Degustation, NYC

December 7, 2009

Degustation gets mixed reviews, but many of them are very enthusiatic. Its 26 Zagat rating for food is impressive for a little place with only 16 seats. As Linda was occupied the evening of November 30, 2009, I chose Degustation because its counter format was appropriate for dining alone.

It was not easy to spot behind its door in an unmarked red wall in the East Village, but once inside, the welcome was warm.
 

I was early and was seated at the end of the counter. The two diners already there were at the other corner. I had a good view of all the activity in the kitchen. The station in front of me was for dishes which needed assembly with no further cooking, such as crudos or desserts. Just beyond the sink you can see the open grill and then some stovetop burners. This room was originally designed for a Japanese grilled-food restaurant.

The excellent waitress explained the menu to me. They suggest having four plates if one orders à la carte. There is a five-course tasting menu at $50 and a ten-course one at $75. The five courses are mostly from the à la carte menu, while the ten are different and somewhat smaller. I chose the five-course menu as I didn’t want to have a long evening dining alone.

 

The wine list is all Spanish with a wide variety of regions and prices. I ordered a bottle of 2000 Dehesa La Granja, an all tempranillo oak-aged wine from the province of Zamora by Alejandro Fernández, the maker of Tinto Pesquera. It was superb with an earthy elegant flavor.


The amuse-gueule was a
Spanish “Tortilla,”
quail egg and shallot confit;
and a
ham and apple croqueta, pimentón aïoli.

They were both delicious with nice texture contrasts. The “tortilla” wrap is thin potato slices. The croqueta was surprisingly light. Despite the constantly changing menu, this amuse-gueule seems to be permanent.

The first course on the tasting menu was the crudo of the day.
Spanish mackerel,
apple granita, jalapeño slices


The tartness of the grainy apple sorbet was a nice change from the citric acidity one usually gets with crudo. Equally, having the fish as the warmest part of the dish was a change which attracted my attention. The jalapeño slices added just a bit of heat and color. Very good.

Sunchoke soup, sea urchin, apple, tarragon
 
The sea urchin looked promising when it was presented in the bowl, but after the warm cream of Jerusalem artichokes was poured around, it became a background flavor. (This was an extra course offered to me.)

Grilled octopus, potato, cipollini, caper berry

The octopus had been grilled in front of me, but didn’t have the noticable charred effect it should have. The other ingredients were fine, although not special. The orange sauce underneath was very good; I didn’t note its several ingredients. The green swirl is parsley oil.

Grilled sweetbread, tomatillo sauce, chanterelles, dill

The sweetbread wasn’t crisp enough on the outside to offset the somewhat mushy inside. The chanterelles underneath were a natural combination; the excellent tomatillo sauce was a surprising match, but I liked it.

Lamb loin, heirloom cauliflower, pine nut purée, pickled raisins, mint

The lamb was very nice, but the cauliflower had been overcooked. The coarse salt on the lamb and the lovely pickled raisins on the caulifower perked them up, but this still seemed like good comfort food.

Chocolate, banana and wild rice.

I ordered this rather than the other choice, a caramel dessert, because I wanted to see what he did with the wild rice, but it was just part of the banana cream on top of the dark chocolate.


By the time I finished, the three cooks were working hard on the other side of the counter even though the restaurant was only half full.

The meal was interesting; there were some very good parts: the amuse-gueule, the crudo, the tomatillo sauce, but it was not as challenging as I had hoped. Precision was lacking in some of the cooking techniques; imagination was lacking in others. The service from my friendly and informative waitress was superb. The noise level was okay with some Spanish music in the background, but then the restaurant was not full. I would be happy to go back and try the ten-course menu as I could sense the talent of the chef and may have hit an off night.

Degustation
239 East 5th Street
New York 10003

212-979-1012

One Response to “Degustation, NYC”

  1. pleasefeedme Says:

    Have you tried Jack’s Luxury Oyster bar yet? Same owners as Degustation, but I think that it tastes better! I liked Degustation though! I reviewed Jack’s on my blog :D. Definitely putting you on my blog roll.

    pleasefeedme.wordpress.com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s