Corton, NYC 2
October 25, 2011
Linda and I had dined at Corton in November, 2008, shortly after its opening. We described the tasting menu that night as uneven and unfocussed. A year later Corton received two stars from the Michelin Guide, which it still has. Linda and I finally returned for dinner on August 25, 2011.
No à la carte or prix fixe menus were offered, only a five-course “Seasonal Tasting” at $115 and, our choice, a nine-course “Tasting Menu” at $155. My apéritif was a glass of Jean-Louis Denois Brut de Blancs, Limoux NV ; I have always enjoyed Limoux Chardonnays, both sparkling and still. Linda’s was Marie-Noëlle Ledru Brut Grand Cru, Ambonnay NV Champagne.
The sommelier came by; in view of the restaurant’s name, we only considered wines from Burgundy, even though we knew that the cuisine would wander far from there. We settled on a bottle of 2006 Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée, which was lovely.
Three breads were passed; sweet cream and seaweed butter were put on the table. The first amuse-gueule was a “sweet corn and black bean custard” in an eggshell.
It was nice, but seemed more like a jelly than custard.
The second was a tempura avocado in a chilled corn soup with sea urchin underneath and a basil leaf on top.
The first course was
Sepia, Almond ‘Chaud-Froid,’ Melon Dashi
In the center was a little rectangle of foie gras terrine with an almond icing and a flake of gold leaf. The white piece in the lower left is sepia, or cuttlefish. Everything is on a melon flavored dashi starting us off with a little umami.
This replaced an abalone dish on the printed Tasting Menu. Aside from the Japanese “sweetfish,’ there were a spinach roulade and various Japanese touches including crisp rice bits.
Except for this course, I have shown the menu descriptions as they were printed, even though there were many variations this evening. Even when accurate, they didn’t include all the garnishes. Each dish was explained to us, but taking the photos in the low light was all I could manage and I didn’t take notes, so my descriptions will be incomplete. I’m not complaining. Varying the ingredients according to what is fresh and available and the whims of the chef is fine with me.
The next course was
Vegetables, Herbs, Lettuces
Unlike most other dishes of this type, the vegetables were all cooked in varying degrees, which brought out their flavors. The wafer was a savory saffron meringue. I enjoyed this.
Lemon, Summer Truffle
On top was a glob of grilled potato ice cream with a nice flavor. Underneath was a lemon foam that didn’t go well with it. On the bottom was a black olive purée.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Porcini Marmalade, Tandoori Spices
The square of John Dory with Indian spices was accompanied by light dumplings of sweet potato. There was a side plate with John Dory crudo and spherified tomato water with egg yolk and celery. The fish was fresh and good, but I didn’t see the point of the whole dish.
Smoked Anchovy Crème, Kimchi Gelée, Coconut
There were two round pieces of squab breast wrapped in lardo. There was also a little roll of chopped squab meat and a leg. These were all flavorful and good. The other garnishes and the coconut sauce went well without being overly assertive. I didn’t see the point of the spicy kimchi jelly alongside.
Tomme de Chevre Aydius
Pickled Cauliflower, Pistachio
This slice of aged hard goat’s milk cheese from the Pyrenées was very good with interesting and appropriate garnishes. The pistachio, hazelnut crisp was nice, but could have been larger.
Blueberry Tapioca, Fromage Blanc
There was a scoop of fennel sorbet, a sphere of fromage blanc, blueberries, cheesecake and blueberry tapioca. The fennel and blueberry flavors went well together. Very good.
Vanilla | Lemon Verbena Fudge
Sablé Noir, Apricot, Matcha Green Tea
The initials of the chef were put in a glaze in the lower left corner of the plate with this imaginative little dessert. Once again the diverse flavors seemed to compliment each other well.
Three trays of excellent mignardises were passed. I took two macarons: Pimm’s Cup and Mojito. Also a caramel chocolate and a chocolate truffle. Alongside were jellies of passion fruit and something red.
The décor is quite simple and serene, like the small flowers on the tables. There is no music and the noise level is low, although the restaurant was not full on this last Thursday in August. This ambience reflects the restaurant’s idea of itself. Corton‘s website says:
“Chef Liebrandt’s modern French menu melds the tradition of classical cuisine with a contemporary approach to ingredients and technique. The flavors are clean, precise and intense.”
This self-image is quite strange as it has little relationship to what we were served: sweet corn, melon dashi, tempura avocado, ayu, tandoori spices, kimchee, matcha etc. The multiple ingredients and garnishes were seldom French or clean and precise. It was not like Pierre Gagnaire, perhaps the epitome of successful, very modern, Asian-influenced French cuisine, where one has no doubt that it is still French cuisine. I was reminded of our our recent exposure to “modern’ cuisine at atelier. Even that meal seemed a bit more French.
Nonetheless, we certainly enjoyed our meal and were never bored. That some of the combinations didn’t work for us is unimportant. We came to see what the chef was up to. I think we will be back. You should go too, if you are looking for a fine, unique culinary adventure.
To see our meal at Corton in 2008, click here.