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Degustation


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Having wanted to try Degustation for quite some time now, I wasn't sure what I'd been missing.  After going this past Saturday, and trying literally every single item on the menu, I'm still somewhat unsure what I've been missing.  Frankly, I was just not that impressed.

Being forced to wait 45 minutes past a reservation is, on a Saturday night in a restaurant this small, forgivable.  Once seated, I really liked our seats.  The first two tucked into the left corner once you step in.  So we only had people on one side of us, and we were right in front of the pass, so to speak, so we saw most of the food going out, and were able to engage the chef in conversation now and again.

As I mentioned, we ordered the entire menu among the two of us.  Not actually as crazy as it sounds.  It was actually a nice amount of food, leaving us full but not dying at the end.

Thoughts on the food: The tortilla was, to me, instantly forgettable.  One of those one-bite dishes you pop into your mouth expecting a bit more flavor-wise.  The croqueta was tasty; warm, crispy exterior, luxuriously creamy interior.  Would never have guess that apple was part of the filling, but it worked quite well.  The plancha items were delicious, if a bit overpriced.  $10 for a langostine?  This is not L'Atelier, people.  The poached egg with jamon serrano, chorizo, rice cracker crusted asparagus and smoked cheese foam was quite tasty, with the yolk turning the dish into almost a soup.  The grilled mackerel with trio of apples was also nice.  The seared scallops?  Eh, not so much.  My friend hated this dish, actually.  I didn't think it was that bad.  But honestly, I didn't think it was that good either.  Mediocre flavor and a bit boring.  The squid stuffed with short ribs and the sweetbreads have each received some praise here on eGullet, and rightfully so.  Both delicious, and among the standouts of the evening.  I'm not sure the squid is quite as revelatory as some on this thread and elsewhere may have suggested, but it is pretty tasty.  The sweetbreads, essentially chicken-fried, should absolutely replace popcorn as the movie snack of choice.  The quail and the rabbit were passable, if a bit lacking.  The kind of dish you eat expecting to have a new flavor, or a new texture surprise the palate at any moment, yet that moment never comes.  The suckling pig was quite flavorful, but I wish they'd crisped the skin a bit better to create some textural contrast.  The lamb belly was, for both of us, terrible.  Quite easily the weakest dish of the night.  I've had ____ belly countless time before: pork (mmm Fatty Crab pork-and-watermelon salad), lamb, tuna, salmon, you name it.  I recognize it's about the wonderful interplay between flesh and fat, meatiness and unctuous fattiness.  This block of lamb belly was, unfortunately, all fat.  Essentially inedible.  To make things worse, the hash brown alongside it had long ago passed the stage of being crispy and was now simply black.  Overcooked?  I'd say so.  Overall, the flavors in this dish could have and should have worked together well, but both the raw ingredient (the lamb belly) and the cooking (or more precisely, overcooking) were its downfall.  As I said, absolutely the weakest dish of the night.  Luckily, the kitchen soon redeemed themselves with a very flavorful ribeye, which, at $15, I consider a pretty damn good deal for the price.  We finished with a nice cheese plate of four different cheeses, two Spanish and two Italian.  I really enjoyed the marcona almond butter they provided as an accompaniement.  And just to round things out properly, we ordered the lone dessert on the menu, an apple "tarte tatin" with greek yogurt.  Decent, but its inclusion on the menu was clearly an afterthought.  If you're not going to do dessert, fine.  But don't do a half-assed dessert for no reason at all.  Finally, we closed things out with a class of highly unremarkable sherry, and that was that.

Overall, there were some hits and some misses.  Nothing was terrible (well, the lamb..), but nothing really sticks out in my mind as having been outstanding either.  Nothing I'm craving to return and have again.  As I mentioned in another thread, with Momofuku Ssam Bar just a short walk away, I'm not sure I'll ever be back to Degustation, actually.  To me, the cooking at Ssam is clearly several steps above what they're putting out at Degustation, and, at the end of the day, the quality of the food is what it all comes down to.

WOW! for someone with a "i heart ny" call sign, you are quick to trash one of the most exciting eateriers in the city. i am no experted, but i don't think it is very fair to compare the pork belly at fatty crab to the lamb breast at degustation. what is being done at fatty crab is easy and boring! give me someone who is going to take risks and go out on a limb to create something special. i had the lamb at degustation and it was wonderful. to belly ache at the price of langostines, which until about 4 years of ago, getting fresh langostines in the states was unheard off, thank you fedex, and with fresh langostine comes more coin, that is how it works. if you want something wonderful sometimes you pay more, or you get shrimp from the gulf. i had a most memorable meal there, i went by myself, i was supposed to meet someone, but they couldn't get out of work (weak) on time. i had most everything on the menu. that restaurant is unique in a city of pomp and posh and money, to have someone just busting it out night after night, sometimes you just have to say thank you and pat them on the back, and even if it didn't meet your expectations, which i would love to hear what those were, and you did not enjoy the meal, don't complain about the prices and make it seem like there making millions by making up fresh langostines. just walk on by to the ssam bar and we'll enjoy those two seats in the corner. thank you degustation crew and keep up the great work, you have exceed my expectations!

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I do have to agree with Tupac on the issues with seating...only once have I been to Degustation and been seated on time. However, I think the size of the restaurant is the problem here, not the reason it should be better. With so little margin for error (people who linger over their food have a huge impact on those waiting, percentage-wise, plus there's nowhere to stand), it must be hard to figure out the bookings.

That said, it's been open for almost a year now (right?), so I would expect far fewer kinks in the system, and they don't seem to be dissipating.

On the food, I have to disagree (mostly). The scallops (admittedly I last had them in August) were among the best I've had (yes, simply prepared - they're doing a different prep now, I believe - but fantastic product to start with), and the pork belly is a favorite of mine (did you try it, or just the lamb belly?).

The dessert, I agree, is less impressive. I do love the foamed Greek yogurt with the tatin, but that's about it.

"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 stand corrected regarding the price.  I agree with FG, though, that the cigalas were just not worth it.  Now the $4-a-pop head-on grilled shrimp, on the other hand, were plump, juicy, and quite tasty.  Those, I think, were worth it.

My g/f and I ordered the tasting menu on Friday night. The langoustine was included, and it was the least satisfying item we had.
I do have to agree with Tupac on the issues with seating...only once have I been to Degustation and been seated on time.
We were seated on time, but our reservation was at 6:30 p.m., so we were probably the first turn. We had the same pair of seats that tupac had, right in front of the pass.
The dessert, I agree, is less impressive.  I do love the foamed Greek yogurt with the tatin, but that's about it.

The tasting menu came with the apple tart, and it was the second-least impressive item (after the langoustine). Edited by oakapple (log)
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Its a shame that so many of New York's impressive smaller restaurants choose to forgo pastry chef in light of space and budget constraints.

In these cases a cheese program alone might be a better idea. Unfortunately, I'm sure there is usually a owner or partner in the Chef's ear with "you can whip up something simple like an apple tart, right?".

A restaurant is only as good as its worst dish.

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A restaurant is only as good as its worst dish.

Degustations desserts were just Ok, some of the food was good, most of the rest was OK.

The Lamb belly i have to agree is bad.

If restaurants were only as good as thier worst dishes, all restaurants would be bad.

Fact is you can find one dish in every restaurant in New York city that is either flavorless or communicates something completely different from the customers expectations.

Good or bad after all is in the eye of the beholder....

It's a good idealistic statement but meaningless in the real world.

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A restaurant is only as good as its worst dish.

It's a good idealistic statement but meaningless in the real world.

Alot of times chefs are pushed to expand menus past their capacity to manage the quality of everything entailed. Alot of restauranteurs favor the more-is-more approach. Especially when it comes to stacking to menu with high-return items such a aps, tapas, small desserts and the like.

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WOW! for someone with a "i heart ny" call sign, you are quick to trash one of the most exciting eateriers in the city. i am no experted, but i don't think it is very fair to compare the pork belly at fatty crab to the lamb breast at degustation. what is being done at fatty crab is easy and boring! give me someone who is going to take risks and go out on a limb to create something special. i had the lamb at degustation and it was wonderful. to belly ache at the price of langostines, which until about 4 years of ago, getting fresh langostines in the states was unheard off, thank you fedex, and with fresh langostine comes more coin, that is how it works. if you want something wonderful sometimes you pay more, or you get shrimp from the gulf. i had a most memorable meal there, i went by myself, i was supposed to meet someone, but they couldn't get out of work (weak) on time. i had most everything on the menu. that restaurant is unique in a city of pomp and posh and money, to have someone just busting it out night after night, sometimes you just have to say thank you and pat them on the back, and even if it didn't meet your expectations, which i would love to hear what those were, and you did not enjoy the meal, don't complain about the prices and make it seem like there making millions by making up fresh langostines. just walk on by to the ssam bar and we'll enjoy those two seats in the corner. thank you degustation crew and keep up the great work, you have exceed my expectations!

Mugsy can we love Ny without loving every restaurant in NY ? :unsure:

Truly I appreciate what Degustation is trying to do but I dont think diners should simply say thank you because someone is busting it out night after night, the food still has to meet thier expectations.

In many ways, I can understand the fascination with the concept and it is a cool place to eat but outside of the novelty of the space, served the same exact food in a traditional restaurant setting, I suspect there would be less enthusiasm. many chef's these days strive for attention by creating dishes with names of classics that they do not in any way texturally resemble or taste like. A properly made spanish tortilla is transcedental, that quail egg potato ravioli thing was just perplexing. I can understand that people are into "deconstruction" but the achilles heel of most culinary deconstructions is that they dont reconstruct the flavor.

Fatty Crab is boring ?

Anything "on the plancha" is the epitomy of boring, that being said, some of the best vegetables I have had in Ny were simply plancha cooked with olive oil.

The quail needed help and heat reduced vinegars taste like cough syrup.

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A restaurant is only as good as its worst dish.

[...]It's a good idealistic statement but meaningless in the real world.

It's also nonsense. Should we judge Grand Sichuan by the Sichuan and Hunan dishes, or by the American-Chinese takeout dishes they put on the menu because a certain segment of clueless customers wants them?

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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WOW!  for someone with a "i heart ny" call sign, you are quick to trash one of the most exciting eateriers in the city.  i am no experted, but i don't think it is very fair to compare the pork belly at fatty crab to the lamb breast at degustation.  what is being done at fatty crab is easy and boring!  give me someone who is going to take risks and go out on a limb to create something special.  i had the lamb at degustation and it was wonderful.  to belly ache at the price of langostines, which until about 4 years of ago, getting fresh langostines in the states was unheard off, thank you fedex, and with fresh langostine comes more coin, that is how it works.  if you want something wonderful sometimes you pay more, or you get shrimp from the gulf.  i had a most memorable meal there, i went by myself, i was supposed to meet someone, but they couldn't get out of work (weak) on time.  i had most everything on the menu.  that restaurant is unique in a city of pomp and posh and money, to have someone just busting it out night after night, sometimes you just have to say thank you and pat them on the back, and even if it didn't meet your expectations, which i would love to hear what those were, and you did not enjoy the meal, don't complain about the prices and make it seem like there making millions by making up fresh langostines.  just walk on by to the ssam bar and we'll enjoy those two seats in the corner.  thank you degustation crew and keep up the great work, you have exceed my expectations!

My comparison between the pork belly at fatty crab and the lamb belly at degustation was simply to illustrate the difference in what can be done with essentially the same cuts of meat. The pork belly at fatty crab is delicious: crispy, chewy, and unctuous at the same time. I wish that pork and watermelon salad was "easy and boring" enough for me to whip up at home, but unfortunately, it's not. And I'm sorry, but the lamb belly we were served at degustation was garbage. Believe me, while I thought the langostine was not worth it, I found Degustation to be quite reasonably priced. One-fourth the price of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, for example? Maybe so. That, I like. One-fourth the food quality, though? That, I can't deal with. Sorry.

All that said, I'm glad you enjoyed Degustation so much. Chef Genovart and his crew are a great bunch of guys. Their food just didn't happen to strike such a chord with me. Different people, different tastes.

[...] I think the size of the restaurant is the problem here, not the reason it should be better.  With so little margin for error (people who linger over their food have a huge impact on those waiting, percentage-wise, plus there's nowhere to stand), it must be hard to figure out the bookings.

That said, it's been open for almost a year now (right?), so I would expect far fewer kinks in the system, and they don't seem to be dissipating.

On the food, I have to disagree (mostly).  The scallops (admittedly I last had them in August) were among the best I've had (yes, simply prepared - they're doing a different prep now, I believe - but fantastic product to start with), and the pork belly is a favorite of mine (did you try it, or just the lamb belly?).

The dessert, I agree, is less impressive.  I do love the foamed Greek yogurt with the tatin, but that's about it.

I agree they should have a better grasp on the reservation system by now, but with such a small place, I'd imagine such problems might inevitably remain.

We had literally the entire menu. There was suckling pig (which was pretty good) on the current menu, but no pork belly. So we had that as well as the lamb belly.

My question for degustation is: how is one unimpressive dessert better than no dessert at all? The answer, I'm almost certain, is $$$. Chef Genovart himself told me he hates dessert. He should stick to his guns and just leave them off completely.

Mugsy can we love Ny without loving every restaurant in NY ? :unsure:

Truly I appreciate what Degustation is trying to do but I dont think diners should simply say thank you because someone is busting it out night after night, the food still has to meet thier expectations.

In many ways, I can understand the fascination with the concept and it is a cool place to eat but outside of the novelty of the space, served the same exact food in a traditional restaurant setting, I suspect there would be less enthusiasm. [...]

Agreed on all counts.

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A restaurant is only as good as its worst dish.

I guess that means we should rate Peter Luger based on the salmon, and Le Bernardin by the strip steak.

Well, if your philosophy is to have "something for everyone" on the menu, then your menu is going to have alot of sub-par dishes. I didn't know there was a lousy strip steak at Le Bernadin...that seems like a bad decision. As for Luger and Grand Sichuan, these are not restaurants that are going to be made or broken by a review. They are a seperate entity. They thrive on word of mouth and local traffic, not trends-spotters and scenesters.

For restaurants that are very much designed to be proppeled and sustained by PR, having ANY suspect dshes ony the menu is a big mistake. When Bruni goes into a Le Bernadin he WILL order the strip steak, and then tear it to shreds. That's fair game.

What is the trade off between making an extra couple thousand a year off of dumbed-down dishes for picky/boring eaters, uninspired sides and mediocre desserts when you lose your target audience to bad reviews?

Edited by Sethro (log)
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Just for the record, there is a section at the bottom of the Le Bernardin menu called "Upon Request," which is targeted at those who don't eat fish. There are four dishes available: squab, rack of lamb, Kobe beef (a $150 supplement, I don't know what cut), and black truffle tagliatelle. I don't recall ever hearing anybody complain about these dishes, and indeed I know one person who goes to Le Bernardin specifically for the rack of lamb and believes it's the best meat entree in town.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Anyone have an updated number for Degustation? I've been searching online but no luck! We're flying to New York next weekend and looking to go there for my Fiance's birthday.

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

I'm thinking of taking my girlfriend to Degustation for her birthday. I can't find a website for them - do they have one? Would you recommend I do this? I've never been there. Is the 10-course tasting menu the way to go? How much does it cost nowadays, and where can I see the menu? My other idea is to go to Babbo, but since I don't already have a reservation and her birthday is later this month, that might not work as well (I suppose we could show up early before the restaurant is open and try our luck, but then I'd need a backup plan, but that could be Lupa, so I'll await your advice).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm thinking of taking my girlfriend to Degustation for her birthday. I can't find a website for them - do they have one? Would you recommend I do this? I've never been there. Is the 10-course tasting menu the way to go? How much does it cost nowadays, and where can I see the menu? My other idea is to go to Babbo, but since I don't already have a reservation and her birthday is later this month, that might not work as well (I suppose we could show up early before the restaurant is open and try our luck, but then I'd need a backup plan, but that could be Lupa, so I'll await your advice).

It's rather remarkable this place does not have a website. I think you're quite likely to find Degustation more interesting than Babbo. As a practical matter, a reservation at Babbo less than a month in advance will either be unavailable or at an undesirable time (5:15 or 10:00), and I wouldn't trust a celebration dinner to a walk-in table.
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I'm thinking of taking my girlfriend to Degustation for her birthday. I can't find a website for them - do they have one? Would you recommend I do this? I've never been there. Is the 10-course tasting menu the way to go? How much does it cost nowadays, and where can I see the menu?
The 5-course tasting is 50 and the 10-course tasing is 75. The wine pairing for the 5-course tasting is 45, but I don't recall what it is for the 10-course. As oakapple said, there's no website. The 5-course consists mostly of dishes off their ALC menu, but the 10-course has a lot of courses not otherwise available. I think the 10 course tasting is well worth the extra 25/person. Alternatively, ordering individual plates and splitting would also probably work pretty well.
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I'm thinking of taking my girlfriend to Degustation for her birthday. I can't find a website for them - do they have one? Would you recommend I do this? I've never been there. Is the 10-course tasting menu the way to go? How much does it cost nowadays, and where can I see the menu? My other idea is to go to Babbo, but since I don't already have a reservation and her birthday is later this month, that might not work as well (I suppose we could show up early before the restaurant is open and try our luck, but then I'd need a backup plan, but that could be Lupa, so I'll await your advice).

I totally agree with all the above comments on the food at the two places, but if you've never been before, it's worth noting that the two places offer very different atmospheres. Degustation is primarily a bar-seating restaurant, and is less formal than sitting in one of the dining rooms at Babbo. So if formality and having a "special occasion atmosphere" is important, you might rethink things. However, if she's into food, disregard the caveat.

Edited by LPShanet (log)
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