NYC: Atera (May 2013)
Authors: Victor and Monte
Exec Chef: Matt Lightner
Date: May 29, 2013
We recently got the chance to eat at Atera again! I’ve been too lazy to make reservations the usual way (online via CityEats), so I just made this one spontaneously via Facebook. Occasionally, the Atera Facebook page will post about last-minute openings (due to cancellations), and… I’m usually online enough to see the occasional opening and reply quickly! (Yeah, I have no life hahaha.) Anyway, that’s how I made this reservation, and Monty and his sister, who was visiting, decided to come with!
We all really enjoyed this meal. Monte said something that I think summed up the meal well: “I have really fond memories of the previous meal here, and it’s nice to know that my memories aren’t totally off. The food really is that amazing. I feel, you know, vindicated in my beliefs!”
Then again, it could have been the whiskey talking. Everyone’s always a little happier with alcohol! All in all, it was a great meal with great friends!
-with caviar and crème fraîche
Monte: The fizziness of the beer really came through in the macaron shell, which was fizzy itself! I almost felt like I was eating pop rocks. The taste was very mild and creamy from the creme fraiche.
Flax Seed Cookie
-with pine nut and coriander
Monte: Yummay. This cold, quasi frozen creamy “cookie” had a great expectedly unexpected texture and the taste was a bit wheaty/sweet/earthy/nutty. Like a pine nut butter, but frozen, and a bit earthier and spiced.
-coated in beeswax
Monte: Wow this bees wax is unlike anything I’ve had before. It was distinctly beeswax, and yet oh so pleasant in its taste/texture. It was like a little purse that’s slightly firm in texture, but easily giving way to the bite and revealing the sweet and sour rutagbaga treasure inside.
Amaranth Grain Toast
-with trout roe and ramp tartare
Monte: The salty juices of the roe were brightened up by the ramp, and at the same time had this very earthy and grainy taste from the toast. It was a great bite, and had the flavors of a full sea food course, but condensed into a cracker.
-with dry yeast meringue
Monte: The meringue buns are as sweet as marshmallows and yet complement the lobster inside too, without overpowering it with sweetness. The distinct sweetness of the lobster was still apparent.
-with strained buttermilk and yogurt
Monte: I loved this surprise. It definitely looks like every other sweet cannoli I’ve had, but was quite savory despite maintaining the creaminess of a cannoli. I’m curious how they made the sunchoke cracker. Most sunchokes I’ve seen are the size of giant grapes, and I wonder if the cannoli shells are one giant sunchoke slice that’s curled and baked, or if they somehow took smaller sunchoke slices and somehow packed them together.
Fried Beef Tendon
-finished with uni sauce
Monte: I wish there was more uni sauce, I tasted mostly beef tendon with this one. I’ve had a loooot of beef tendon in pho growing up, but it’s normally just this gelatiny glob. Freezing the tendon, then making thin slices of it to put into the deep frier like a chicharron is brilliant.
“Pickled Quail’s Egg”
-made using a milk gelée that was turned into pudding
Monte: The soft and sweet milk pudding shell gave way brilliantly to the sweet and sour pickled quail egg inside.
Pig’s Blood Wafer
-with chicken liver
Monte: This is a very earthy dish as well, although the cracker didn’t have the strong irony-taste of a lot of blood dishes. I think at this point Chanel mentioned that all of the courses were very heavy, and I could see her point in that all these dishes are very earthy and there’s not too much acid – whatever sourness comes more from pickled elements instead of citrus. I personally think this style of cooking and focus on the foraging take is incredibly unique and still wonderfully delicious enough to forgive the lack of bright dishes.
Hearts of Palm
-with bone marrow ragu
Monte: One of my favorites of the night. Carving the hearts of palm into the bone exterior is clever, and lends a ton of that sweet vegetable flavor. I’ve seen a lot of apps similar to this, where Belgian endives are used as a tubular shell carrying meaty fillings, but the endive has nowhere the flavor of the hearts of palm. The rich and sweet bone marrow ragu was a cherry on top.
-salt-cured, smoked, salted, and dressed in pork fat
Monte: This dish was very smokey, and a bit too salty but still good. The belly melted in the mouth like toro.
-with salted ice and daikon vinegar
Monte: Not a super memorable dish, it was fresh and light but not very distinct in flavors.
-with garlic and almond
Monte: Another favorite. The amount of work put into this dish must’ve been incredible, and seems like every piece of razor clam and garlic chip are perfectly uniform and so artfully stacked together. The taste was also wonderful, with the sweetness and saltiness of the clam being paired beautifully with the sharp and savory garlic, with the garlic treading the line of being overpowering but defiantly staying on the appropriate side of that line.
-with fermented cabbage leaf and hazelnut (Corylus avellana) sauce
Monte: A lot of restaurants have tender scallops. This literally melted like butter the instant I put it into my mouth. I don’t remember much of the sauce, unfortunately, because my mind was too busy being blown away by the scallop’s texture.
Cured Wild Salmon
Monte: The salmon was very tender, but a bit too salty for my taste. Still a very enjoyable dish though, as it melted in the mouth in a way that almost matched the scallop.
Peekytoe Crab Ravioli
-with toasted grain dashi
Monte: This dish is what every crab xiao long bao should taste like.
Stuffed Morel Mushrooms
-stuffed with pork and chicken liver
-with mushroom gravy, balsamic vinegar, and fava bean flower (Vicia faba)
Monte: This dish is undeniably atera in the way the flavors are combined.
Salted Rye Bread
Cream that they basted in cheese for three days
-with chicken bouillon
Monte: The chicken bouillon reminded me of chicken flavored instant ramen, except this stuff tastes less cheap and has a cleaner flavor than the powdery maruchan.
-basted in Mangalitsa pork fat
Monte: I figured out what this bread tastes like. It sorta has the texture of a parker roll-baguette baby, but it has the flavors of banh tieu!
-with walnut consommé and spinach (Spinacia oleracea)
Monte: This dish is beautiful. The walnut element was very strong and distinct but not overpowering – I think walnuts in general probably have a pretty mellow flavor. Anyways, the asparagus definitely starred in this dish and was delicious as well.
Seeded Multigrain Roll
(I forgot to take a picture of this.)
North American Halibut
-brined and poached
-with buttermilk whey, chamomile, spring flowers, and oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare lam)
Monte: Super buttery and milky, I think the flavor of the fish came through despite the buttermilk but I generally would prefer my fish not to taste so sour. Acid is welcomed, but buttermilk is definitely Atera’s own style of adding sourness to a dish.
-with innards and chickweed (Stellaria media)
Monte: The skin was very crisp, and the meat also tasted kind of smokey/woody. It wasn’t super tender, but the flavor was great.
-with black walnut and lovage (Levisticum officinale)
Monte: This piece of lamb tasted so fatty but was surprisingly chewy. I had hoped it’d be more tender with all its fat. Still delicious, but a bit of a work on the jaw. Again, the creamy slightly bitter but earthy and nutty walnuts added a lot to the dish without overpowering.
Sheep’s Milk Yogurt (Carraway Yogurt)
-with juiced rhubarb and lilac (Syringe vulgaris)
Monte: I actually liked this. It was quite refreshing, but still atera-like with the sheep’s milk yogurt.
Cracked Egg Ice Cream
-with candied shell, goat’s milk ice cream (as the egg white), and egg yolk
Monte: This dessert was freaking brilliant. Absolutely a show stopper. The candied shell is so sweet, but not sickeningly so, and is balanced out wonderfully by the light and airy goat ‘s milk ice cream. The yolk added a body to the otherwise shaved-ice-like texture of the dish and made every bite a bit richer.
-with birch ice cream and French sorrel (Rumex sculatus)
Monte: The birch ice cream didn’t have that distinctive of a taste, in my opinion. Or maybe I was too busy still playing around in lala land that was the previous dessert.
-with celery root and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Monte: I didn’t like the texture of the soft and sticky walnut. It tasted soggy, and I generally like my nuts crunchy. Say no to soggy nuts!
Bourbon Cask Ice Cream Sandwich
-with almond, vanllia, and oak (Quercus robur)
Monte: And we’re back to jaw-droppingly good desserts. You can definitely taste all the oak, vanilla, and almond flavors. It was deep, intense, and definitely sweet but you kind of forget about the sweetness as your tongue wraps itself around the spicy woody flavors of the sandwich.
-“Black walnuts” (salted caramel)
Monte: The black walnuts are a playful gesture, and whimsical reference to the earlier part of the meal where food was deceptive but delicious. The black walnuts are no different, with a great salty sweet caramel inside.