Good restaurants deserve and need good customers. The prime trait that separates good customers from bad, regulars from tourists is the frequency of their visits. I don’t have a strict rule for calculating this (it would have to include proximity as well as price), but in New York where it is possible to eat out every night and never repeat, it is important to support places you feel are of merit, especially when they are new. Doing so gives them a more promising future and makes you a valued guest.
Degustation and Wesley Genovart have been getting good enough press (two stars from the Times among others) that it would be safe to call their future bright enough that they don’t need us. So when Wife and I popped in last night there were really only a couple of motivations: we hadn’t been in a couple months and wanted to eat Wesley’s food, it was a new season and the menu had probably changed, and last time the young toque had made us feel so welcome we wanted to visit again.
The food is still creative -- small plates, combining modern technique and established flavor profiles to generate stimulating constructs whose potentials are realizable in a few simple bites. The setting is still an intimate little bar with the chef and his team never more than about fifteen feet away. The prices are still fair. The glass wine is still largely Spanish and pretty cheap. And the menu seems to be evolving. Here is the porn and some observations:
CROQUETAS light and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, filled with Serrano ham, green olive purée, and whipped potato, and resting on red pepper aioli. So pleasing at a base level that we almost got more at the end of dinner, and again at the end of dessert.
SPANISH TORTILLA, QUAIL EGG AND SHALLOT CONFIT If you like tortillas in Spain you should try this interpretation. Then again, if you just like breakfast in America you should try this. It’s all there, all the flavors of the simple two egg and hash brown breakfast delivered in an easy to eat envelope. Here, Wesley roasts a thin slice of a waxy potato, builds a little nest of the poached shallots, cracks a quail egg into it, folds the potato around all, scores it on la plancha and then does a quick round of immersion frying. After the three short rounds of cooking, it is topped with a thin slice of jalapeño and a teepee of Maldon sea salt. I know all this because I asked (boy do I love having the chef trapped in front of me) to see if there was any cheese inside (there wasn’t but the richness of it was). The onion confit and the soft cooked egg pocketed in the potato, highlighted by the salt and the capsicum greenness of the pepper, combined to taste like all the flavors of breakfast. Larger and this dish is just a plate of eggs, here it is an elegant study in a comfort meal.
SLOWLY POACHED EGG WITH JAMÓN, SMOKED CHEESE AND RICE CRACKER CRUSTED ASPARAGUS If you know people who disparage foam, take them to Degustation and for seven measly dollars show them how any other way of adding the lactic smoky notes of this cheese would goo up the light and perfectly analogous consistency of the preparation of this egg. Then, for fun, point out the discernable types of crunch between crisped rice and the blanched asparagus you can only realize because the foam is so much lighter than any other creamy (hollandaise) sauce that could be paired.
KAMPACHI WITH CHAMPAGNE MANGO, CHERRY TOMATOES AND THAI CHILE The richness of the fish drawn out by the tangy, caramelized sugars of roasted tomato with touches of heat in the tiniest slices of Thai chilies and the sweetness of the mango sauce. The fish was honestly already exceptional in its preparation (not sure but it had the thin white/tight halo of searing, roasting, or poaching, without surface discoloration) with just the chopped chive and salt dressing it.
ROAST BEEF SANDWICH WITH FOIE GRAS MAYO AND HERB SALAD
Again, the herb salad steals what should be an unstealable show. Flawlessly medium-rare roasted beef shaved thin on a toast round, topped with a mélange of herbs and served with a smear of foie mayo.
CRISPY PORK BELLY WITH GRILLED SCALLIONS, SHIMEJI MUSHROOMS, AND PICKLED JALAPEÑOS IN A SHERRY GASTRIQUE When I read that again I realized I was way overdoing it with my descriptions. Read that dish. How awesome and simple is it in its likeliness to please? I think the story here is that simple things, well handled, and elevated by creative execution are inspirational, end of rant.