Atera, NYC 5

January 19, 2016

I returned to Atera with Blair on December 8, 2015, my second meal there since the arrival of Danish chef Ronny Emborg..

Arriving slightly early, we ordered glasses of Champagne from the bar list. There is, of course, no menu; the meal just unfolds. A retrospective abbreviated course list is presented at the door on the way out from which the titles below come.

We were seated in the middle of the counter and considered the various wine possibilities and finally chose the expensive reserve pairing option, which I had never had before. This began with another Champagne 2004 La Vigne Aux Gamins, Thienot, Côtes des Blancs and so the two glasses lasted us through the first four small courses, which were Champagne friendly.
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Green Tomato/Juniper
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This palate freshener was made of warm green tomato water on top and green tomato ice with juniper oil flavoring underneath. The temperature interplay was fun and set a good mood.

Herbs and Flowers/Shrimp
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These herbs, flowers and leaves were to be dipped into the shrimp cream before tasting.

Baerii Caviar/Pistachio
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Baerii caviar is from a Siberian sturgeon species smaller than the more renowned Caspian variety. It is farmed in Southwest France. The pistachio ice cream and the “beer cream” were good accompaniments.  (Beer cream is made from cream combined with buttermilk and Perpetual IPA (Imperial Pale Ale) from Troegs.)

Waffle/Cheddar, Mushroom
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Thin slices of winter truffle were on top. I usually think that winter truffles need to be cooked into something to add their favor, but these had an earthiness which went well with the filling between the waffle strips: fermented button mushrooms mixed with the cabot cheddar.

The wines were presented and poured before each course and so I am presenting them that way.  The wine just below went with two courses; after that there was one wine per course.  

2013 Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, Nicolas Joly, Loire Valley.
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Golden Whitefish Roe/Venison, Potato
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A rich, meaty venison tartare was topped with whitefish roe. Alongside were fresh potato chips that were too delicate for dipping and so we used the spoons. This combination worked well and seemed very Danish.

Razor Clam/Beet, Horseradish
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The clams were inside the rolled cylinders from what must have been enormous beets. The round in the middle is not a beet slice, but a beet gel on top of something. The sauce was delicious, but unfortunately most of it stayed on the plate.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc Welles, Lackner-Tinnacher, Styria, Austria.
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Oyster/Broccoli Rabe, Celery
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The large Island Creek Oyster had not lost any flavor in its searing. It was nicely enhanced with finger lime and mussel buerre blanc.

I took this photo while the kitchen team was preparing the oyster dish for other diners. That is chef Ronny Emborg facing us and a sommelière on the right.
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2013 Heida Païen Les Bernunes, Cave Caloz, Valais 
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This white wine from the Savagnin grape is grown at a high Swiss altitude and is crisp.

Whole Wheat Bâtard
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A bâtard is half the length of and thicker than a baguette. The yellow butter whipped with yoghurt was excellent. I did not care for the tan caramelized onion butter, although caramel is usually one of my favorite flavors.

Scallop/Bitter Greens, Miso
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A Maine scallop was atop miso and dressed with bitter greens and a brown butter foam.

Sourdough Croissant
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They were fresh out of the oven and very good.

2013 Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Fontaine-Gagnard
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The characteristic earthy terroir of the Bâtard-Montrachet went well with the mushroom broth in the dish. 

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The mushroom “tea’ was poured around the turbot and its garnishes after serving at the counter. It was topped with a thin slice of pleasant ridge reserve cheese.  Around were shallots and maïtakes. This had some nice flavors, but they were too jumbled to enhance a good piece of turbot.

2011 Monsheimer Silberberg Pinot Noir, Schmitt, Rheinhessen
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Vegetables/Egg Yolk, Truffle
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Cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale with egg yolk, black truffle purée. The sauce is parsley and whey.

You have to have a lot of imagination to serve a German pinot noir followed by a Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc. They were ok wines, but I do not think they were good matches with their dishes.

2012 Cabernet Franc Réserve, Element Winery, Finger Lakes NY
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Foie Gras/Black Current, Peanut
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The sautéed foie gras and peanut butter were enclosed in black current “leather.” I liked this.

1989 2ème Cru Classé, Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Bordeaux.
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Now they were bringing out the heavy artillery. The bottle was opened in front of us and glasses were poured through an inert gas bottle preserving device. They should have done this an hour earlier and let the glasses sit, as the excellent, prestigious wine was still quite closed, just opening up a bit as we finished our lamb.

Lamb en Croûte/Huckleberry, Burnt Onion
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A very good slice of lamb was in a pastry boat topped with various garnishes. To make the sauce the onions are charred black and pressed for their sweet and bitter juice. It was very good; too bad it was mostly used for decoration, but I could swab up some with the pastry.

2002 Riesling Auslese Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr, Max Fero Richter, Mosel
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2011 2ème Cru Classé, Château Suau, Sauternes
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Chocolate/Milk, Cranberry
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The chocolate melted quickly in the mouth, just leaving a bit of its good flavor.

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Persimmon with mint and miso caramel with milk chocolate.

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These chocolate coated marshmallow treats are a favorite in Denmark.

It turned out that both of the couples to our left were celebrating a birthday and each was presented with a cake and lit candle.
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We had a very good time, as one always does at Atera. Some things were the same as the last time: about half of the dishes (with some modifications;) the counter setting; the cheerful interaction with the sommeliers and with Matt Abbick, the General Manager. Some things were different: new dishes; the wine pairings, which we had never chosen before.

The music had been lowered in volume, but was still too high for me. But Blair, of a younger generation, wrote: “As to the music, it is not everyday you hear the Grateful Dead, among many other iconic bands, at a meal of this caliber. I enjoyed the music very much, especially because to my ear it was the perfect volume level. Totally in the background until you wanted to hear the lyrics or cords with specificity.”

Even with the lower music volume, there was not the interaction with the sous-chefs and servers as before under the American Matt Lightner. (Jaime Young, the long time chef de cuisine, had recently left.) I think that Ronny Emborg does not encourage that, believing that one should concentrate on the cuisine. It cannot be just a Danish thing as noma and relae were among the leaders in sous-chefs serving their dishes and interacting with the diners. Anyway, moving on to Ronny’s main point: the cuisine. It was very good, but not as memorable as it used to be. Only the oyster dish would have been in my top ten dishes of the year, if I still did an annual rating. If he could find a way to get the burnt onion sauce off the plate onto the lamb, that might be a second. Anyway, we will keep trying and enjoying Atera. You should too.

To see all of our meals at Atera click here.

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