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Corton (Formerly Montrachet)


flinflon28
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more on my Saturday night meal at Corton:

the room is beautiful....it's an exhibition in how to conduct a renovation.

an oyster amuse was very very good...to be compared favorably with the terrific oyster I had at Yasuda the other week (those who have had it will know that's saying something).

Rob's desserts are excellent.

scallops were good but that squab is just first-rate.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I have posted the full report of my recent dinner at Corton on my blog. For photos please refer to the link above. I will post the body of my report here, although it is rather lengthy. :wink:

In these trying economic times, it must be particularly daunting for anyone daring to open an ambitious restaurant. That must be particularly true right now in New York City, the epicenter of the worst financial melt down in ages. Corton owned by Drew Nieporent with Chef-Partner Paul Liebrandt is just such an ambitious restaurant that recently opened in New York City not far from the reeling Financial District of Wall Street just as this financial crisis gained a breakneck momentum. Fortunately, Corton is not just any restaurant, Paul Liebrandt is not just any chef and Drew Nieporent is not just any restaurateur.

  Though I have never previously eaten at any of the restaurants Paul Liebrandt has cooked at, I became acquainted with him two years ago at the first Starchefs International Chefs Congress in New York City and interviewed him shortly thereafter. I had been intrigued by his style, but was unable to make it to Gilt while he was still there. He had left that restaurant shortly before the Starchefs Congress.  I became fascinated with his approach to food and looked forward to his next restaurant venture.

Two years later, I finally found myself with another opportunity to try Paul Liebrandt's food and this time I was not going to wait too long. I had hoped to dine there while at the Starchefs 2008 Congress, but despite an anticipated opening prior to that event, as is usual with NYC restaurant openings, it was delayed until early October. Early November would be my earliest opportunity to return to NYC and dine at Corton, so I made a reservation for the Friday evening that I would be in town.

I had never been to Montrachet, but my friend Joe, with whom I went to Corton had, so he was able to appreciate the physical changes made to the space as we entered. The room and the layout were completely different. The table that we were given, a two-top in a corner of the restaurant overlooking the entire room had apparently been the location of the Montrachet kitchen. The new kitchen was now in a totally different part of the restaurant, partially visible through a high, long and narrow horizontal window. Given the height of the window, one could not discern much in there, save for the very busy but controlled visage of the tall Paul Liebrandt himself and the heads of a few of his crew.

One constant from the old Montrachet, however, is Drew Nieporent, the owner of Corton and the successful restaurateur behind a number of acclaimed restaurants. Mr. Nieporent greeted us as we entered the restaurant and escorted us to our table. The normally present Restaurant Director of Corton, Arleene Oconotrillo, was unable to be present that evening.

The service throughout the evening was excellent, combining just  the right amount of friendly and enthusiastic American fine dining style and luxe European elegance. The one fault was the (all too common in contemporary restaurants) occasional plate description by servers who did not have a sufficient grasp of the English language to make them easily understood. This only happened with a few dishes when our principle server was otherwise occupied and was one of two flaws of the evening. The other was that the house water did not taste like typically excellent NYC water. Rather, it had a bit of an off taste, a bit too much chlorine taste. This was not major and detracted from the meal only minimally, but I believe it is something that can and should be improved upon in a restaurant of this caliber.

I found the room itself to be not quite minimalist. It was relaxing and elegant. Without windows to the outside other than at the entrance, the walls were gently slanted in as they rose toward the ceiling. White, they had a raised, Asian inspired floral motif that added texture to the walls. The colors of the room were mostly white with muted tones of gold and green. The seats were comfortable and there did not appear to be a “bad” table within the intimate space. The tables were sufficiently separated for privacy, but close enough so that we were able to mutually engage in a discussion with an interesting couple at an adjacent table without there being a problem for the rest of the room. We did not find the room’s sound quality to be a problem at all as has been mentioned elsewhere. The bathrooms maintained the aesthetic of the restaurant.

Settled in comfortably, our attention turned to the food. We opted for a tasting menu prepared by Chef Liebrandt. We started with cocktails that were well made, well balanced and delicious. A fan of Hendrick’s Gin and looking for something not too sweet, I had the "Vert", which included that gin, St. Germain Liqueur and Japanese Cucumber. Joe had he "Spencer," which consisted of Level Vodka, Lillet, Grapefruit Juice, and Candied Grapefruit. He found that to be very refreshing.

Once we had our cocktails, we focused on wine. Since we were not to know what courses would be coming or their progression, it would have been difficult for us to choose wine for ourselves. We also opted not to do a full course-by-course wine pairing. Instead we left the decision in the hands of Elizabeth Harcourt, Corton’s sommelier, with a few vague parameters indicating that we did not wish to spend an arm and a leg on wine. It turned out that our trust was very well placed. Ms. Harcourt conferred with Chef Liebrandt on what would be served and suggested some possibilities to us. We followed her advice to start with the 2004 Alsatian Riesling “Katzenthal” from Audrey and Christian Binner. Bone dry, this wine possessed enough varietal character to stand up on its own as well with the variety of courses that we would drink it with. It proved to be a stellar choice. We would choose a red a bit later.

The amuse bouche reminded me of the gougeres at Per Se and The French Laundry, only perhaps a little better. The Gougeres with Mornay Sauce and the Green Olive Genoise were presented simply with two of each on a plate. The gougeres were perfect specimens of their type, while the Genoise reminded me a bit of Ferran Adria’s “Pistachio & Black Sesame Sponges” with their light, air pocketed sponginess. A lovely Beausoleil Oyster with Toasted Buckwheat, Candied Grapefruit and Nutmeg Oil followed the amuse. Generally an oyster purist, I admired this one’s balance and the way the flavors worked together, showing off their individuality, but not at the expense of the main ingredient or the dish as a whole. This proved to be a recurring theme throughout the meal.

Uni is one of my favorite foods. I have had it served rustically fresh off the docks in Sicily, in European cathedrals of cuisine and most often in Japanese sushi restaurants. I look forward to it whenever I have the chance, especially when I trust the restaurant to provide top quality ingredients. Liebrandt’s Uni with Konbu Gelée and Cauliflower was a tour de force in the subtle interplay of beautiful flavors and textures. As with each dish that arrived at our table, the artistic presentation was simply beautiful, enhancing the pleasure of each dish even though from the perspective of flavor none of the dishes needed additional enhancement.

Two dishes are better than one, though each was quite lovely on its own. We were next served two separate dishes that played off each other beautifully. The first was a cup of warm Royale of Salt Cod with Caviar, Brioche and Kinome (Sancho or Szechuan Pepper Leaf). This was beautifully decadent. The other was a lovely Royale of Parmesan with Peeky Toe Crab, Pickled Chantarelles, White Kombu and a Gelee of Meyer Lemon - lovely.

Red Kuri Squash Velouté was served with a Tempura of Frog’s Leg. Simple (appearing), elegant and absolutely delicious, the combination was marvelous. The frog’s leg was stuffed with a bit of foie gras. It was as succulent and delicious a frog’s leg as I have ever eaten. The tempura coating was crunchy, not greasy in the least and wonderfully seasoned. Liebrandt borrowed the batter technique from his friend Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck. The batter is laced with vodka which allows the crust to avoid getting tough and lets the batter get and stay crispy by reducing the amount of water the batter’s starch granules can absorb (See Harold McGee’s explanation in the NY Times). This dish should become a seasonal staple, with the beautifully sweet velouté underlying the meaty umami of the tempura fried leg. The dish reminded me of Jean-George’s Frog’s Legs with Young Garlic Soup. As wonderful as that dish is, Liebrandt’s was even better.

Can octopus be more tender and delicious than the piece served with Apple Cider, Burgundy Truffle and Potato Consommé at Corton? The consommé, the essence of Yukon Gold potato reminded me of yet another delicious dish I once had at Jean-George, a baked potato soup served as one of a trio of amuses. Liebrandt’s consommé is made by soaking then roasting Yukon gold potato skins before making a stock from them and clarifying it. The brilliance of Liebrandt’s dish comes from the pairing with the other earthy elements and the octopus to make it a wonderful, seasonal, “mar y montaña” plating.

We were each served a different dish for the next course. Joe had the Foie Gras with Hibiscus-Beet Gelée, and Blood Orange, while I was served the Scallops with Uni Cream, Radish and Marcona Almond. I had tasted the foie gras at Starchefs two years earlier, but not the full plating, which was simply outstanding. The scallop was served with the center part cut out and cooked perfectly. The remainder of the scallop was served raw, sashimi style. Once again, with both of these dishes the balance of ingredients was impeccable and incredible. The dishes were somehow both subtle and amazingly delicious. I can only imagine now that Nantucket Bay Scallops are coming into season how even more wonderful this dish must be with them.

This was our last dish with the Reisling. Ms. Harcourt guided us to the Romaneaux-Destezet St. Joseph “Sainte Epine” from the 2007 vintage of the northern Rhone. It was an inspired recommendation, low in alcohol with good acid structure and nicely balanced fruit. It was a very food-friendly wine that also stood up to pleasurable drinking on its own.

The first course the red was paired with was the ethereal Smoked Pasta with Burgundy Truffle and Gouda. The truffles were some of the first of the season and generously applied to this stellar dish. This was comfort food and haute cuisine and the essence of both. The smoked pasta once again provided just enough smoke without going over the edge to cloying dominance. The smoke served to enhance rather than take over this dish and enhance it did.  I have not enjoyed a dish more this year and few ever and I have never had a truffle-based dish that enchanted me more. I would have been happy had I been given just this dish for this meal, it was that wonderful. Fortunately for me, though, I was still able to enjoy Chef Liebrandt’s other culinary marvels as well.

We were next served another seafood dish, but the only true fish dish. This was a Turbot with Spiced Almond Crust and Black Garlic. The spice tasted of a Thai curry. The flavor was bold, but not overpowering, continuing the pattern of the meal.

The next course was again served in a split fashion with Joe getting one dish and myself a different one. He had the Scottish Red-legged Partridge Leg “Royale” with Red Cabbage and Sweet Potato, while I was served the Squab with Chestnut Crème, Smoked Bacon and Pain d’Epices Milk. This dish was a variation of the one on the menu as it included shavings of Burgundy black truffle and sous-vide cooked, beer-braised pork belly. The squab breast itself was wrapped with the smoked bacon. The dish was marvelous and concluded the savory portion of the meal.

An outstanding composed cheese plate is generally an oxymoron to me as so few chefs are able to achieve anything truly noteworthy in my experience, exceptions being Carme Ruscalleda, Maria Jose San Román and Grant Achatz amongst a handful of others. Add Paul Liebrandt to this select company. His Brillat-Savarin with Sour Cherry Pate de Fruit and Chickpea once again showed his deft hand blending flavors and textures such that each elevated the other.

Robert Truitt’s desserts continued the impressive display of culinary alchemy emanating from this talented kitchen. His Mango Sorbet with Lime and Apple was the perfect palate cleansing pre-dessert and in most instances would have been a perfectly wonderful finish in its own right. But of course there was more. “Crème” Cake with Amaretto, Orange and Vanilla-Tamarind was lovely and preceded the equally lovely Gianduja Palette with Kalamansi, Coco Nib and Rose. Though I had spent the better part of the day overdosing on chocolate at the NY Chocolate Show, my palate became re-energized for what is one of my favorite flavors. This was a good thing too, as the chocolates and other delights that came as the mignardises were superb as well.

The meal was amazing – my meal of the year so far. The techniques remained in a supporting role and the combinations were novel if not groundbreaking. The creativity that Chef Liebrandt has become known for was relatively muted but certainly visible. The astonishingly  impressive aspect of this meal, however, was how consistently Chef Liebrandt perfectly balanced his flavors and textures to get the most out of each one and more importantly to have each one get the most out of each other. That a meal of this caliber can be presented at the relatively inexpensive price of $110pp for the tasting menu makes it an outstanding value as I found my meal to be better than many a meal in NYC and elsewhere charging multiples more. Given the economic reality of our times, that is not a bad description to have. This may have been my first experience in a Paul Liebrandt restaurant, but I plan on it not being my last. I look forward to what he has in store for the future.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I just read Platt's review - nice. I didn't want to read it or others until I finished my own.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Took the family to Corton on Thursday night and had a great meal. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to talk the whole group into doing the tasting menu, so we all had to do the 3 course prix fixe. I'll certainly be heading back for a tasting in the very near future. Fortunately, however, we're all sharers, so I got to try most of the other dishes at the table. We ordered:

First Courses

Red Kuri Squash Soup w/ Tempura of King Crab Tail

Foie Gras w/ Hibiscus-Beet Gelée, Blood Orange

Octopus w/ Apple Cider, Golden Nugget Potatoes, Potato Consommé

Nantucket Bay Scallops w/ Uni Crème, Ama Ebi, Marcona Almond

All were very good. I especially liked the scallops (though I wished the dish were bigger...an ongoing theme), and was pleasantly surprised by the foie, which blended flavors really nicely and managed to be different from the standard foie offerings around town. The beet and citrus flavors complemented the richness of foie very well and made the richness less cloying than some iterations.

Second Courses

Golden Amadai w/ Sweet Onion, Razor Clam Chowder

Squab w/ Chestnut Crème, Smoked Bacon, Pain d’Epices Milk

Cobia w/ Potato-Eggplant Terrine, Black Olive, Vadouvan Spice

Black Angus Beef w/ Sirloin, Short Rib, Horseradish Bone Marrow Crust

Again, all were excellent, but the squab is especially noteworthy, as has been previously noted on this thread. Great balance and cooked perfectly. I could have eaten three orders. The amadai is very nice if you're into subtlety. The flavors aren't overwhelming or intense, but it's a very nice light-profile dish.

Desserts

‘Crème’ Cake w/ Amaretto, Orange, Vanilla-Tamarind

Caramel Brioche w/ Passion Fruit, Coffee, Banana

a number of us opted for cheese intstead

Again, no real weak links, but the caramel brioche was memorable. Since I'm not a huge sweet tooth guy, I opted for cheese, which was very nice, if not revelatory. It might be nice for them to do something interesting with the cheese plate, maybe some inventive sauce, fruit or garnish combos. Still, no complaints.

Other reflections: I think the portion size is really small in the three course prix fixe. I really needed all the amuses, mignardises, etc. to be full. I think they could bump up the size of the dishes a little, as I normally wouldn't go totally to town on the chocolates served at the end of the meal (some of which were really nice, though, especially the salted caramel). The small size of the food, and the fact that I was still craving some savory satisfaction, is also what caused me to order cheese, when normally I might try dessert. Alternately, they might offer an option to make a larger prix fixe, say 4 or 5 courses, or give you the option of having both cheese and dessert. Still, this is a minor complaint, as overall the food was more than excellent. As others have noticed, Liebrandt has reined in his avante garde tendencies a bit. Personally, I really liked his more edgy cooking at Gilt, but I'm hoping that once he has an accepting audience here, he'll branch out more and expand his "chance taking".

My only other negative was a cocktail that (in my very subjective opinion) wasn't well conceived. The "autumn" sounded good on paper (whiskey, tamarind, spices, root beer), but the result was pretty nasty. It should be noted that I have a very "open minded palate", and tend to appreciate many different flavor profiles. I also like all of the major ingredients individually. But combined, the effect was sort of chemical/industrial tasting...like you might imagine some sort of cleaning fluid to be. I kept wanting to like it but couldn't. By contrast, the wine was excellent, and there are quite a few good choices. The sommelier, Elizabeth Hartcourt, was very nice (and made a very nice suggestion).

By all means, any serious foodie should get to Corton soon. It's already among my fave NYC restaurants, and I think they're still working out a few last kinks.

Edited by LPShanet (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Corton gets a very well-deserved three stars from the Bruni. Of course, congratulations to the staff are in order, but if there ever was a shoe-in for three stars this was it.

The line in the review that I like the most, however, is where Bruni calls attention to the similar realms that Corton and EMP both occupy. Two of my very favorite restaurants, seemingly poised to show the somewhat stodgy, enfranchised "summit" of the NYC's dining world that there's always room to push the boundaries of food and service and constantly improve.

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Bruni was mostly on about this review, though he remains his stodgy self, bemoaning Liebrandt's history, while praising his current conservatism.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Bruni was mostly on about this review, though he remains his stodgy self, bemoaning Liebrandt's history, while praising his current conservatism.

Jeesh, no kidding regarding the Bruni's general whining tone.

Congratulations to Chef Liebrandt and crew and to Mr. Neiporent for the three stars though, now, break out the agar, maltodextrin, and liquid nitro and have some fun! :laugh:

PS: to robert40 : indeed! I just got the starchefs '06 DVD pastry presentation that Chef Liebrandt is on ( croquant techniques, etc.), it's right after he left Gilt and it just kind of mystified me how cooking differently could upset people.

2317/5000

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Corton gets a very well-deserved three stars from the Bruni.  Of course, congratulations to the staff are in order, but if there ever was a shoe-in for three stars this was it.
One would like to think so, but I was pretty sure Gilt and The Modern were shoo-ins too. What made me confident, though, was that critical opinion was unanimously favorable. That doesn't happen often, but when it does, Bruni is seldom a contrarian.
The line in the review that I like the most, however, is where Bruni calls attention to the similar realms that Corton and EMP both occupy.  Two of my very favorite restaurants, seemingly poised to show the somewhat stodgy, enfranchised "summit" of the NYC's dining world that there's always room to push the boundaries of food and service and constantly improve.

I didn't read the line that way at all. To the contrary, he seemed to be saying that those summit-dwelling places — not all of which are stodgy, by the way — could teach a lesson or two to restaurants not yet operating on that level. This, of course, presumes that Corton even wants to be a four-star restaurant, and I am pretty sure that wasn't the intention.
Bruni was mostly on about this review, though he remains his stodgy self, bemoaning Liebrandt's history, while praising his current conservatism.

Let's face it: Bruni didn't get Gilt, and three years later he still doesn't. Bruni wants food that appeals to the gut, not the cerebellum. Edited by oakapple (log)
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Corton gets a very well-deserved three stars from the Bruni.  Of course, congratulations to the staff are in order, but if there ever was a shoe-in for three stars this was it.

One would like to think so, but I was pretty sure Gilt and The Modern were shoo-ins too. What made me confident, though, was that critical opinion was unanimously favorable. That doesn't happen often, but when it does, Bruni is seldom a contrarian.

Given Bruni's tastes I can't say that two stars for Gilt and the Modern were necessarliy completely off-base. He saw these restaurants as preening and felt the need to issue a take down. While I'm hardly one to agree with his assessments of these restaurants, in retrospect they do kind "make sense," again knowing what we do about Bruni.

Bruni wants food that appeals to the gut, not the cerebellum.

Indeed, and Corton hits a sweet spot for Bruni of serious food that is quite affordable for the qualty, interesting but not necessarily challenging. For this reason, I considered this restaurant to have "shoe-in" status. Of course, this is to take nothing away from the restaurant's hardworking and dedicated staff who surely deserve all the accolades they've received thus far.

The line in the review that I like the most, however, is where Bruni calls attention to the similar realms that Corton and EMP both occupy.  Two of my very favorite restaurants, seemingly poised to show the somewhat stodgy, enfranchised "summit" of the NYC's dining world that there's always room to push the boundaries of food and service and constantly improve.

I didn't read the line that way at all. To the contrary, he seemed to be saying that those summit-dwelling places — not all of which are stodgy, by the way — could teach a lesson or two to restaurants not yet operating on that level. This, of course, presumes that Corton even wants to be a four-star restaurant, and I am pretty sure that wasn't the intention.

I'm still going to disagree with you here. To me, this line was more about how Corton and EMP have put NYC fine-dining on notice. That doesn't mean their presence is evidence of a zero-sum game in which their ascendancy means that the four-stars are necessarily worse as a result, just that these newer folks are bringing something fresh and exciting to the table.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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To me, this line was more about how Corton and EMP have put NYC fine-dining on notice.
I'm just not seeing how you could possibly get that. He said that Corton and EMP are "hovering just below the very summit," with no further implication than that. Indeed, although he liked Corton, he found more flawed dishes than he has ever reported in a four-star review. The implication is pretty simple, isn't it? They're not ready yet. "Putting on notice" is a gloss not really implied by the text.

Of course, Bruni could be predicting that EMP and Corton are among those that could very well be four-star restaurants in the future, if they fix what needs fixing. This isn't anything new. Over the years, many restaurants have been initially awarded three stars and promoted to four later on.

That doesn't mean their presence is evidence of a zero-sum game in which their ascendancy means that the four-stars are necessarily worse as a result, just that these newer folks are bringing something fresh and exciting to the table.

But generally, Bruni finds the four-star restaurants exciting too—in fact, more so. His exact words, in fact, were that the higher star levels chart increasing levels of excitement.

There's a myth that four-star dining is necessarily "stodgy" — indeed, Bryan used that very word in his earlier post, though Bruni never said that in the review.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I think depending on one's tastes, certain criticisms of four-star dining are valid. For instance, Bruni is not a fan of very formal service and busy plates, hence his frequent penchant for calling restaurants fussy.

Me, personally, find it difficult to get excited about many of the four-star restaurants. Hence, my calling them stodgy. Of course this is a stylized statement, but I do believe there is fine-dining that is more exciting, given my tastes, than the likes of Daniel or LeB or Per Se.

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I think depending on one's tastes, certain criticisms of four-star dining are valid.  For instance, Bruni is not a fan of very formal service and busy plates, hence his frequent penchant for calling restaurants fussy.

Me, personally, find it difficult to get excited about many of the four-star restaurants.  Hence, my calling them stodgy.  Of course this is a stylized statement, but I do believe there is fine-dining that is more exciting, given my tastes, than the likes of Daniel or LeB or Per Se.

That is fair enough, but one must recognize that "stodgy" isn't a neutral term. Most people wouldn't use "stodgy" to describe a restaurant they liked, and sure enough, you don't care for these places. Four stars means "extraordinary," and if you were the one giving out the stars, I sincerely hope you'd give them to places you loved.

The one sure thing is that Bruni loved the four-star restaurants he reviewed. He didn't call them stodgy, or any synonym of that. He has indeed pooh-poohed formal, "fussy" service on many occasions, but it's notable that he has not yet awarded four stars to restaurants that conformed to any other model. EMP and Corton are offering, broadly speaking, a slightly toned-down version of the model you find at the four-star places (except Masa). It is not a radical re-thinking in the same way as Ko or Ssäm Bar.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My only general concerns with regard to the cooking have to do with the use of salt and the redundancy of a couple ingredients.  A couple dishes pushed the edges of the salt frontier...

Although I live in the south - my attitude about salt is if you can taste the salt in a dish (or worse - the dish is overwhelmed by salt) - the dish has too much of it. Note that I am not a salt sissy - I can't even taste the salt in Chinese food :wink:. But too much is too much.

Do you think most of this salt was added to dishes right before serving (in which case - I can ask that it not be added) - or are you talking about salt that can't be removed because it's added early on in the food preparation process? Robyn

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A lot of the dishes are garnished with maldon, which is as much a component as it is a seasoning.

Thats his style of cooking. If you don't like it, you'd be better off eating somewhere else than asking for your dish to be prepared without salt. Or just stay home and cook for yourself, if you don't trust other people to prepare your food.

If you don't like to taste the salt in a dish, you probably don't want to be eating at any of NYC's more ambitious restaurants.

Nothing was aggressively salty for me, in any case.

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You and Bryan and others can discuss how much salt there was - but - if it is a garnish (as opposed to a heavy hand with sauces and the like) - I doubt any chef would have a problem serving the salt of his choice for a dish in a salt cellar on the side. In fact - when I've been in restaurants that serve various kinds of (sometimes weird - although Maldon is pretty mainstream) salt - they are usually served on the side. When I do "garnish salt" at home - it is usually on the side too - so my guests can salt to taste.

Once - when we were eating some high end tempura in Osaka - my husband totally screwed up mixing the 5 salts and various sauces in front of us. And when the staff saw that - they didn't giggle. They just whisked away the mess he'd made - and perfectly paired the salts with the sauces for the various pieces of tempura. I doubt we will encounter that degree of professionalism in service in New York - but I also doubt we will encounter hard and fast rules (if you won't have this much salt on your dish - we will throw you out on the street!).

FWIW - we even have a local restaurant here named "Salt" (at the RC in Amelia Island). And it sounds like we will have fun eating at Corton. Robyn

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