macarons, truffles
The famous tiered mignardise box with dark chocolate, vanilla, and coffee fudge on top, passion fruit and mint chocolate French macarons in the center, and root beer, salted caramel, and lemon truffles on the bottom.
• assorted chocolates
Arnold Palmer, maple, and grapefruit chocolates from a wooden box full of approximately thirty, which a server opens for you before reciting the flavor of each chocolate from memory. And all of them sound amazing–balsamic vinegar, curry, fennel–and you want the box to be left at your table, but your stomach is nearing implosion at this point, so you only take three or four.
• coffee and doughnuts
One of the desserts I hope for (and receive) each visit, the creamy coffee semifreddo with sugared beignets. Behind the “coffee”, you’ll see the tiny frozen balls of buttered popcorn ice cream, which are so savory as to be closer to popcorn than ice cream.
• take-home treats
The parting gift: a bag of cherry nougats, caramels, hard candies, and a mint chocolate wrapped in gold.
my rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Think of the taste of any food you like and multiply that times ten if you want to understand what it’s like to eat at Per Se. Think of the taste of any food you just feel ambivalent about, and suddenly you’ll be Googling to find out when fava bean season is so you can have more. We’re always terrified when we see the bill–our drink pairings were $300+ even with me getting the non-alcoholic ones (which I highly, highly recommend)–and we always leave saying things like, “For that much at such-and-such, we could’ve eaten twice,” but the truth is that every now and then, I like my food a little precious. I like houndstooth plates stacked three-high and half-eaten bread taken from me because the kitchen wants each bite of my foie gras eaten on a fresh piece and take-home boxes of fudge tied with branded ribbon in branded gift bags. And no one does any of that better than Per Se does.
It's the buns I really want! I've been meaning to go here for a long time; thanks for reminding me that it's worth it.
I, too, loved my Corton experience (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808744) and think your parting advice is spot on. I always find myself eating components separately to try to understand each one, while my boyfriend eats everything together and is always raving about the combinations. That was especially true with the tiny tastes at Corton.
As for question #3, we always tip on the estimated prices of the extra dishes.
The only restaurants that I think compare to Corton are wd~50, Brooklyn Fare, and Momofuku Ko. Ko is easily my favourite of the three, but wd~50 is maybe a little closer to the Corton style (and cheaper and easier to get in to).
Yep, and that's why I liked it.