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Urena


Eatmywords
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I went Tuesday night......(bare with my novice writing skills and the blurry cell phone pics)

Arrived around 8pm with no ressy. Room and bar almost full. They were nice in offering us a four top in the bar area (we were only two).

Started with a Spanish sparkling which was perfect…...crisp, slightly fruity, not too dry, reminded me of a Prosecco. When I was ready to move to white (btg) they were generous in offering a sampling (-yes, this is common nowadays but not a given and a gesture my picky self appreciates very much). I wasn't crazy about the two I tried so I settled on the only Spanish rose which was perfect…..both around $10.

They started us with an amuse bouche of pickled sardine wrapped around itself and tucked btwn two soft brown slightly sweetened crackers over a squeeze of brown and green sc. We were encouraged to swipe into both scs and consume. We did and our taste buds were rewarded. If you like mackerel used in sushi you w/def be a big fan.

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We were offered 3 or 4 types of in-house baked breads. We both chose a soft french roll and a cornbread (cut into long squares). Both delicious and required restraint from devouring immediately w/the scallion butter. I paced myself using the bread w/our first app, the cheese plate, w/consisted of Ibores (firm goat), La Peral (a mild blue cheese), Pau (semi-soft goat) and a Roncal (firm sheep). I'm not a big blue cheese guy (unless in salad or on a burger) but this one was the best I ever had. Not strong and soft like brie. They were all good and served with sides of walnuts, green apple and quince paste which was out of this world and worked perfectly w/the Pau (my favorite). The only negative was that the portions were a bit small. I would have added maybe 25% to each slice……no biggie…..$13

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Shared another app; rabbit confit with leg and a chicken leg (-why did the chicken leg cross into the plate? No clue but it was tender). It came w/cauliflower puree and shitake mushrooms but there was so much more to it maybe dates or figs or something sweet. The presentation was impressive, the pulled rabbit meat was lean and worked right with the shitakes. Very good esp for $13

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For my main, poached Mahi mahi w/portabella confit and zucchini done in a crème fraiche Avruga caviar sc. I imagine it was poached for no more than a minute or two because it was rare enough to still be flopping (just the way I like it but some might prefer a longer dunk). The caviar and craime fraiche sc had a smooth, silky texture. Really enjoyed it…..$24 My friend had the steamed lobster w/pickled rhubarb, salsify and vanilla puree and it was as good if not better than mine….$28. (I was happy he didn't mind sharing : ) The level of execution in the scs was apparent and reminded me that Mr. Urena had worked for Mr.Bouley for many yrs. Our friend, Nathan showed up for drinks and sampled both. He conceded it was much better and ambitious then he expected (esp compared to Suba w/I haven't tried).

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We were content on skipping dessert than I remembered who was in charge of sweets (the former WD soldier, Caryn Stabinsky). I confess I've never been to WD (it's on the list) but as many of you know, they are as famous for their creative desserts as mush for their food. So we undid a notch on our belts and agreed on the Café y donuts (yeast donuts, coffee milk foam, espresso gellee and frosting ice cream) and Remolacha con chocolate (beet panna cotta, chocolate sc, chocolate cookie, orange salt, sour cream ice cream)…..all are $11. The donuts were light pillows of delight and when you sauced them in the accoutrements you were taken to a donut heaven that Mr. Krispy and Mrs. Duncan will never know. The beet panna was also something I will not soon forget. (I found myself asking (myself) "how the hell did she make this?". It wasn't too sweet and the beet didn't overwhelm. Never tasted anything like it. (Some people marry for money, others for power but Caryn, would you marry me for dessert?)

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The room is a long rectangle, seats apprx 60 with another 10-15 in the bar area. Design is contemporary/modern with soft yellow tones on the table cloths and walls. A pretty, spanishy arch was carved into the entrance which agrees. I thought the lighting was a bit too bright otherwise it's a nice space. I esp liked the funky silverware, various plate shapes and bathroom faucets, which Martine (Alex's wife), chose after a painstakingly long process. (I can't explain them too well but imagine a tilted glass flying saucer with a steel joy stick handle through the middle……water flowing out of the base of the stick and over the saucer into the sink……very cool…..I highly recommend a viewing)

I won't deny that I wanted to like the place after five minutes. The warm and quirky staff exudes a professional yet casual vibe that made us feel very welcome. Martine and Alex are low key and very approachable. I didn't feel awkward requesting a visit to the kitchen and introduction to Alex. He was gracious, relaxed, genuine and happy. Just a super nice (and talented) guy. Caryn was busy desserting plates but took a moment to say hi and seemed very sweet. :biggrin:

I really enjoyed Urena and look forward to another visit.

Edited by Eatmywords (log)

That wasn't chicken

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Nicde report, EMW. The sense I have is that this restaurant is somewhat similar in approach to WD-50, at least as far as types of combinations and atmosphere. It seems as if the techniques used were more traditional than cutting edge. for example, not once did I see sous vide mentioned - very unusual for a modern Spanish-influenced restaurant. Was this in fact the case?

nice job getting the pics up. :smile:

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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Nicde report, EMW. The sense I have is that this restaurant is somewhat similar in approach to WD-50, at least as far as types of combinations and atmosphere. It seems as if the techniques used were more traditional than cutting edge. for example, not once did I see sous vide mentioned - very unusual for a modern Spanish-influenced restaurant. Was this in fact the case?

nice job getting the pics up. :smile:

Doc. I think you may heve to get there to see for yourself. I don't get the WD-50 vibe at all at Urena's. There weren't a lot of the changing shapes, textures, enzymes chemical stuff that goes on in WD-50. To me, it's more like Blue Hill but with bolder earthy flavors.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Nicde report, EMW. The sense I have is that this restaurant is somewhat similar in approach to WD-50, at least as far as types of combinations and atmosphere. It seems as if the techniques used were more traditional than cutting edge. for example, not once did I see sous vide mentioned - very unusual for a modern Spanish-influenced restaurant. Was this in fact the case?

nice job getting the pics up. :smile:

haha.....I only got the pictures up because you helped me....thanks again. (apologies, if you are bombarded w/help requests going frwd : )

You are correct, based on what we tried or the menu, I didn't see any sous-vide or out of ordinary cooking techniques. In addition to funky/unique scs several jellies and foams were present though. Maybe more Blue Hill than WD? Whatever the case, it was all very good.

That wasn't chicken

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I will be curious to see in what direction he goes with technique, if he incorporates new techniques or stays with the traditional. It doesn't really matter if the end product is excellent, but yes, I will be curious.

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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Desserts look boss!

Nicde report, EMW. The sense I have is that this restaurant is somewhat similar in approach to WD-50, at least as far as types of combinations and atmosphere. It seems as if the techniques used were more traditional than cutting edge. for example, not once did I see sous vide mentioned - very unusual for a modern Spanish-influenced restaurant. Was this in fact the case?

nice job getting the pics up. :smile:

haha.....I only got the pictures up because you helped me....thanks again. (apologies, if you are bombarded w/help requests going frwd : )

You are correct, based on what we tried or the menu, I didn't see any sous-vide or out of ordinary cooking techniques. In addition to funky/unique scs several jellies and foams were present though. Maybe more Blue Hill than WD? Whatever the case, it was all very good.

2317/5000

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Just got back from Urena. Wow. WOW. We had two different tasting menus which they were kind enough to print out for us at the end, so I'll be sure to post some of the highlights. For right now, though, I'm too full to type much.

Nothing to see here.

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Nicde report, EMW. The sense I have is that this restaurant is somewhat similar in approach to WD-50, at least as far as types of combinations and atmosphere. It seems as if the techniques used were more traditional than cutting edge. for example, not once did I see sous vide mentioned - very unusual for a modern Spanish-influenced restaurant. Was this in fact the case?

nice job getting the pics up. :smile:

Doc. I think you may heve to get there to see for yourself. I don't get the WD-50 vibe at all at Urena's. There weren't a lot of the changing shapes, textures, enzymes chemical stuff that goes on in WD-50. To me, it's more like Blue Hill but with bolder earthy flavors.

Intersting observation. I haven't been to Ureña yet and reserve my opinion until after I've eaten there, but I've found the cuisine at Blue Hill to be as much in the spirit of a lot of the new cooking in Spain in general, as any other restaurant including WD-50. Blue Hill's connection with molecular gastronomy may seem tenuous, but they have been at the forefront of sous vide cooking here in the US and much of the nueva cocina in Spain is not of the "technical"variety we associate with elBulli.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Nicde report, EMW. The sense I have is that this restaurant is somewhat similar in approach to WD-50, at least as far as types of combinations and atmosphere. It seems as if the techniques used were more traditional than cutting edge. for example, not once did I see sous vide mentioned - very unusual for a modern Spanish-influenced restaurant. Was this in fact the case?

nice job getting the pics up. :smile:

I tought sous vide was a very old technique

I was in Spain and France this past Sep. A lot of restaurants are doing

a lot of modern cooking with traditional methods.

I'm not sure if using a machine makes one cutting edge

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Nicde report, EMW. The sense I have is that this restaurant is somewhat similar in approach to WD-50, at least as far as types of combinations and atmosphere. It seems as if the techniques used were more traditional than cutting edge. for example, not once did I see sous vide mentioned - very unusual for a modern Spanish-influenced restaurant. Was this in fact the case?

nice job getting the pics up. :smile:

I tought sous vide was a very old technique

I was in Spain and France this past Sep. A lot of restaurants are doing

a lot of modern cooking with traditional methods.

I'm not sure if using a machine makes one cutting edge

I didn't say that traditional methods are not used in modern cooking in Europe or elsewhere. Of course they are. They remain the underpinning of cooking, however, in addition to them many restaurants and this is particularly true in Spain are utilizing many new techniques or adapting techniques from other areas into their cooking. As for sous vide, sure it has been around for some time, primarily with industrial food applications. It is only relatively recently that it has been used for haute cuisine, but the technique for that use has certainly spread rapidly. I believe that the technique is very common in Europe now and increasingly so in the US and is even being found in home kitchens. I mentioned sous vide as an example of a technique that in my experience most kitchens interested in "cutting edge" techniques are using even if that technique is now somewhat mainstream. In any case, in Europe and North America the vast majority of restaurants, haute cuisine or otherwise, remain traditional. Hypermodern cooking remains a very small minority of restaurant output. Given how much is made of Urena's having worked at El Bulli, it stands to reason that he may have been influenced by the techniques and approach to food used there. If he has rejected that influence (I am not saying that he has) then why continue making the association?

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 didn't say that traditional methods are not used in modern cooking in Europe or elsewhere. Of course they are. They remain the underpinning of cooking, however, in addition to them many  restaurants and this is particularly true in Spain are utilizing many new techniques or adapting techniques from other areas into their cooking. As for sous vide, sure it has been around for some time, primarily with industrial food applications. It is only relatively recently that it has been used for haute cuisine, but the technique for that use has certainly spread rapidly. I believe that the technique is very common in Europe now and increasingly so in the US and is even being found in home kitchens. I mentioned sous vide as an example of a technique that in my experience most kitchens interested in "cutting edge" techniques are using even if that technique is now somewhat mainstream. In any case, in Europe and North America the vast majority of restaurants, haute cuisine or otherwise, remain traditional. Hypermodern cooking remains a very small minority of restaurant output. Given how much is made of Urena's having worked at El Bulli, it stands to reason that he may have been influenced by the techniques and approach to food used there. If he has rejected that influence (I am not saying that he has) then why continue making the association?

Sous vide is relatively old hat in France, and perhaps in Spain. It has been adopted late in the US haute kitchens because of its connotation of "boil in bag" meal and it's spread slowly for the same reason. For all that, much of the early use of this technique, (and it was promoted by some top haute cuisine chefs including Daniel Boulud) was in catering.

As for connections between one chef and the restaurants in which he's worked, those connections are made by the media and, more often than not, simplistic and based solely on resumes and not on actual influence. My guess is that the majority of NY journalists who mention Adrià's influence have never been to elBullli and know only what they read, or think they've read. Journalists and reviewers make the association simply because it's been made before and repeated often enough to become mythical.

I appreciate Adrià as a chef and and as a creative spirit, but much of the best creative cuisine I've had in Spain doesn't appear to be dependent on new technique as much as a meal at elBulli appears as a seies of techincally inventive feats.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I had dinner at Urena on Saturday night hoping for some sort of molecular gastonomy experience as there doesn't appear to be a website or listing on Menupages to preview the menu and I was sold on the hype. I honestly wouldn't have minded that the restaurant is in the middle of nowhere, way too bright, and completely devoid of atmosphere if the food met my expectations but in terms of creativity, the dishes went downhill after the amuse bouche which was the previously mentioned sardine dish. Our party ordered the seven appetizers listed and it made for a nice night of tapas but no better than Tintol a few days before. The one dish that I'd have again is the rabbit confit and leg which was rich, decadent and one of the only hot appetizers I believe, and it even reminded me of something similar I had at StudioKitchen. The rest were a blur of average crudo. I would go back for dessert, having not had it but reading the menu and finding the most creativity there. As I recall the petit fours were a dark chocolate basket, a sherry soaked nut that tasted like a crackerjack and a lemon gelee which tasted like a Sour Patch Kid.

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Not having been yet, I get the feeling we're seeing a chef fall victim to hype (or, rather, a misunderstanding of hype) he probably had no role in generating.

As the chef is the owner, it is hard to believe he had no part in the PR presentation.

to be fair, I think they probably mentioned his brief stint at El Bulli in a press release and Time Out or someone probably jumped on that part. I certainly hope he wasn't trying to play that up because it's not that kind of restaurant.

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Not having been yet, I get the feeling we're seeing a chef fall victim to hype (or, rather, a misunderstanding of hype) he probably had no role in generating.

As the chef is the owner, it is hard to believe he had no part in the PR presentation.

to be fair, I think they probably mentioned his brief stint at El Bulli in a press release and Time Out or someone probably jumped on that part. I certainly hope he wasn't trying to play that up because it's not that kind of restaurant.

This topic has been informative in a number of ways - clearing this up being one of them.

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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As for sous vide, sure it has been around for some time, primarily with industrial food applications. It is only relatively recently that it has been used for haute cuisine, but the technique for that use has certainly spread rapidly. I believe that the technique is very common in Europe now and increasingly so in the US and is even being found in home kitchens. I mentioned sous vide as an example of a technique that in my experience most kitchens interested in "cutting edge" techniques are using even if that technique is now somewhat mainstream. In any case, in Europe and North America the vast majority of restaurants, haute cuisine or otherwise, remain traditional. Hypermodern cooking remains a very small minority of restaurant output. Given how much is made of Urena's having worked at El Bulli, it stands to reason that he may have been influenced by the techniques and approach to food used there. If he has rejected that influence (I am not saying that he has) then why continue making the association?

Sous vide is relatively old hat in France, and perhaps in Spain. It has been adopted late in the US haute kitchens because of its connotation of "boil in bag" meal and it's spread slowly for the same reason. For all that, much of the early use of this technique, (and it was promoted by some top haute cuisine chefs including Daniel Boulud) was in catering.

Bux, I don't think that you said anything really any different than I did here, the key word in both my post and yours being "relatively".

I appreciate Adrià as a chef and and as a creative spirit, but much of the best creative cuisine I've had in Spain doesn't appear to be dependent on new technique as much as a meal at elBulli appears as a seies of techincally inventive feats.

Again, this is not really different than what I said, although Adria is clearly not the only one using these techniques. The majority of these chefs appear to be concentrated in Catalunya and the Basque Country. Adria clearly is the most visible of these chefs and the most publicized.

There certainly isn't a rule that someone who has worked in Adria's kitchen needs to follow his style and techniques, however, the fact that he did and brought along an alumna from WD-50 as pastry chef made that a reasonable assumption.

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 am glad to read about this, as I have been sold on the "creative cuisine" idea of this restaurant. I am still very much looking forward to dinner there but this helps manage expectations a bit.

Edited by ASM NY (log)

Arley Sasson

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Bux, I don't think that you said anything really any different than I did here, the key word in both my post and yours being "relatively".

. . . .

It's all relative. :biggrin:

It's hard to recall exactly what was on my mind several days ago without going back and getting into the frame of mind brought about by the discussion at that time, but I don't recall meaning to contradict you as much as give some additional dimension to the conversation. I think you were the first to mention sous vide in this connection and my previous post (previous to the one you just quoted) alluded to the fact that sous vide was something Alex and Dan used together in the early days of Blue Hill.

The trick here is defining molecular gastronomy. If you understand what is happening when you make mayonnaise, you're using molecular gastronomy. MG, is as much about understanding traditional technique as it is about developing new techniques. Half the culiary journalists who mention molecular gastronomy are rather clueless about what it means, and those who use it knowingly, may not all be talking about the same thing.

As I reread my posts, I believe the point I was trying to make was that sous vide cooking was perhaps first employed in the US by chefs one would not normally associate with MG. Boulud used it so successfully in his catering business, to serve hundreds of diners food cooked to the same precise degree as a table of two in his own restaurant might expect, that he became involved in a company that sold boil in bag meals to consumers. I believe the idea never took off for a number of reasons. One is that there's too much resistance to the technique. A second is that people who like to eat really well at home, either also love the work involved in preparing the food or just don't want that sort of technical perfection of knowing each time you have the dish, it will taste exacly the same. There's also none of the cachet of having Chef Boulud come to your kitchen for a couple of thousand dollars. I am however, getting far off the topic in explaining my purpose in commenting further on sous vide.

Possibly because I see MG as much as an explanation of what we've been doing intuitively in kitchens since before we discovered fire, as much as I see it as a movement towards creatively using technique, that I have the need to draw a line somewhere and it may not be where others draw the line. Blue Hill doesn't appear to most folk as a kitchen involved in MG. WD-50 does. I suspect that's because most people associate MG with obvious technique. By the same token, I suspect most people (including educated diners) would find elBulli far more "technical" than Martin or Mugaritz in the Pais Vasco.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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So here's what we had at Ureña's last Friday. As much as each dish deserves a full paragraph, I won't go into too much detail because I'd be at this all night. We received two different tasting menus which they were also kind enough to print up for us at the end of the meal--thankfully, because my note taking ceased to be legible or coherent after awhile.

Amuse:

Boquerones with quince paste and (some sort of soft spanish cheese whose name I couldn't make out)

Perfect way to kick off the meal. This one little bite nearly knocked me out of my seat. The quince paste accented the natural flavor of the boquerones while the cheese added perfect richness.

First Course:

"Ostra Escabeche"

Marinated oyters, saimfaina brunoise, oyster juice gelee

The saimfaina brunoise was described as being similar in composition to ratatouille, but without eggplant. One of the better oyster dishes I've had in that the garnishes enhanced the natural flavor of the oysters and didn't impede them. It was a theme that was recurrent throughout the meal.

Second Course:

"Dos Crudos "

House smoked tuna, shrimp marinated in lemon juice, pearl onions and green olives

The raw, marinated shrimp was stuffed and presented atop the razor thin slice of smoked tuna. This was delicious, but there was a bit too much acidity in play from the lemon juice for my palette.

Third Courses:

"Mar y Montaña"

Serrano ham, shrimp, roasted apples

Perfect. The seranno ham and shrimp were formed into a terrine and sliced, which made for an interesting play in flavor and textures. Overall, the dish displayed saltiness, sweetness and acidity in perfect harmony.

"Baccalao"

Salt cod mousse, flake cod, pickeled onions, potato confit

Good, but not one of my favorites. My friend had had baccaloa before and said this was a great take on it, however.

Fourth Courses:

"Vieiras Asados"

Nantucket bay scallops, parsnip puree, chorizo sauce, Avruga caviar

I had never heard of Avruga caviar, and honestly I had dismissed it as a typo (believing it was supposed to be Sevruga) until I looked it up. Apparently it's a sturgeon caviar alternative harvested from the common herring. Obviously I didn't detect a difference in flavor from traditional sturgeon caviar or else I wouldn't have thought it a typo. Interesting. Anyway, the dish again displayed a masterful sense of balance with the parsnip adding to the scallops' natural sweetness and the chorizo sauce adding a hint of saltiness and heat.

Ensalada de Raya

Poached Skate, confit of peruvian purple potatoes, meyer lemon sauce

I didn't get to try much of this one as we forgot to switch dishes. Ah well.

Fifth Courses:

"Bogavante"

Steamed Lobster, pickled rhubarb, salsify and vanilla puree

This was off the charts delicious and one of the standouts of the meal.

"Flétan"

Roasted Atlantic Halibut, yellow beets, spinach, red wine and beet reduction

I thought this dish would be overly sweet, but the addition of the red wine kept the sweetness in check and added just enough acidity.

Sixth Courses:

"Pollo en Dos Texturas"

Braised chicken breast, confit of thigh, artichoke puree, caramelized leeks, foie gras foam

This dish was definitely more of a showcase in texture than in flavor, at least to my palette. Just a bit too subtle after bold flavor of the lobster dish. I probably would have enjoyed this more on its own.

"Cerdo Brasiado"

Braised pork belly, granny smith apple puree, star anise scented sauce

Another show stopper. Pure luxury.

Seventh Course:

"Costillas de Cordero"

Rack of lamb, cashew puree, swiss chard, black trumpet mushroom

A very earthy preparation that let the lamb's flavor come through.

Desserts:

"Sorbet de Eneldo"

Dill Yogurt Sorbet, lemon curd, lemon sugar

Normally I'm not a big fan of dill, but it was offset adequately by the lemon curd and the flavors actually worked together quite nicely. A nice little palette cleanser overall.

"Chocolate con Mostasa"

Chocolate pudding and mustard foam

Mustard seems to be making quite a few pastry appearances lately. I didn't think I would like this, but the acrid mustard flavor really did go well with the chocolate. The key was to get the right proportion in each spoonful.

"Remolacha con Chocolate"

Beet panna cotta, chocolate sauce, sour cream ice cream, chocolate cookie crumble, orange sugar salt

Incredible. It takes a deft hand to make such a motley list of components come together in harmony, but that they did. I thought the orange sugar salt was a brilliant idea. I've seen infused salts and infused sugars, but never together like this. It really tied everything on the plate together.

In summation, it was a very uplifting meal. To be honest, like most people, I was expecting a more "molecular" bent to the proceedings, but that was not the case here. There was no theater or gimmickry at all; only bright, clean, balanced flavors. I am aware that some modern techniques were used, but they certainly didn't upstage the food.

My meal came about halfway through their second week in operation...usually not the most auspicious time for any restaurant. You certainly wouldn't have been able to tell from the food. Some people have complained that the service is still getting its bearings, and that may be so, but I thought the staff did a great job. And yeah, the lighting was a tad bright, but it wasn't offensively bright as some people have claimed. The one funny thing was the front door, which closed with a resounding "thud" whenever it was used, causing everyone to look up from their meals.

At the end of the meal, chef Alex and chef Stabynski came to the table to say hi. Talk about an unexpected honor! Two very cool, very down to earth people. I also got to meet the general manager, who was as gracious a host as you could ask for.

I'm excited to see how this restaurant evolves, and I enthusiastically recommmend it to anyone.

Edited by iheartoffal (log)

Nothing to see here.

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Very nice report, IHO. Your descriptions give me the impression that the influences from Spain are indeed strong, although they remind me more of Santi Santamaria than they do Ferran Adria.

I agree that the term "Molecular gastronomy" is one that is often used incorrectly ans Bux's description of the term is accurate. As an aside, I recently heard that Herve This will be giving a lecture somewhere in NYC later this month, but unfortunately, I don't know where or when. I have come to prefer the term "hypermodern" for those cuisines utilizing creative and non-traditional techniques and presentations in their cooking.

The take I am getting on this restaurant from the posts here is that the food is influenced by Spanish Nueva Cocina, creative, delicious but grounded in predominantly traditional techniques. Sounds as if it should be very much worth a try.

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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. . . .

To be honest, like most people, I was expecting a more "molecular" bent to the proceedings, but that was not the case here.  There was no theater or gimmickry at all; only bright, clean, balanced flavors.  I am aware that some modern techniques were used, but they certainly didn't upstage the food. 

. . . .

I think you've articulated just what people expect when they hear the phrase "molecular gastronomy," whether or not that's they way people like This, Gagnaire, Adrià or McGee use it.

Although I'd read a few articles mentioning molecular gastronomy, I didn't really have any sense of what was behind the phrase until I saw Hervé This explain mayonnaise at a lecture demonstration in Paris. It was a demonstration I attended to meet Steve Klc who was also on the platform that afternoon. So, for me, emulsions are at the heart of molecular gastronomy. Foams come next.

MG is also about understanding why certain traditional flavor combinations work in the mouth. Once we understand why the tried and true work, we can begin to understand why certain untried flavors might also work. One can predict at the potential of boquerones, quince paste and cheese by working with the abstracts of the flavors. Naturally one can also throw foods together until one finds a pleasing combination, but that could take a longer time. In any event, chefs eventually arrive at a sixth sense about taste and flavor if they are truly talented and creative.

My palate was "educated" so long ago that I am still uncomfortable hearing fish and fruit mentioned in the same sentence, although years ago the Daniel kitchen proved to me it worked by resorting to sending out dishes I didn't order. I'm long indebted to Alex Lee for the forced lessons. At Blue Hill I once complimented Dan Barber on a fish dish that was particularly successful. He turned to me and asked if I wanted to know the secret. Without waiting, he said "mango sorbet." He explained that it was a touch of mango sorbet that pulled the sauce together, although there was probably not enough of it for diners to be able to discern the flavor.

Molecular gastronomy aside, it's successful cooking because, as you noted, "the red wine kept the sweetness in check and added just enough acidity." This kind of cuisine is about balance and walking a tightrope, or so it seems to one who hasn't yet been to Ureña. I should note that it's usually far more complex than just a balance of sweet and acid, not that I mean to imply you were talking about anything more than one aspect of oone dish. It's also about being a pro at the top of his form. I've mimicked the dishes I've had from talented chefs. Sometimes what I cooked worked splendidly. Sometimes I was left with a sauce who balance I couldn't achieve.

At any rate, your posts further whets my appetite.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I dont know why this would happen based on the previous review but I ate there and the food was completely mediocre to amount to a complete waste of time.

I read the chef was at blue hill and el Bulli but this may be among the top 5 worst restaurant experiences I have ever had in Ny.

The food was just solidly mediocre, what was discribed as nantucket bay scallop wasnt a bay scallop at all, the foie 3 ways was amateurish, the rabbit app was gratuitous and cold.

The room is too bright, no atmosphere and looks unfinished...down to the exposed electrical conduit coming out of the wall.

None of the dishes were heated, it was just so unappetizing we decided to cut our losses and skip entrees.

Just really poor.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hurried Chef New York City Entry #74 Ureña

It is said that half of newly birthed restaurants do not celebrate their second birthday. I question the basis for this somber and dispiriting statistic. Perhaps it is proclaimed by chefs who wish to raise the drawbridge after they cross. This is one of the army of factoids too good to be false.

Despite my doubts as to the certainty of the evaporating restaurant, it recognizes a partial reality. If diamonds are forever, beaneries are not. And yet every young chef believes that s/he will be the exception. So we find Ureña, the newly opened redoubt of Chef/Owner Alex Ureña, formerly chef at Suba, Marseilles, and, for a glittering moment with Dan Barber at Blue Hill. Ureña is formerly of River Café, Jo Jo, Bouley, La Caravelle, La Côte Basque, and El Bulli. Can't this man keep a job?

It takes the labor of mundane repetition to learn from masters. Can one soak up enough as a culinary tourist? Except for his lengthy, early training in Bouley (Alex Ureña started working in restaurants shortly after he landed in New York from the Dominican Republic at age fifteen), Ureña is a gastronomic butterfly. He has worked many years, but he is still a young cook. Too green to be an owner if baseball were his sport. Even callow W was grayer.

Ureña has been exposed to much and has talent in abundance, but as yet he lacks capital and a distinctive culinary vision. Adding Spanish ingredients, though wise, does not a cuisine make. Ureña's space is, as has been noted, one of the least impressive rooms for a restaurant of its ambition. With the exception of impressive toilets, everything is done on the cheap. A devout aesthete might chose to eat on the pot. The tables are laid out to insure that a service will be an obstacle course. On this nearly deserted midweek night the close quarters represent a triumph of hope over experience.

Ureña's servers are still learning their craft. We were served flat water in place of sparkling, our server didn't know whether the panko bread crumbs were wheat-based, some dishes were poorly described, and we weren't offered coffee at the proper moment. The service was cheerful, but training remains: perhaps established servers perceive that Ureña is not here for the long haul. No doubt with time - if time there is - this will be sorted out.

Ureña's cuisine had both real successes, a few errors, and many satisfying attempts. With a $100 nine course chef's tasting menu, this is a few steps below elite dining, but the price suggests a seriousness of purpose. The style is Manhattan Moderne by means of Barcelona: a blending of Blue Hill and Bouley, with perhaps a bit of El Bulli as seasoning, although the Iberian influence is most noticeable in the occasional choice of ingredients: chorizo, chicharon, manchego, and saffron. Despite suggestions that Ureña is an outpost of molecular cuisine (New York magazine suggests it is "the kind of place that assumes a certain foodie familiarity with phrases like mustard paper and chorizo emulsion"), the restaurant doesn't provoke or bewilder. This is no WD-51. Were Alex Ureña an Impressionist, he would be a Sisley, not a Monet, a synthesizer. Ureña still a young man's restaurant, short on a unique culinary style. Perhaps he has been over-exposed. Too much is buzzing in his brain - a result none of the many satisfying dishes seemed like a signature dish.

Chef Ureña might have been better advised to open a little place in Williamsburg where he could sharpen his ideas of cuisine. (If only I was his down-market investor!). Away from the Manhattan hothouse would provide time and space and resources to develop an identity and a following, and to experience joy in the process. Ureña is a two star restaurant in a two-bit space. There is much more to achieve.

We ordered the chef's tasting menu (nine courses, plus amuses), and the chef attempted to dazzle us: for most courses the table was served two different preparations that demanded sharing. I hoped we might remain friends through the meal. Eventually some fifteen dishes were served. I appreciated this bounty, but I couldn't help feeling as I espied empty tables that for the kitchen it was us or ennui.

The meal with pair of amusi: Creamy Potato-Fennel Soup and Mussels Escabiche with Pickled Onion. Both were sterling and better by being served together. The soup, so smooth and sumptuous, needed the jolt from the bivalve ceviche. I loved the pungent pickled onion and basil reduction underlying the mussels, making this one of the best and most assured bites of the night. The opening packed a one-two punch.

This duo was followed by two appetizers. First, a luscious Ostra Escabeche of Marinated oysters, saimfaina brunoise (a vegetable mix, akin to ratatouille), and smoked oyster gelee foam. In such a mix with oysters the foam brought out and stood apart from the oyster's texture, and the vegetables added a tartness that mixed well with the slightly briny oysters. This was certainly one of the finest raw oyster combinations that I have had, comparable only to the starter at Aquavit.

The Salt Cod Mousse (Baccalao) with flake cod salad, and microgreens with grapefruit, was less compelling. The combination of salt and sour proved intriguing - a potentially clever dish - but less satisfying than its mate with a texture that demanded more crunch.

Our house smoked tuna was a breather. I was impressed by its straight-forward luxuriousness with its onions and greens. If it was not novelty on a plate, it was a subtle take on gravlox. The dish was both a picturesque and harmonious. Not every dish needs to strain at the edge of the envelope of flavor.

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The next pair was warm seafood. Shrimp over Manchego Rice (rice with Spanish sheep's milk cheese)is Spanish for Shrimp on Cheese Grits. Although not wild, it was a startling and effective mixture, mild and robust, and we loved it.

Its partner was Nantucket Sea Scallop with Parsnip Purée and Chorizo Sauce. Chef Ureña presented yet another shotgun marriage of trough and brine. The chorizo sauce should have had more of a smack, and its diffidence emphasized the blandness of the purée. The scallop was well cooked, but was not backed by a strong flavor combination. It was pleasant as a quiet companion to the shrimp.

Two fish dishes followed. I admired the marinated and sauteed mahi mahi with a ginger aromatic sauce over spinach with a portobello confit. This was a delicate and subtle dish, only marred by a slight saltiness. The ginger aromatic was compelling and framed the beefy mahi mahi.

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The roasted flounder with glazed celery root, honshemiji mushrooms, manchego and arugula mousse with a grapefruit and elder flower sauce was too busy. Even reading the ingredients is exhausting. On small plates simplicity is often essential. On a larger canvas this construction might allow for a quieter appreciation of ingredients, but here the dish was riotous.

Our fifth course continued the chef's emphasis on seafood, but, in contrast to some earlier efforts, these were undistinguished. The steamed lobster with pickled rhubarb purée, glazed salisfy, and blood orange sauce might have been a high point of the meal. Instead, it was upended by an sickly sweet sauce of goopy consistency. I recognized sweet-and-sour chicken from a small town Chinese take-out. What a waste of a blood orange. What a waste of a lobster.

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The chicharon (pork rind) crusted halibut with Japanese panko bread crumbs, yellow candied beets, onion soubise, zucchini, and saffron mussel sauce was also a bungle. The flavors were muddied. The fish was fine, but the tastes, as served, lacked distinctive definition. Again, the problem may have been this chef needs a larger canvas than what a tasting menu can provide.

Finally we reached our meat course. I thought that the seared duck breast with Savoy cabbage, bacon, dried apricots, and star anise scented sauce was one of the finest plates of the night. Chef Ureña was confidently playing with duck cliches. The duck itself was seared and intense, and the star anise sauce brought a striking bitter-sweetness to the breast. The dried apricots and cabbage proved an inspired match (perhaps add chanterelles), and the complexity of the dish didn't mash together. Many of the plates, but particularly this, had a Blue Hill aspect, closer than to the games of molecularism.

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I enjoyed the roasted lamb chop with cashew nut purée, Swiss chard, and oyster mushrooms. Although the idea of a cashew nut purée was an intriguing conceit, it didn't add much to the lamb but was intriguing by itsef. Ultimately this dish stood successfully on the quality of the well-cooked chop.

The pastry chef at Ureña is Caryn Stabinsky, formerly at WD-50. Because of the allegies of a tablemate, we were not served her signature dessert, "breakfast" (desayuno) - wheat toast cake, Bulgarian feta, maple caramel, with rosemary ice cream, but it seemed more intriguing than the three choices provided.

Our first dessert was an oddity: dill yogurt sorbet with Meyer lemon curd and sea salt. The dill yogurt was unexpected. Curious if not quite compelling. Chef Stabinsky was indulging herself at our expense.

Second was almond ice cream over candied almonds with piccolo (?) pepper sauce. The almond ice cream over almonds was almost dessert-normal, fully admirable, but to gain our attention pepper sauce was dribbled around. I didn't find that it added much other than an demand that a diner pay attention to the musing of a chef.

The final dessert was beet panna cotta, chocolate sauce, broken chocolate cookie with orange salt (salt again!), and sour cream ice cream. The beet panna cotta was a treat - pungent, mild and sweet in a bite. The rest of the plate, deconstructed as it was, held nothing so much as a bit of this and that. The beet panna cotta was a special crimson delight, richly made and happily consumed.

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Our dinner contained many gratifying moments: a little blue hill overlooking Barcelona. Chef Ureña's attempt to add a Spanish accent - a tilda - to a American cuisiñe of localism is to be hailed. And yet perhaps this establishment has opened a decade early. Chef Ureña is still developing a style, but his outpost is so close to such established and mature restaurants like Craft, Gotham Bar and Grill, Blue Hill, and Grammercy Tavern that it suffers by comparison. I hope - and suspect - that someday I will boast that I tasted Alex Ureña's early independent efforts. If, as some suggest, Ureña lacks the resources and readiness to become established Downtown, I would follow this chef to cheaper digs across bridge and tunnel or to the outer hustings of Manhattan.

Ureña

37 East 28th Street (at Madison Avenue)

Manhattan (Flatiron)

212-213-2328

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

Edited by gaf (log)
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