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baw

Degustation

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My fiance and I checked out the new French/Spanish small plates Degustation restaurant last night. It is adjacent to Jewel Bako (5th street bet. 2nd and 3rd) and has about 15 seats, all at a bar facing the tiny open kitchen. Overall, we both would highly recommend it (and would recommend reservations because it is so small). The restaurant has innovative cuisine at a modest price point.

It has only been open for 2 or 3 weeks, but we thought that the service was very good. Excellent considering how new the place is. Our four courses were very evenly paced and empty plates and empty wine glasses were quickly attended to. The primary server who takes everyone's order was behind the bar. She knew the menu like the back of her hand, and delivered detailed descriptions of each dish upon delivery. The space is very narrow, but we were never bumped by Jack or the 2 servers that walked back and forth behind us. (1 possible improvement - provide hooks under the bar for lady's purses to keep them from protruding into the narrow aisle).

The tasting menu ($50) was 5 of the savory dishes and 1 of the 2 sweet dishes on the menu. It only represented a savings of a buck or 2 so we assembled our own menu. We sampled just over half the entire menu (9 of the 17 dishes) and 5 glasses of wine (although 3 of the 5 were the same Sauvignon Blanc for 9/glass).

Round 1:

Croquettes ($4) and Slow poached egg with serrano ham(?) and bread crumbs in a herbaceous chicken broth ($6). The croquettes were 4 bite sized guys each sitting in a dollop of a pepper/paprika aioli. The aioli was tasty, but the onion-bacon croq. were nothing special. The slow poached egg was to me a perfect slow poached egg. The texture and doneness were just right (I dont know if this is hard or not), but I didn't love the broth. Both dishes were fun to try, but I probably wouldn't order either again.

Round 2:

Squid stuffed with short ribs on a bed of lentils with spicy chorizo ($7) - This dish was very hearty and enjoyable. The squid+short ribs was an interesting combo, and I almost always love me some grilled squid and some lentils.

Fried baby artichoke and an oyster in mussel broth ($6) - The winner thus far in the meal, the quartered fried artichoke was sitting atop a single raw oyster, sitting in warm mussel broth, and covered with grapefruit foam. I'm not a huge fan of foam, and was uncertain what it was doing in the dish until I tasted it.. it really worked for me. The fried artichoke+mussel broth was really great, and we both considered this dish a 'must order'.

Round 3:

"Roast Beef Sandwich" ($10) - This small fork-and-knife required treat was rare roast beef atop a round of toasted rye bread with red onion relish and topped with a fine herb salad. Foie gras mayo smeared on the plate. My picky self wouldn't eat this dish, but my fiance felt very strongly that it was 'yummy' and nearly licked his plate. He thought that the minty herb salad looked 'too big for its britches' but that it was actually a perfect amount to complement the beef and other condiments.

Seared Scallops with Citrus ($10) - This dish was the highlight for me. Two very plump and perfectly seared scallops were on a bed of 'citrus relish': pink grapefruit, meyer lemon, and key lime (?) and/or orange (?). A jalepeno emulsion was drizzled around the scallops and citrus, and coarse salt and chives were in there somewhere. The tastes, textures and temperatures of each of the 3 primary components of the dish were all different yet worked together in a way I wouldn't have anticipated. The dish tasted incredibly fresh and light, and the sweet/spicy of the citrus and jalepeno were a perfect complement to the scallops. We must have talked to each other about this dish for about 15 minutes.

Round 4:

Seared Fois with grapefruit and caramel water ($15) - This was only OK for me. We had a seared foie dish at the Tasting Room recently that was out of this world, and this just wasn't at that level. I don't know enough about foie gras to know if it was the piece of foie or the preparation. I liked the flavor combination and the caramel water was super tasty, but I felt like I was eating a hunk of fat. I know that is what I was eating, and that is why I just don't like foie gras very much. But the Tasting Room dish inspired us to give it a try here.

Olive oil poached halibut with chorizo and red pepper ($16) - This dish was our biggest disappointment. I think the halibut was cooked sous vide, and its texture was wonderful and supple as a result. But the fish was bland, and we didn't think the bed of peppers and chorizo did much for it. We didn't even finish this dish; however, the women next to us seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

Round 5:

Grilled strawberries with spicy ginger granita and eucalyptus ($4) - A super fun way to end the meal, we shared the 3 (blow torched, not grilled) strawberries in a cool strawberry coulis with a minty eucalyptus foam and the spicy ginger ice. I consider this a must get if you have any desire for a sweet nibble at the end of your meal.

Not only did we get an adventure of well-prepared food, but it was a treat to be able to see all of the food being prepared. The chef was very friendly and spent a little time chatting with the guests when not busily preparing food for the full house. He graciously explained to us how he made the jalepeno emulsion when we asked, and thanked us for the compliment on the dish.

Aside from the standouts taste-wise I pointed out above, the plating of all of the dishes and the technical preparation of most of the dishes was excellent. Aside from the halibut, the seasoning was consistently great. I would recommend a meal of: artichoke, squid, roast beef sandwich, scallops, and the strawberries. The lamb dish that we didn't order looked good, and we would definitely get that next time. Our meal was just under 160 after tax and tip. We highly recommend it.

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I can't recall the name of the chef.. his name was on the menu, but I'm spacing.

I have a fairly small appetite, and didn't feel overstuffed by the amount we ordered. Just pleasantly stuffed. (And I ate 2 cookies an hour later.) So I think that about 4 dishes would be appropriate to feel like you had a full meal, even more if you have a moderate to large appetite. But I could have gone with my fiance and shared 4 dishes between us (delivered one at a time if we wanted to be leisurely, like 2 ladies next to us did) and slowly sipped a glass of wine or two and felt like it was a worthwhile dining experience. But I definitely would have needed a slice afterwards.


Edited by baw (log)

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This place certainly is no joke. Chef Wesley Genovart and his army of two are turning out deliciously creative tapas (if you want to call them that)

The space is small but striking. 16 seats surrounding an open kitchen. Charcoal and rust slated wall tiles provide a modern, industrial Japanese dungeon vibe. I didn't feel anything French or Spanish. We sat in the front corner (by the sous-vides station) and had the pleasure of watching various vac-packed meats dance around the bath. (Apparently things start moving after a couple minutes. Who knew?)

They started us with a croquette ball amuse. -One lonely perfectly d-fried sphere about the size of a 10cent superball…..perfect panko crunch with a creamy liquid center (maybe béchamel). I immediately put in for a jumbo order of 5.

Next was the baby artichokes lightly sautéed and immersed in a warm mussel broth with arugula flowers and topped with a white foam (not sure but daikon may have been in there). Incredible, maybe the best artichoke app I've ever had. Also shared the slow poached egg in a miso like broth. Didn't taste as magical as it appeared but I could see how many would find it unique and very slurpable.

Midway, squid stuffed with lentils and short rib. A divine combo. Squid seared to a perfect tenderness with rich short rib worked very well with chorizo and lentils on the side. Three of these could cure depression. Well, maybe four.

For mains, foie over caramelized grapefruit slices. Foie was expertly seared and seasoned but wasn't crazy about the grapefruit. Maybe better if another ingredient was absorbing some of the acidity and let the foie have more say. Still it was easily inhaled and damn tasty. I'm not sure, but I think we had the lamb chop too. (was on my 3rd glass of wine by this time so I don't remember how it was done other than it was a good selection).

One thing we noted about the service which was otherwise perfect and very friendly was the number of times place settings were changed. Maybe 8 to 10x (no, I'm no exaggerating). I think twice before we consumed anything and after every course often when clearly unnecessary. It was bizarre, laughable and eventually annoying.

I don't recommend coming here starving. Everything is on the smallish side but ever so well executed. It's a great date spot and seems like it would attract chefs and others in the biz with it's front row view and easy access to the approachable chefs.

We didn't order desert but a citrus sorbet with ginger and berries appeared gratis on the casa. Refreshing and spicy, a nice end to a surprisingly good Degustation.

W/love to hear other opinions.


That wasn't chicken

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Dinner at Degustation.

The dishes are all fairly complicated, with many ingredients and such, and my friends and I were drinking pretty steadily, and I ordered the tasting menu, so I didn't choose my dishes. Accordingly, I'm not able to do a detailed descriptive plate-by-plate analysis. I'll just give some impressions.

As is already known, Jack and Grace Lamb's new venture Degustation (right next door to Jewel Bako) is a "small plates" place. You can't call these dishes tapas: they're too worked-out and complicated for that. Nevertheless -- and although the chef appears to be anglo -- the orientation here is definitely Spanish. But it's contemporary Spanish. Meaning that people who've eaten a lot in Spain will recognize it as Spanish, whereas people whose experience is mainly Casa Espana will be wondering what's so Spanish about it. Too, it's modern, and it has modern influences, but you couldn't call the food "molecular" (whatever that means): it's just contemporary, in the way, say, David Bouley's food is contemporary without being avant-garde. In fact, although I haven't yet eaten at Urena and so can't compare the food at the two places, the general descriptions we've seen here of the kind of food served at Urena could also apply to Degustation.

I found the food to be good, even very good, but not fantastic. I didn't walk out of the restaurant not quite believing how good it was, the way I did at my first visit to Momofuku. On the other hand, I liked everything I ate. And the level of thought and of execution was impressive.

Moreover, the five-dish tasting menu (all stuff on the regular menu, only they choose instead of you) is a great bargain at $50 (these are not merely $10 dishes). It's certainly worth going to Degustation for that.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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BAW, and others, thanks for your report. The meal sounds a little heavy on the grapefruit. Did it feel that way?

What was the caramel water like? Watery? Syrupy? I'm having trouble imagining this.

Did you try the foie gras mayo? I wonder how it's made. I have to make avocado mayo for our fanciest app, and it's just a vacuum-packed avocado mashed up with Sysco "extra heavy duty" mayo. I would hate for that to happen to foie gras.

Ideally, I'd want the mayo to be house-made fresh daily; it wouldn't be too different labor-wise from making h-daise or whipping cream, both of which I do every day. But then, would the foie be seared and then blended with it? Hmm. That could be good. I wonder how the fat would affect the emulsion. It doesn't sound like something you could hold for very long.

How did you know the strawberries were torched, rather than grilled? Sounds like you could witness it being done. Do you think the flavor would be better if grilled?

I look forward to dining here, it would be a perfect after-work light dinner that my BF and I could stroll to on our way to the Sidewalk Cafe.

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BAW, and others, thanks for your report. The meal sounds a little heavy on the grapefruit. Did it feel that way?

What was the caramel water like? Watery? Syrupy? I'm having trouble imagining this.

How did you know the strawberries were torched, rather than grilled? Sounds like you could witness it being done. Do you think the flavor would be better if grilled?

I look forward to dining here, it would be a perfect after-work light dinner that my BF and I could stroll to on our way to the Sidewalk Cafe.

Yes, the grapefruit was slilghtly overwhelming and the caramel sc a tad thin. (A thicker version may have helped offset the acidity).

And yes, they torch the strawberries right there infront of you. (I can't imagine what grilling would have added)

From a viewing perspective, I'd say the open kitchen is better than most. You can really see everything they're doing.


That wasn't chicken

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I have a reservation here on July 5th (taking my mom when she comes into town). Anything I absolutely have to try?


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I had dinner there yesterday and I highly recommend the squid stuffed with short ribs, my favorite. I loved the squid and the lentils with chorizo so much that I end up asking the Chef where I could buy the chorizo.

The citrus scallops was an excellent combination too, even though not the best I had, as I have been scallop obsessed since I arrived here.

However, I was not thrilled by the beef sandwich and foie gras mayo. The cilantro topping the sandwich was overwhelming and completely covered the taste of the other components.

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Anyone got a gun?


Edited by herbacidal (log)

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I ate at Degustation last night and I am here to say that it was one of the most exciting meals I've had this year.

I enjoyed a whole variety of plates including the "tortillas," the squid/short ribs, the roast beef, the foie gras, the quail, the makarel, the oysters/artichokes, pork belly, scallops, and strawberries. Many of these dishes has been described and discussed in other posts, and I do not differ greatly from the majority opinion being offered there. Because of my enthusiasm, I am forced to reiterate a few things. The "tortillas" were sublime: bit-sized bits of bliss, perfectly prepared; the squid-short rib combination with lentils, etc. is incredible and worthy of the enormous praise that has been heaped upon it (I'll have two orders when I return); the roast beef defies easy characterization, except to say that Bruni was right to conclude that it elevated the "prosaic to poetry"; the quail was delicious, with a wonderful small, herbal salade; the oysters and artichokes was a weirdly wonderful concoction, the artichoke hearts battered and fried, set in a fish consumme, or something resembling one, and paired with kumomoto oysters, all strangely and tastily combined; the pork belly was succulent with another herbal salade on the side, which was a perfect compliment, the whole being cut, I think, by the spiciness of jalepeno=great; scallops were simply prepared, paired with grapefruit, a highlight.

Two dishes were good but not revelatory. The foie gras with carmel water and grapefruit was good, well prepared, but not exciting by the standards set by what must be considered a remarkably audacious and successful menu. Anywhere else, it would have been quite satisfying, for even here it was nice. But it felt a bit like familiar territory in a strange albeit hospitable land. As for the strawberries, they didn't do much for me, even given the eucalyptus granite that came with. It was the only thing I had that was weak.

My overall impression, as you may gather from the above, is that Degustation is a destination for anyone who loves food and is waiting--even waiting impatiently as I was--for one's next fix of genuine enlightenment through food. Like a fresh breeze, I felt that Degustation is something very rare, something both legitimate and new. Others have said here that it is contemporary without being molecular, and I would agree. And yet, somehow, when I say it's contemporary while suggesting it's not radical, I don't wholly believe it. There is something subtle going on, innovation wise, at Degustation that defies subtlety itself. They are achieving feats of a highly laudable, original kind. It is not enough, therefore, to say it's merely contemporary. Degustation is something entirely new without wallowing in its avante-garde credentials.

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My mother and I had dinner at Degustation last night, and I was really pleased with the whole experience. It was, definitely one of the best meals I've had in the past couple of months.

We started off with the tortilla and the artichoke with an oyster. The tortilla was fabulous - thin and delicate, folded around shallot confit and a quail egg, and topped with a slice of pickled jalapeno. We both really loved this one - it was savory and had just a little spicy-sour (my favorite flavor combo) from the pepper.

The artichokes were fried and served with an oyster in a mussel broth. I'm not a huge fan of artichokes, but this dish was really interesting. The mussel broth really tasted strongly of the sea, and the oyster was one of the most delicate I've tasted.

In the second course (I think all of these were from the second course) we tried the roast beef sandwich, the grilled shrimp, and the scallops.

For me, the scallops were the standout. They were seared and served on top of a tomato and garlic puree, along with some mushrooms. The scallops themselves were perfect - sweet and tender - and the puree was just lightly garlicky. The mushrooms were almost squeaky in texture between the teeth, and made for a nice combo with the yielding flesh of the scallops.

The shrimp were good, grilled simply and served with a lemon. Very basic, but, in this line-up, just a little dull. This coming from a girl whose favorite food is cold chicken straight from the fridge.

The roast beef sandwich was good, but not divine. I hate (HATE) cilantro, so I pushed the herb salad to the side, which may be why I was not such a big fan.

Finally, we tried the lamb loin, foie gras and the pork belly. The pork belly was served with pickled jalapenos (again - yay!), a sherry sauce, mushrooms, and probably a few other things that I can't remember right now. It was just the right amount of pork belly, nice and crispy, and the tang of the peppers and sherry really played nicely off of the fatty, luscious pork.

The foie gras was lovely. Seared perfectly, served with fleur de sel and some cherries on a bed of caramel gelee. To be honest, I actually found the gelee to be a bit bitter, but the cherries went really nicely with the foie. Again, the right size - not a huge slab of foie, just a nice portion.

The lamb loin was really nice - nothing out of this world, but good meat prepared really well, with a gorgeous mataki (?) mushroom alongside, which my mom thought was soooo cool. :wink:

Finally, for dessert, we did both the grilled strawberried and the tarte tatin. Both were fine - I loved the light Greek yogurt with the tatin, and the (bruleed, not grilled) strawberries were really good.

All in all, a good night, and I definitely recommend it.


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I can not find a website for any of their restaurants?

Thanks


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Don't know, newguy...but I promise to ask next time!

I went to Degustation for the second time on Friday night, and my dinner was, again, very, very good. We had an 8:00 reservation for three people, and had requested a corner spot, so that talking would be easier. We arrived promptly at 8 and waited in the (very, very tiny) vestibule for half an hour to be seated. The maitre d' brought us little half-glasses of Champagne, which was a nice touch and definitely a good thing. When we were finally escorted to our seats, they tried to seat us on a straight-away, even though several seats had turned at once and a corner was available. We (again) asked to be seated on the corner and were accomodated with no issues.

Once we sat down, dinner got better. :smile: I ordered dishes that I'd had before (I know, I know), since the people I was with were going for things I hadn't tried yet, and I wanted them to have some of the things I'd had on my last visit. As a trio, we had the following:

- The croquetas, which were amazing. God forgive me, I cannot remember exactly what was in them, but I think they were corn and some kind of pork...served on top of a saffron aioli that made want to cry it was so good.

- The tortilla with quail egg, shallot confit and pickled jalapenos, which was, as last time, absolutely delicious.

- The slowly poached egg, which came with an asparagus spear coated in panko-like rice cracker crumbs and some serrano ham. I really enjoyed my taste of this, but Miles, who ordered it, said he wished it were saltier overall - it was almost like the ham just wasn't in small enough pieces to be well distributed throughout the egg.

- The salad with lettuces, serrano ham and melon - Hall ordered this one and said it was very nice, but a tad oversalted.

- The artichoke with oyster in mussel broth. Miles again on this one - he thought it was interesting, but that the artichoke was very tough.

- The seared scallops with tomato and garlic puree. This was mine, and, once again, the two scallops were two of the most perfect I have ever tasted - sweet, just barely briny, and tender. So delicious - the Platonic ideal of scallops.

- Hall ordered the kanpachi - I didn't get to taste it, as I was completely absorbed by my pork belly at the time, but he said it was quite good. It was definitely one of the prettiest, most colorful plates of the evening, with its elongated tadpole of mango puree, dried, stuffed tomatoes, minced chives and fresh lemon zest. Really lovely to look at.

- The pork belly, the pork belly, the PORK BELLY! Miles and Hall are both a little "eh" about pork belly, but they liked this version almost as much as I did. The sour and spicy accompaniments really help cut through the fattiness and highlight the porkiness.

- Miles and Hall both had the lamb loin for their third course - they said it was "just lamb," but incredibly well-prepared lamb.

- I finished up with the foie gras, which was, again, delicious. It could have used a bit more fleur de sel, both for texture and flavor contrast, but it was perfect on my last visit.

We finished up with one each of the strawberry and tarte tatin dessert courses - I mainly swiped tastes of the light-as-a-feather Greek yogurt and stole one of the strawberries...at that point, I was too full to do much else.

Another great night, and at $240 (with tip and a bottle plus two extra glasses of wine), a really good deal.

ETA: How could I forget?!?!?! Miles also had the roast beef sandwich, and he loved it - REALLY loved it.


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I haven't been back since Bruni starred it, but when I was there a couple months ago, I couldn't get enough of the stuffed squid and the crispy pork belly.

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I really do have to try the squid next time...and bring a camera!


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Had an early dinner at Degustation last night after a somewhat harried drive all the way from Montauk. The reservationist was able to push back my reso to accomodate some unanticipated traffic delays, so that definitely helped us out and was appreciated given the restaurant's small size.

My dining compnanion and I split eight dishes, all very enjoyable and one a complete blowout.

This place reminds me of a cheaper version of the Bar Room at the Modern, with simpler preparations but more concentrated flavors. They're significantly different restaurants in cuisine (and certainly location), however, that each rises to more or less the top of its respective market. Service here was casual but competent and friendly. The place has a good downtown vibe with a bit of class and polish thrown in for good measure.

While the most of small menu has already been discussed here, I will provide some brief thoughts.

The croquetas were bacon, corn, and onion and were delciously crispy and rich. I could've eaten these all night.

Another diner here remarked that the slow-poached egg was under-salted. I found the salting here to be compellingly sufficient, and I LOVE salt. It is likely that this discrepancy was probably the result of a minor variance in execution and not an error in the conception of the dish. I like to think of this dish as the breakfast food for modern foodies.

The kampachi was a great follow up to the two richer dishes the preceeded it. My complaint here is that the blood line and a collection of fibrous connective tissue took up a decent portion of the fish. Again, a minor oversight that I would love to see corrected, but stuff like this happens from time to time. This was cooked sous vide, and the fish's texture was characteristic of this cooking technique. A diner next to me ordered the same dish after we had it and seemed to puzzled by the texture--neither raw nor flaky--but appeared satisfied with how the dish tasted.

Squid stuffed with short ribs is already a classic. I've never had anything quite like it and was very pleased with the wide range of textures and meaty flavors. The accompanying lentils were a surprise and perhaps even surpassed in the squid in overall taste.

Roast beef sandwich was much different than I expected but for the better. The concept of this dish is really cool and the foie gras mayo very tasty. Personally, I found this dish slightly under-salted.

Griled quail was one of the simpler dishes of the night but the interplay between the bitter smokiness and vinegar reduction was very pleasing.

Seared foie gras is an updated version of classic combination, cherries and foie gras. The addition of a sweet-bitter caramel water gelee was a great way to further cut through the richness.

I'm going to take what Megan said about the Crispy pork belly and laud on another slew of compliments. This was blow my socks off good. Sweet, spicy, sour, sooooo tender I seriously got the chills after taking my first bite of this dish. I want more, now!

Instead of dessert we headed to Room 4 Dessert after the meal. After tax and tip (no drinks), we got out of there for just under $50 p/p, not bad at all given the mini tasting menu we just received.

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