Monday, November 25, 2013

Betony: A Good Time with Great, Whimsical Food (food)

A lot has already been written about Betony, so I will try to only add a few specific points that are of personal interest. Pretty much everything that's been written about Betony has been positive, and I definitely agree as we had a great time there. The half-year-old restaurant is helmed by two accomplished EMP alums, and the excellence in pedigree is shown in both the food and the service.

Atmosphere: With two levels of dining rooms and a large bar out front, there was a lovely buzz to the restaurant as a whole. Some of the wall design, which was probably left over from Brasserie Pushkin, seemed a bit out of place, but overall it had a cozy yet upscale atmosphere. We were seated in the back dining room on the ground floor, and the lighting was a little too dim for my taste. I understand that many prefer dim lighting and think it's romantic, but you will probably have to use your smartphone or pen light to read the menu. I ended up being the one asshle who took pictures with flash to capture the chef's pretty plates, but it's possible that they no longer allow that going forward.

Service: Service was excellent; attentive and friendly. I wouldn't say it was completely polished and it wasn't running like a machine the way it is at the very top tier of restaurants in NYC such as Jean Georges, but it is still a fairly new restaurant that does a lot of covers each night. I can only imagine that it will continue to get even better with regards to tiny details and diner interaction.

Food: While Betony has often been mentioned in the same discussions as Juni, another upscale restaurant that just opened this year, I believe that the concepts are very different. While excellent food is still a key point of focus, the a la carte menu design caters to those who want to have a fancy fine dining meal as well as to those who just want to have amazing bites of food with an excellent cocktail or two. To me, Betony is much more similar to the NoMad. Much of the food is very whimsical in nature, especially the small bites to share section of the menu. At the time that we went, I felt that there should have been more dishes on offer given the a la carte nature of the menu. If you had certain dislikes or dietary restrictions, you could easily find yourself with very limited choices. However, looking at their current online menu, it does appear to have expanded since.

BREADSTICKS AND CRISPS
I think they were meant to have a cheese flavor, but it wasn't very strong. These were nice but rather forgettable as they weren't particularly substantial in flavor or volume. I think that as complimentary accompaniments to drinks they should pack a bit more punch.

The bites to share section of the menu is literally meant to be finger food. We weren't given utensils yet for this part of the meal.

MARINATED TROUT ROE - PUFFED RICE, CUCUMBER
Nice refreshing bites with good texture contrast.

"LOBSTER ROLL" - CREME FRAICHE, SALT AND VINEGAR
There was a noticeable piece of lobster or two, but nothing significant. As a fancified version of lobster salad, I liked the taste of it more than the lobster roll at Atera, and I especially liked the parsley potato crumbs which provided good texture and a nice earthiness to balance out the lobster mixture.

BEEF TONGUE - MUSTARD SEEDS, TEFF
I enjoy classic flavors redesigned, but there really wasn't enough tongue in each bite to let the unctuousness of the cut shine through.

FOIE GRAS BONBONS - CASHEWS, BLACK PEPPER
I thought this was extraordinary. Crunchy, creamy, rich, nutty, slightly sweet, and with a bit of kick from the black pepper. This had it all, and really showcased that in addition to the whimsy of the idea and design, they could still pack a lot of flavor into one bite.

FRIED PICKLES - BRUSSELS SPROUTS, PISTACHIO YOGURT
These were just so so good that it was hard to stop eating them. It appears that they change the vegetables they use for the pickles depending on the season/produce, but fried pickled brussels sprouts were just killer. The cooling yogurt dip was also perfect, with just a touch of savory, sweet, and tangy profiles.


AMUSE, CARAWAY SEED ROLL
Simple classic flavors executed well.


CHICORY SALAD - ANCHOVY, CASTELVETRANO OLIVE
GRAIN SALAD - LABNE, SPROUTS
My friend loved the grain salad, and thought that the way everything was cut and portioned, especially the sprouts, was perfect and with great attention to detail.

FOIE GRAS - HOT - HAM HOCK CONSOMME, VINEGARED KALE CHIPS
Another dish I absolutely adored. The ham hock consomme was flavorful yet light on the tongue. A lot of effort goes into making a good consomme, and it was well worth it here as it provided the perfect medium for the rich seared foie gras cut by the crispy vinegared kale chips. I also loved that it was a seared foie gras dish that used only the acidity of those kale chips to cut the fatty foie gras, as opposed to sweet accompaniments which I see all too often.


SHEEP'S MILK RAVIOLI - EGGPLANT, MUSTARD GREENS, WHITE TRUFFLE SUPPLEMENT
Chef Bryce Shuman came out personally to shave the white truffles, which went perfectly with his delicious sheep's milk ravioli. The chef actually removed some of the eggplant and mustard green components of the dish so that the ravioli would be the perfect vehicle for the wonderful truffles.

POACHED STRIPED BASS - CELERY, POTATO


ROASTED CHICKEN - CHANTERELLES, TOKYO TURNIPS
A delicious two-part chicken dish, the jus was rich and comforting while the side bowl of chicken with greens had herby notes that provided a vibrant contrast.

GRILLED SHORT RIB - ROMAINE, SWEETBREADS
Another delicious and satisfying dish. The short rib had a slick of aged minerally flavor while the cut itself was extremely meaty yet tender. The grilled flavor came through as well in both the meat and the romaine, while fried sweetbreads added a burst of salt and crispiness to the dish. I did want more of the lettuce puree, but overall a great beef lovers' main course.


RICE PUDDING - LAVENDER, MEYER LEMON
CHOCOLATE BROWNIE - COCONUT, PECANS
I strongly feel that a la carte desserts that are deconstructions should always be labelled with quotation marks on menus. While they may be delicious, sometimes people just want to be comforted by their desserts and restaurants shouldn't confuse their expectations. Here, for example, the "rice pudding" was made of crisped rice.

FROZEN CHOCOLATE STOUT MACARON
PINK PEPPERCORN CARAMEL CHEW
DRIED CHERRY AND PISTACHIO DIVINITY
At $4 for these three bites this was the cheapest thing on the menu but still very interesting. Liquid stout was literally coming out of the macaron as I bit into it, which was pretty cool. The taffy-esque caramel chew was too big for my tastes. You're likely going to be chewing on it for a long long time.

Overall, Betony, like the NoMad, is a restaurant that I recommend not only going, but going back again and again to try everything on the relatively small a la carte menu. Some items were bigger hits than others, but everything was worth trying. This is the type of place where you want to identify your own personal favorite dishes that you will certainly love so that you can stop in and have them again over a cocktail or two.

41 W 57th St
(between Avenue Of The Americas & 5th Ave)
Manhattan, NY

3 comments :

eatingwithziggy.com said...

Great looking meal. I need to come back there

Anonymous said...

Dude you gotta step your photo game up. You eat these thousand dollar meals and take photos that have a date in the corner lol

The Pretender said...

The date and time is left there on purpose so readers know how recent the meal was with respect to the review.