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Aska is, of course, the "real" restaurant that one of the guys from Frej opened up with the FOH/cocktail guy from EMP and then Atera. Like Frej, it's in the Kinfolk Studio space in Williamsburg. Unl

Going back 25 pages or so, I'll try to restate my original view on this again. The only time I've questioned the overall value of a tasting menu meal is when I've been disappointed with some aspect o

Though I shouldn't make assumptions, I'm just guessing your date wasn't picking up the tab. There can be an inverse correlation between excitement level and skin in the game. (Do correct me if I'm ass

Indeed, nicely put. I for one am looking forward to my pickle.

 

Writing this from the bar at Marea. A cancelled 12pm meeting (cancelled at 12.15pm as I sat in reception...) allowed me to fit in a quick lunch. I hadn’t been before. Crude was really good. The spacatelli with crab and uni was nice but maybe didn’t live up to the expectation I had built up from reading about it for 10 years.

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Indeed, nicely put. I for one am looking forward to my pickle.

 

The spacatelli with crab and uni was nice but maybe didn’t live up to the expectation I had built up from reading about it for 10 years.

 

The go-to for me there is the fusilli w/ octopus. Though if there are two pastas being ordered, the uni would more than likely be the other one. 

 

Jeez, has it been ten years they've been open already? 

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Not that you need me to tell you, but that’s some really great writing.

I don’t know what it says about me that I’m more linguistically inspired by lackluster experiences than great ones.

 

Great artists are often inspired by horrible/terrible/distressing/disappointing stuff.

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Of course there can be many other reasons but it felt like the business side isn't willing to wait another year for the third star and the simplified plating on some dishes and fewer challenges to the SP diner were the way to go. Still an excellent meal overall. 

 

That pickle, sometimes it does teach you stuff about pickling and sometimes it's just a pickle, even though it's always exactly the same. 

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Well, experiences differ. I can't get on the "excellent" train for this menu - and I should stress I'm saying this menu and not this restaurant. Excellently executed, maybe. Mostly. There was a scallop dish that landed like a thud, but I couldn't say if the issue was execution or conception. (Mind you, I'm okay with an occasional dish on a tasting menu that doesn't connect. But I'd rather it be a swing-for-the-fences whiff. The scallop was more like a sacrifice bunt.)

There were four dishes I'd put in the "excellent" category, but each with a caveat:

The caviar. Spectacular. The only issue was it was like the fourth dish with little-to-no texture, so even though flavor-wise it was wonderful the mouthfeel was more-of-the-same. It would have been better served as the opening salvo, a real "wow" moment to start the meal with. After the emulsified mussels, the soft-as-mashed-potatoes pommes souffle, and the emulsified oyster (seriously, twice with the same trick? Did they just get their first Pacojet?) it was like if you went to see a band and they opened the show with four ballads in a row. (Well, four ballads and a pickle.)

The hake was excellent - the fish was like hake butter, unbelievable texture. On its own, brilliant. But aside from the single nubbin of sunchoke on the plate, it was yet another dish that was entirely soft. We were starting to feel like we were dining in the Beech-Nut Test Kitchen. 

The quail was excellent, too, but it was an excellent "safe" Midtown French entree. Not a forefront-of-Nordic-cuisine-in-America one. I think I've had Perigords and celery root paired every Perigord season - which is fine, they're like the chocolate and peanut butter of February haute cuisine. Delicious, but basic. If I pay $265 to a chef who cut his teeth under Marcus Jernmark and Iacopo Falai, I'm not expecting basic. (I did notice that someone posted a pic the next night of the quail - only for them there were all kinds of fun offal bits, so I guess that dish changed overnight for the better)

 

I suppose if they're gunning for star #3 that going more Midtown French is the obvious route. Although Michelin is weird and it's hard to say how they'll react to something. I'm not even sure the inspectors revisit restaurants half the time. He'd probably need to add a foie gras course. I think every three-star Michelin place in NYC has a foie gras course. And if I had to guess, if any NYC Nordic restaurant is going to get an elevation, it'd be Aquavit. (Though her prix fixe menus tend to be a bit staid compared to her tastings - and I was less than thrilled when she rolled back the prix fixe from four courses to three. Four is just de rigueur for any chef-driven $100+ PF these days)

The dessert was excellent even though the ice cream didn't taste at all of the advertised birch - just a very good sweet cream ice cream. In the end it was fine, the mushrooms and whatnot brought a lot to the party. The savory aebleskivers were a great addition. 

The lack of birch was, along with the onslaught of soft stuff, kind of a theme - repeatedly, there were ingredients touted that just weren't quite there. If you're foraging esoteric ingredients - be it from the Long Island shore, the Adirondack woods, or a shelf at Kalustyan's - make them present. Make them integral. That's part of why we go to places like Aska in the first place, that's why we spend $265 there instead of boring-ass (establishment name redacted) or something. There was "burnt pine" in the quail dish? Okay. Apparently I had black currant leaves twice during the meal, but I couldn't tell you what they taste like.

And it seemed there were ways to elevate any given dish that were obvious. Say, he could have taken that kohlrabi, sliced it up, and artfully arranged it around one of the other dishes, accomplishing two things: first, providing both texture and a contrasting acidity to something (the scallop could have used it) - and second, not making me sad on my birthday. (Okay, it was actually a week after my birthday, but close enough)

Or... sliced it up and layered it with some raw fish, still serve it with the big to-do. For $1 worth of protein it could have been a riff on the obligatory fluke crudo. 

Was every dish on its own decent, when taken out of context? Pickle of Sadness and scallop aside, sure. I reserve judgement on the langoustine - it didn't all work for me, but I think the problem was (silly as it sounds) the order in which they suggested eating the three components.

 

I'll concede other menus there may have been amazing adventures through culinary wonderlands. But the menu on Feb 22, 2019, was not one of those. And for $265 I expect more than "Yeah it was mostly good, but..."

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I happened to eat there the first day they offered the new menu format, and while it didn’t hit the heights it wasn’t as seriously flawed as that.

 

De gustibus non est disputandum.

 

I don't know that "flawed" is the word I'd use. The execution was there. Just a majority of it I found uninspired. The were swings and misses (the second emulsified bivalve) which I'm fine with, because at least it's trying something. But the caviar and dessert were really the only eyes-roll-back "wow" moment home runs, and the first was hit with no men on base. (The dessert drove in two extra runs from the hake, which hit a double, and the quail, which also hit a double but only advanced the hake to third. And then that black current tart bunted and didn't advance anyone)

 

And at that price I need more than two homers and a couple RBIs

 

I suspect I'm not the only one who reacted the way I did. (Actually I know I'm not because the SO felt the same, only without the dumb baseball metaphors)

 

If your first experience was this menu, or first in a long time (at the current price) would it be a place you'd think of as the best in NY?

 

If it didn't hit the heights it had previously, was it worth the same price it was a month ago? Putting aside rising overhead costs, etc. As someone for whom an Aska or an Atomix is "special occasion" level, everything is going to be judged in relation to price, as well.

 

I'm definitely more forgiving / shrug off things at places I'm a regular, since one's "experience" of a restaurant is a continuum. If I have a lackluster meal at say, Kyo Ya, it's less notable (also less expensive) in the grand scheme of things to me. 

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I guess I was there with someone who'd never eaten there before, and it was all new and exciting to her.  Which was contagious.

 

Also, I don't remember so many emulsions (although I also have to say that in the early days of JoJo we couldn't get enough emulsions).  Or as much mush.

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I guess I was there with someone who'd never eaten there before, and it was all new and exciting to her. 

 

Though I shouldn't make assumptions, I'm just guessing your date wasn't picking up the tab. There can be an inverse correlation between excitement level and skin in the game. (Do correct me if I'm assuming wrong, though)

 

Of course, the SO & I are totally jaded as well. So there's that. 

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