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ADNY (Alain Ducasse @ Essex House)


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This is the last of the three white truffle dishes that I was able to photograph (and taste). This is turbot from Brittany "au Champagne" with a Spanish prawn and white truffles. The dish was being served with crayfish Nantua until a few days ago when the supply of good crayfish dried up. The prawn seems so right for the dish, though, that Delouvrier might never go back.

That Spanish Prawn is Aristeus antennatus, referred in Spanish as carabinero or gamba roja, crevette rouge in French and risso in Italian.

(according to Davidson's "Mediterranean Seafood", Prospect Books)

Pedro, since you provided the name in Spanish, French and Italian I would assume that this is a Mediterranean prawn rather than Cantabrian?

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.

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Pedro, "carabinero" is how Delouvrier referred to the prawn. I tried to google it but didn't have a good enough guess on the spelling. Thanks for posting that.

Moby, I will keep a running list of questions for Delouvrier and call him for answers some time this week or next weekend.

I'll try to get a few more photos online this afternoon.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Pedro, since you provided the name in Spanish, French and Italian I would assume that this is a Mediterranean prawn rather than Cantabrian?

As the name of the book suggest, it only covers Mediterranean seafood so no mention on other source for carabineros is made. However, North Sea Fish shows an area which goes from the coasts of Northwestern Africa to the Straits of Dover in the Atlantic Ocean.

That said, I've yet to find a place in Spain where they're served without referring to a Mediterranean provenance.

Note: I've found some sources that state that carabinero and gamba roja actually are different species. I've started a thread in the Spain & Portugal forum to try to clarify the issue: Carabinero vs Gamba roja

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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M. Satran, I've been in a few dozen restaurant kitchens to take photographs and the ADNY kitchen (and also the kitchens I've seen at Mix and ADPA) is remarkable for the sheer quantity of beautiful things all around you. The challenge for a photographer in most restaurant kitchens is to make it not look like a mess. At ADNY you can photograph anything and it will be very presentable. They are very concerned with aesthetics not only of the presentations of food but also of the way they keep their mise-en-place and all the elements of the kitchen design. There is also a picture window from the dining room that looks on to the kitchen, so there is nowhere to hide. In most kitchens when you do photography there is a nervous chef or sous chef following you around and cleaning and tidying things so you don't photograph anything that looks bad. At ADNY I was unsupervised and nobody did anything special for me except give me snacks, and as far as I could tell nobody had even been told I was coming.

One very striking element of the kitchen design is the lighting. There are two separate lighting systems, one for prep time and one for service. During the afternoon, up until 5pm, the kitchen is brightly lit with similar lamps to what you see in most kitchens: there is a lot of light so you can see what you're prepping and get all the little touches right. Then the staff goes on break from 5pm to 5:30pm and at 5:30pm when service begins, Steven likened it to the starship Enterprise going into battle mode. All of a sudden all those big lights get shut off and a secondary lighting system of tiny halogen spotlights, hundreds of them, gets activated. There is virtually no ambient light in the kitchen at that point. Light only goes where it is needed for service. The effect is dramatized by the black granite countertops thoughout the kitchen, which absorb any light you shine at them. It creates a very calm and focused atmosphere for service. And the kitchen is quiet, scary quiet, compared to a normal kitchen.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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White truffles aren't the only kind of truffles in use at ADNY. There are also plenty of black ones.

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Scottish pheasant with vegetables "au pot" is I believe what this dish is called. There was a menu change going on and this was a dish that was on the white truffle menu last week but is now being done in a different variation, this time with a black truffle infused sauce. I will double check the name of the dish later.

The dish is a good example of the meticulousness with which the kitchen approaches plating. I hope at least a few customers every night pause to appreciate the amount of work that goes into some of these plates. This one starts out with a painstakingly arranged vegetable base.

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The breast meat from the pheasant is gently laid on top of the vegetables.

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Then the legs are carefully trimmed and placed at the ends of the breasts.

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And voila:

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Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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That Spanish Prawn is Aristeus antennatus, referred in Spanish as carabinero or gamba roja, crevette rouge in French and risso in  Italian.

(according to Davidson's "Mediterranean Seafood", Prospect Books)

As the name of the book suggest, it only covers Mediterranean seafood so no mention on other source for carabineros is made.  However, North Sea Fish shows an area which goes from the coasts of Northwestern Africa to the Straits of Dover in the Atlantic Ocean.

That said, I've yet to find a place in Spain where they're served without referring to a Mediterranean provenance.

Note: I've found some sources that state that carabinero and gamba roja actually are different species. I've started a thread in the Spain & Portugal forum to try to clarify the issue: Carabinero vs Gamba roja

Just for the sake of accuracy, carabinero actually is Plesiopanaeus edwardsianus, a different specie from the gamba roja.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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White truffles aren't the only kind of truffles in use at ADNY. There are also plenty of black ones.

Ellen, do you know which kind of black truffles they use? It's a bit early for the tuber melanosporum season, I believe. Unless the truffles are cooked and preserved, something that the blackness of the color suggests.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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This is another thing I have to check but I think they are preserved in fat from last season and that the new ones come towards the end of this month.

That makes sense.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Again, lovely photos, Ellen. Not least because they are so lucid in presenting the information. Thank you for taking the time.

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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  • 2 weeks later...

Most of the views posted here would indicate that it is. I will be trying it for myself for the first time in December and will report back, especially if it is transcendant or a major disappointment.

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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Soliciting recent diners of their views on Alain Ducasse  at the Essex House and whether it is worth the obscene prices.  Also, on views on the lower end of their wine list?

In my view, it is not only worth the price but remains the benchmark fine dining establishment in NYC.

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I think the answer to "is it worth it" is an individual one; nobody can decide it for anybody else. But some facts might be helpful.

ADNY:

• Three courses from the carte (choice of one appetizer, one fish or one meat, and one dessert) $150

• Four courses from the carte (choice of one appetizer, one fish, one meat, and one dessert) $175

• Cheese course $21

• Most tasting menus $225

• White truffle tasting menu $320

Per Se:

• Five courses from the carte $135

• Standard tasting menu $150

Le Bernardin:

• Three courses from the carte $92

• Standard tasting menu $150

One of the largest factors involved in the price differential is, of course, the single sitting. Only ADNY is following the Michelin model and doing a single sitting -- the others, even Per Se, are turning tables, although Per Se turns far fewer tables than the rest.

It's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison with respect to the food, for a variety of reasons: the individual courses at ADNY tend to be similar to carte items in Michelin three-star restaurants in Europe in that they are fairly extensive compositions, whereas at Per Se the carte items are closer to tasting menu items on the European scale and on the Per Se tasting menu the number of courses is something like double the number you'd get at ADNY while the amount of food is something like half. Both ADNY and Per Se provide quite a few extras especially at the dessert stage of the evening -- Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, and Daniel aren't playing on the same field in that regard.

Do you get better food at ADNY? Some argue yes. I am of that opinion. I think the ingredients are better, the preparation is more sophisticated, and the labor intensiveness of the dishes is without peer. Others may have a stylistic preference for the way Per Se does things, which is fine. I do think those two restaurants are in their own league, though, although Le Bernardin is unparalleled as a fish specialist and Daniel or Jean Georges can produce ADNY/Per Se-quality meals for VIPs.

Depending on what you're ordering, ADNY costs somewhere between roughly 15 and 50 percent more than the other restaurants that make for reasonable points of comparison. The extras -- like wine, water, and such -- tend to be priced quite high at ADNY as well, so if you run up a tab with extras you will run it up quicker at ADNY.

I don't think, especially at the low end of the spread when you're comparing a $135 meal at Per Se to a $150 meal at ADNY -- and probably getting more food at ADNY -- that it's much to scream about. But it's also not really about quantity of food or about a point-for-point percentage-for-quality gap. As with any luxury item, at the margin you pay a lot more for a little more. For some, having the best is worth 50% more, or even 500% more. For some, it's worth settling for slightly less if you can save 33%. It all depends on how much discretionary income you have and how you value this sort of thing.

There's also the issue of risk. At any restaurant in the world, on any given night, you can have a sub-par meal. It's like opening old, expensive bottles of wine: it's a gamble. I believe ADNY and eventually Per Se will provide a lower level of risk than most, but the risk is still out there. Any given individual may go to ADNY and have a less exciting meal than what some of the reports here have indicated, and personal tastes can vary. So if the cost of dinner at one of those places represents your life savings or you need it to buy braces for your kids, you probably shouldn't be playing at that table.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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Having had a lot of discussions with friends criticizing my 3 star binges in Europe, I have to say that FG has surmised the situation very well. If you are a VIP, you can get a stupendous meal at Daniel. Otherwise, the risk of getting a mediocre meal is high (too high in my opinion). ADNY and Per Se minimize that risk. If you look at it that way, the probability of having a great meal times the expense at the likes of Daniel, JG, Bouley etc is in my opinion lower than that at ADNY (and from all accounts Per Se where I have not been yet). In other words, my contention is that you could eat two times at these other places for the same price as once at ADNY and have a lower expected probability of having a great meal. I would rather dine less often than go to these high risk places.

Do you get better food at ADNY? Some argue yes. I am of that opinion. I think the ingredients are better, the preparation is more sophisticated, and the labor intensiveness of the dishes is without peer. Others may have a stylistic preference for the way Per Se does things, which is fine. I do think those two restaurants are in their own league, though, although Le Bernardin is unparalleled as a fish specialist and Daniel or Jean Georges can produce ADNY/Per Se-quality meals for VIPs.

There's also the issue of risk. At any restaurant in the world, on any given night, you can have a sub-par meal. It's like opening old, expensive bottles of wine: it's a gamble. I believe ADNY and eventually Per Se will provide a lower level of risk than most, but the risk is still out there. Any given individual may go to ADNY and have a less exciting meal than what some of the reports here have indicated, and personal tastes can vary. So if the cost of dinner at one of those places represents your life savings or you need it to buy braces for your kids, you probably shouldn't be playing at that table.

Edited by vivin (log)
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Returning to the Ducasse input question: I came across a very similar dish and presentation of the above in the L'Atelier Ducasse book - turbot napped with a champagne sabayon, and a langoustine, with sauce natua around the dish. I think it's labled as a Jean-Francois Piege recipe. Perhaps Louisa would know.

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I'll just keep posting photos of ADNY's food and kitchen until somebody tells me to stop or I run out of them, okay?

Okay. The garde manger station in the ADNY kitchen has four cooks working at it, and some of the most beautiful dishes coming out of the kitchen come off that station. The garde manger station at ADNY reminded me of a pastry kitchen in terms of the meticulousness of the staff and the precise designs of the plates.

This is the dish that Steven and Moby raved about above and I'll add my voice to the chorus: "Variegated scallops, clear Osetra caviar, lemon and olive oil." The white underlayer (the one wreaking havoc with the exposure) is salt, formed in a mold and established on the plate as a bed. The scallop shells are cleaned and selected for beauty and each is filled with two scallops that have been briefly marinated (just a few minutes) in lemon and olive oil and topped with enough Osetra caviar from Caviar Russe to have some relevance to the discussion of price above. While we were in the kitchen the restaurant's controller came in to have Delouvrier initial the invoice from that day's caviar order: 1 kilogram, $3,000.

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Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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I really developed a new appreciation for the garde manger function while watching the ADNY crew in action. In a lot of kitchens even ones with a lot of stars the garde manger is "the guy who puts salad on a plate" and "the guy who pulls the pre-molded tuna tartare out of the fridge." This is not at all the way it goes down at ADNY, where the garde manger people are "the ones whose knives are so sharp they can cut a fly in half while it's alive and airborne."

Every time they plated up a portion of this foie gras dish ("Terrine of fresh duck foie gras, apples and quinces cooked together") I was amazed at the attention to detail and the impeccable angles not a tenth of a degree off, as though the knife had been guided by a compass and protractor. Nice knives too. A little slice removed from the edge where exposure to air had made the color less acceptable (most would surely just put that side face down on the plate). And the positioning of each element on the plate, the garde manger crew devoted intense concentration and focus to those decisions. Occasionally Delouvrier would come by and nod, and less often he would say, of a dish that looked perfect to me, something like "What is this? You know how much people are paying for this and it looks like crap! Make it again!" (All the dialog in the ADNY kitchen is in English even though Delouvrier and a high percentage of the cooks and staff are native French speakers.)

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Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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