Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dinner at Corton

With a review like this on Bloomberg including lots of name-dropping:

how could I not venture a taste?

The reviews on the web and among the food blogs have generally been very good for Corton, which only opened a little over a month ago. I usually believe in going to a new restaurant about 3-4 months in - after many of the kinks have been worked out, but before the named chef decides to leave. But this being a Drew Nieporent establishment (he's responsible for the way too many Nobus in NYC), it's already in great shape. In fact, he was there seating guests when I arrived for an early Friday sitting (6pm reservation for 1, easy to get the night before).

The atmosphere is wonderful. Simple black and white colors, comfortable sitting, and enough light to see everything clearly, while not too much that it would take away from a date ambiance.

I went with the 8 course tasting menu (actually 7 plus amuse) for $110. I will try my best to list the dishes and its components, but there were many parts to each dish so I could easily leave out some stuff.

Amuse of oyster in a gelee of it's own juices. Simple, clear flavor of oyster. This, however, would be very different from the rest of the meal, in which many flavors were used in each dish.

Santa Barbara uni in a konbu gelee with a cauliflower creme. Delicious starter with the slight bitterness of konbu working very well with the sweet uni. I would have preferred a crunch in this dish to go with the jelly and creamy textures, but overall very nice.

Braised octopus with burgundy truffle slices, in a potato consomme, with apple cider jelly cubes and a squid ink brioche tuile. The octopus was perfect and the broth was nice. Again the apple cider and tuile provided a wider range of flavor with some hints of sweetness and slight bitterness. I found them unnecessary.

Turbot in a spiced almond crust over an herb puree with a coconut citrus jus. Accompanied by squash puree, black garlic jelly cubes, and a side of small gnocchi with bacon and baby bok choy. The turbot was perfectly cooked but the almond provided very little flavor or texture as it was far from being a crust. The coconut citrus jus felt too strong for this dish and the constant theme of throwing in the sweet and slight bitterness on the side was not getting it done for me. I much prefer the turbot entree at David Burke and Donatella. The side was fantastic though. Simple flavors that go together well and excellent small gnocchi.

Scottish red-legged partridge au jus over red cabbage with sweet potato puree, a dollop of concentrated black garlic, and a side of partridge leg "royale" over a polenta cake. This was a much more successful dish with the partridge over some sweet red cabbage. I would have preferred a gamier meat to the rather chicken-like partridge, but the combinations worked well in this dish.

Small wedge of Brillat-Savarin with sour cherry pate de fruit, a chickpea chip and some celery root. This was my favorite dish of the night. Brillat-Savarin is a brie-like cheese that is wonderful. You can find a description of it on wikipedia. The combination with the sour cherry pate de fruit was amazing. This was also the first dish where it didn't feel like the chef was forcing 5 or 6 flavors into one dish and just let two terrific flavors and textures that went together shine.

Predessert of mango sorbet with some lime stuff. I'm not a big fruit person so I ate it but it didn't really do anything for me.

Creme cake soaked in orange custard with 3 fruits on top (i only remember one was fig) and amaretto ice cream. The orange custard/creme went really well with the cake and made me really enjoy the fruits on top as well, even though I don't actually like any of them. This was wonderful.

Gianduja Palette with coconut ice cream and yuzu. Chocolate and coconut are a good combination but I thought the yuzu was out of place, especially as it wasn't a very rich dense chocolate.

Finished off by a great assortment of petit fours. In fact after sampling every type they gave me a bunch of chocolates to take home.

Overall: To me it was hit or miss. As I've mentioned before, I like simple flavors that go well together. Some of these dishes seemed forced in the use of the extra sweetness or bitterness. I really liked the sides, which were more concentrated simple flavors. I think I would go back again but I would order from the prix fixe ($76 for 3 courses) and try to add the brillat savarin course. That way I'd probably end up with something closer to what I like. Overall it was a pleasant experience and there was a definite show of the chef's skills, and the service was terrific.

Because I was early for my reservation I walked around a little bit and came across a little girl and her father. It looked like they were looking for a place to eat but the places around there were all too "grown up". As the two of them were talking I overheard the little girl say, "Tribeca is not Manhattan". Thoughts anyone?

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