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Degustation


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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.

She's totally into great food, and I'm sure it'll be more formal than the cheap but good restaurants we usually go to.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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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.

She's totally into great food, and I'm sure it'll be more formal than the cheap but good restaurants we usually go to.

Definitely post about your meal there if you get a chance. Haven't been in a while, and would love to hear how it's doing these days.

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Definitely post about your meal there if you get a chance.  Haven't been in a while, and would love to hear how it's doing these days.

If it's any help, I went there last Monday and had a very enjoyable meal. The place was fairly busy, about 3/4 full when I showed up at 7 or so and mostly full when I left around 9. I hadn't been there before January of this year, so I can't give any context as to how they've changed, but I was very much a fan of the food. The food I had was interesting but not overly precious and service was fantastic for a bar-seating restaurant. The flavors were nicely distinct; there were some interesting pairings (the amuse had a croquette with apple sauce), but nothing tasted contrived. I was also pleasantly surprised that, despite having gotten the same 5-course tasting that I'd ordered on Monday only about a month ago in January, there was fairly little overlap (although the staff recognized me as having eaten there before, so that may have not entirely been just a function of the pace at which the menu changes). I'm definitely going to go back in the near future; it's just a question of when (most likely quite soon).
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  • 3 weeks later...

I really want to thank those of you who recommended Degustation.

I had a great dinner there with my girlfriend two nights ago. I didn't take notes during dinner, because I was concentrating on the experience, and it was a post-birthday present for her, but we both had 10-course tasting menus and shared 5 glasses of wine (roughly 2 1/2 each, with the last glass divided in two for us by a waitress) plus comped half-glasses of muscatel with dessert. The portions were very small, so the amount of food was substantial but not ridiculous. Service was superb, and the experience was thoroughly indulgent and pleasurable.

To the best my girlfriend and I can reconstruct, this is what we had:

Amuse bouche:

Pork croqueta on one side of the little dish, tortilla of runny quail egg and some other things on the other side. Both excellent. I liked the croqueta more, and she preferred the tortilla.

1st course:

Hamachi crudo with a delicate, herbed accompaniment; I forget the details, but we both liked it.

2nd course:

Slightly breaded, fried artichoke hearts with raw clams or oysters (I forget which) in mussel broth with grapefruit foam. Like everything else, this was beautifully presented. I love artichoke and enjoyed that part of the dish, but this was the only dish that, on balance, I didn't like - but through no fault of the restaurant; I simply have always hated raw clams and oysters, no matter what. My girlfriend loved this dish.

3rd course:

Sardines. On the left, a small piece of skin-on sardine that I believe was topped with some herbs and was over some kind of vegetables; on the right, a "sandwich" of sardine and, I believe, confit of shallot inside two small pieces of toast, topped with one or two miniature slices of hot red pepper. This course was rather salty, but as always, combined with other flavors (spicy, oniony, etc.)

Fourth course:

Flash-fried baby cuttlefish (my girlfriend remembers delicate breading on them - maybe the waitress said oatmeal breading), accompanied by some kind of non-rice risotto (amaranth? oats? I think amaranth) in black squid ink. This may have been a course that included some deliciously fresh parsley.

Fifth course:

Scrambled but still partly runny duck egg presented with black pepper and salty, delicious, crunchy lamb bacon, presented in a cleaned eggshell whose top had been neatly cut, presumably by some kind of circular cutting implement. Very salty, but very good in the small portion we were given - kind of upscale, gourmet comfort food.

Sixth course:

Grilled pork belly (small piece) and octopus (two small pieces). Neither of us remembers exactly what accompanied this. I believe it came with an herbal broth that was drizzled on the plate and several kinds of herbs (tarragon, parsley?), but I'm not sure. Anyway, pork belly has too much of a solid layer of pure fat for me to love (I ate the meat and left behind most of the fat), but I loved the octopus, and both of us really enjoyed this dish. The crackling on the skin of the pork belly (I believe, done with a blowtorch) was also very much enjoyed by both of us.

Seventh course:

Grilled sweetbreads in an orange hot sauce. We both really liked this dish. I thought it was brilliant, and probably the best sweetbreads dish I've ever had.

Eighth course:

Slightly cooked foie gras on toasted Mallorcan flatbread with lots of little bits of the green parts of scallions, some tiny pieces of green pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt (garlic chips may have come with this). My girlfriend called this "orgasmically good." I liked it, too. :-)

Ninth course:

Breaded oxtail served with potato (my girlfriend says a slice of potato, but I remember the potato being mashed or nearly so), garnished with a slice of hot red pepper. We both really liked this. I think this course may have had a lemon chip on top.

Tenth course:

Brioche soaked (overnight, I think it was) in cream, sprinkled with sugar, blowtorched to caramelize, and served with slices of orange and pink grapefruit.

We had two glasses of a Spanish (Basque, I believe) Gewuertztraminer/Chardonnay blend that was wonderfully fruity and floral (it was the first wine on the wine list); a sparkling Txacoli', sort of halfway between a Champagne and a sweeter sparkling wine like an Asti or Prosecco; another wine whose name and other useful descriptions I can't remember, but which I started out not liking because of a particular kind of perfumy overtaste, but which worked better for some later courses; and a very good Rioja; and finally, the comped Muscatel, which was somewhat dry for a Muscatel and cut through the brioche nicely. We found that different flavors were constantly being balanced by one another - salty, hot-peppery/black peppery, sour/acidic, herbal, oniony/garlicky, fatty, sweet - and by the wines we chose in consultation with the waitstaff. Our primary waitress, in particular, was impressively knowledgeable about wines. We both enjoyed the composition and presentation of the dishes - a kind of artistry that we two musicians were able to enjoy on an aesthetic as well as purely gustatory level - and the progression of the courses, which struck us as going from lighter to heavier. We also enjoyed the fact that different kinds of dishes and cutlery were used for each course - not really an important part of the meal, but definitely a nice touch. My girlfriend said it was one of the greatest meals she's ever had, and for my part, it was definitely one of the best I've had in the last few years. It's sad to say, but I've been disappointed by high-end meals several times. This was not one of those times. It was an expensive meal, for sure (I believe it was exactly $200 even before tax and tip), but the entire experience was worth the money, although I surely won't do it again for at least a year if not longer.

My only caution to anyone who'd choose to do the 10-course tasting menu is that while they definitely ask about food allergies beforehand and I do believe they'd be willing to be somewhat flexible about foods diners hate, you also have to be flexible and adventurous. If not, I feel fairly certain that the staff can put together some kind of meal that will please you.

One final thing I didn't mention yet, but which I think shows something about the establishment: The man who checked my down jacket and woolen sweater on that cold night also poured some of our wine and performed some other tasks, which demonstrated to me that he is part of a team of staff with multifarious duties. I was about to hand him a couple of dollars as a tip before leaving, but he declined, saying "If you enjoyed the meal, that's all that matters."

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Thanks, Pan, for that report.

Seventh course:

Grilled sweetbreads in an orange hot sauce.

Orange in color or in flavor? Or both? Or was it a tomato-based sauce, or chili-based?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

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It was orange in color, not in flavor, and chili-based. I don't remember what other elements were in that dish, but it was great!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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The didn't give us potato chips with the crudo. There might have been garlic chips in it; I'm not sure.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
It was orange in color, not in flavor, and chili-based. I don't remember what other elements were in that dish, but it was great!

It's white bean and chili pepper puree and lemon juice, and some herbs. I was in there last Thursday and asked! :smile:

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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It was orange in color, not in flavor, and chili-based. I don't remember what other elements were in that dish, but it was great!

It's white bean and chili pepper puree and lemon juice, and some herbs. I was in there last Thursday and asked! :smile:

Did you have the 10-course tasting menu?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 2 months later...

Just went to Degustation with my mother and had twin 5 course tasting menus (i.e. we each ordered the tasting menu and they brought us different dishes from each other for each course). Overall, I'd say the food was a full level better than the previous time I went, which was over a year ago, and was an incredible bargain for the level of food being created. The previous visit suggested that the value was strong, and the food good, but the overall meal wasn't that memorable. This time there were really vibrant flavor combinations, great textures and skillful presentation. I also feel like the Spanish influence, while still present, was maybe adhered to a little less strictly than on my last visit. This evolution seemed to be to good effect. The seafood was especially notable, with some fantastic quickly fried chopitos (like sepia), a great crudo and some lovely cooked fish dishes. A cold almond soup with grapes was also really memorable.

Overall, if they continue to cook at this level, I think it is one of the great foodie bargains in NYC...and I had almost forgotten about it.

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Went there earlier for dinner. Among other things, the octopus and avocado salad is really nice – the octopus expressed its flavor very cleanly, the richness of the avocado provided a great counterpoint, and the other elements (that I mostly forget) brought everything into focus.

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I'm not sure what $100 meal you're thinking of. To my knowledge, the 10-dish tasting is still $75. It's certainly a very substantial meal, but not insane. I couldn't tell you about the $50 5-course tasting, because I haven't tried it.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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The five course tasting at 50 comes in pretty middle of the road for me – 4 app-sized savory courses plus a dessert, so roughly on par quantity-wise with a typical 3-course meal, I think. The 10-course is 75 and I've found it to be quite a bit of food – not unmanageable, but I wouldn't have minded it if some of the courses were smaller.

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  • 1 month later...

I'd say a decent number of people are dressed "datey" (for obvious reasons). I personally wouldn't go jeans/t-shirt, at least perhaps the next step up.

I wouldn't recommend a dish (I'd recommend a 10 course tasting), but rather a wine - the txakoli wine is delicious. The dessert there is really good too, the soaked/caramelized bread pudding.

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I go there in jeans and a t-shirt all the time! :D My favorite dish there right now is the grilled octopus and avocado salad, but the tasting menus are probably the smart choice for ordering.

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I go there in jeans and a t-shirt all the time! :D My favorite dish there right now is the grilled octopus and avocado salad, but the tasting menus are probably the smart choice for ordering.

Thanks for the feedback re food/dress. We have a late reservation tomorrow night and plan on an all out lunch at J-G for our anniversary the next day so I am a bit hesitate to do a late night tasting quickly followed with an indulgent lunch (I know JG will be great -- I plan to order EVERYTHING I like) but might change my mind depending on the tasting offerings at Degustation (I do love a tasting menu). How much food is one of the tasting menus? Super full or like a typical dinner at the end. Not enough food would be fine as well! I just do not want to wake up not wanting any more food on Tuesday - that would be a serious shame!

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The 10-course tasting menu is substantial but not ridiculous. I'd consider it more food than a typical dinner.

I'm sure Jean Georges is at its best with expensive tasting menus at dinner, but I have to say, my lunch prix fixe at Jean Georges the other day, though a very pleasant experience at just over $50 per person including tip for 2 courses apiece for 3 people, 2 desserts, and no wine apart from one dessert wine certainly didn't measure up at all in interest or pure deliciousness to Degustation's 10-course tasting menu. Apples and oranges and all that (and price: $156 for 3 people at JG vs. $240 for two, including tip at Degustation), but the fact remains.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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How would you describe the dress code at Degustation?  Any recent must have dishes?

I concur with the above thoughts about getting a tasting menu. However, one specific dish I had on a recent visit was a cold almond soup with grapes that I thought was really special. And for me to go on about a vegetarian dish is highly unusual, as I typically insist of having some kind of animal involved with almost any dish where maximum deliciousness is required. So get that if they have it...they'll be happy to include any specific dish you're curious about in the tasting.

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