Thursday, September 24, 2009


How Degustation can manage to be one of the most beloved restaurants in the city yet still feel like a hidden gem is something of a mystery, but it's definitely the case. Chefs like Thomas Keller and David Chang are fans, but it doesn't even have a website. Even Frank Bruni of The Times called it "underrated" after he gave it two stars (the same number as, say, Union Square Cafe, the perennial #1 in the Zagat rating). This disconnect can be partially explained by the size of the restaurant (fewer than 20 seats, all at a counter around the kitchen) and by the idiosyncrasy of the food, which no one knows whether to call Spanish or French or American or pan-all-of-the-above. We just call it delicious.

We recently tried the 5-course tasting menu, which the precocious Wesley Genovart (or "Wes," as everyone in the kitchen called him) assembles as he sees fit according to the day's menu. The first course was a fish we'd never had before, Tasmanian sea trout, simply sliced and served with onions and a few greens. Not a complicated dish, but a clean, clear, and refreshing one.

The next course was a fatty, juicy block of pork belly paired with market-fresh heirloom tomatoes and avocado. Pork belly usually hogs (sorry) all the attention in whatever dish it's part of, but here the salty, citrusy snap of the tomatoes was the most compelling part, a terrific ingredient at its peak.

Continuing the seasonal bent, the next dish was like the culinary embodiment of September: grilled quail with candied peaches, purslane, almonds, and thyme yogurt. The quail had the perfect combination of char and juiciness --- a quick glance around at other diners who had the same dish saw numerous fingers be enthusiastically licked.

Our final savory course was oxtail in potato cannelloni, topped with peppers and fried onions. It was a strange dish --- you don't see much Italian–New Mexican fusion --- but a good one, with a lasting kick.

For dessert we were served caramelized brioche with a cream filling and fresh berries. It was a sticky, sweet, gooey treat. As we were eating it, the man sitting next to us said to Genovart, "I'd like to stand up and applaud." Ditto, guy.


Emily Gwynne said...

I'm glad you're back. I missed gazing longingly at lovely dishes that stimulate my salivary glands.

Jess and Garrett said...

Aw, thanks. Lunch soon!

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