Degustation, NYC 2
April 30, 2013
Degustation has been a favorite of some New York foodies since its opening in 2007. It gets a 28 (the 2nd highest) food rating in Zagat, but faint praise in other media. I dined there in 2009; my reaction was mixed, but I concluded: “I would be happy to go back … as I could sense the talent of the chef.” Well, the chef has changed several times since then, but Linda and I went for dinner on April 21, 2013.
We were seated by the corner of the counter near the entrance. The restaurant was originally designed with a Japanese-style counter and retains that seating format. There are two cooks who have a grill, a plancha, a deep-fryer etc at their disposal. Cooked ingredients are then passed to the plating chef, who artfully prepares the plates with the many garnishes and sauces she has nearby.
As the plating station was right in front of us, we could see every dish being assembled.
On sitting down we ordered glasses of Cordoníu Cava Brut NV. This refreshing sparkler was followed by a bottle of 2008 Pesquera Reserva, Ribera del Duero, which was excellent.
There is a fairly limited à la carte menu of small plates plus our choice, a seven-course tasting menu. The tasting menu dishes were not taken from the à la carte menu; they were described to us as they were served with music and conversation in the background; some are quite complex making the descriptions hard to grasp and remember. I have presented my version of what we heard, saw and tasted below.
The amuse-bouche was a Virginia oyster with mustard seed and lemon.
The seasoning was restrained and the oyster very nice.
The first menu course was chunk of octopus braised in red wine and grilled. It was accompanied by pickled carrot curls, a pea shoot, a Marcona almond and a scoop of red onion confit.
The one piece of octopus was very good, but frustratingly small, particularly with so many garnishes.
A grilled white asparagus stalk, coated with pumpernickel breadcrumbs, cut in half lengthwise; lemon thyme meringue wafers, pistachios, spinach purée underneath.
This dish was excellent. The garnishes were appropriate and understated, allowing the asparagus flavor, which had been enhanced by its grilling, to shine through.
A poached egg was dressed with a spoonful of bacon broth and then covered with crumbs of Funyun, Frito-Lay’s onion-flavored corn chip snack. A dab of paddlefish caviar was added on top.
Well, that is what I think they said to us, and to our neighbors when it was served to them. The egg was enjoyable and fun, but the industrial quality of the crumbs came through. Too bad they didn’t simply make their own flavored breadcrumbs.
Sautéed corvina from Panama covered with Riesling foam on top of cauliflower purée sauce.
The corvina had a surprisingly strong flavor, almost like mackerel and so it stood up to the saucing. Very nice.
Risotto with bacon, Hawaiian blue prawns, broccoli leaves, and arugula flowers on top.
The flavors were a good combination, but were not assertive. The texture was good.
The cheese plate featured a Manchego-like Spanish cheese with honey, thin wafers, cashews and red sorrel.
The pre-dessert had an orange gel cube, a mint leaf and reddish granules whose name I did not catch.
The dessert was “Bruléed French Toast, Smoked Maple Syrup.”
It seemed to be made of a bready custard. Very good.
We had a good time and enjoyed the cuisine. The ingredients were good and well prepared in a variety of styles and imaginative, well-conceived combinations, although I thought that the octopus and quail dishes were too complicated, submerging the main ingredient. The pace was fine, but I imagine that it slowed down as the restaurant filled up. Watching the plating and the other diners added to the interest.
To see my meal at Degustation in 2009 click here.