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Jul 13, 2008 11:28 AM

Degustation: Good dishes but left poor and still hungry.

So we walked into this tiny East Village restaurant for an early Saturday dinner, glad that we snagged a couple of seats.

To cut to the chase, we were assured by the wait staff that the $50 chef's tasting menu was filling and that the dishes are larger than regular tapas portions. The sugar peas with lamb bacon, idiazabal shavings and wasabi-tinged dressing was good, and so was the skirt steak and wild mushroom dish. However, we were not the only one that found the servings to be insufficient, because, the only other group of diners at that time also ordered additional dishes on top of the tasting menu that they had. As for us, we ended up ordering the crispy pork dish to supplement our craving for more.

With 2 $50 tasting menu, 1 wine pairing, a couple of glasses of wine, and the additional crispy pork tapas dish, our bill was just over $200 for the 2 of us. We definitely don't feel that we got our money's worth with this dinner.

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  1. We have not been to Degustation. While I know it gets raves on this board, and I like portion control when I do a tasting dinner, I've always wondered how you can possibly get enough to fill you up in a 5-course tasting dinner for $50. Sounds more like lunch to me.

    6 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Hi, RGR,

      The first time we went to Degustation, we ordered 10 dishes and shared them, which was the equivalent of the 5-course tasting in quantity. We left feeling adequately fed, but I could see how some might consider it inadequate. I do think it was good value for the quality of the food. The next time we had the 10-course tasting, and this is what I would recommend, or alternatively ordering 6 or 7 courses a la carte. The 10-course is definitely a better value than the 5. What is important to take into account is that however much or little food one orders, the prices are low in relation to the quality of the food, the service is excellent, and the bar seating makes it a foodie's delight because watching the food being prepared is terrific entertainment.

      1. re: rrems

        Thanks for that information, rrems. How comfortable are the seats? Do they have backs?

        1. re: RGR

          Yes - the seats have backs. And even though you're seated at a bar, it's more comfortable because it's a low, table-height bar. It's very cozy for 2 dining together.

          1. re: erin07nyc

            Thanks for the reply, erin07nyc.

      2. re: RGR

        We don’t consider ourselves as heavy eaters, and we’re not light eaters either. However, and in retrospect, the 5-course tasting menu consisted of small servings of light foods that are mainly fish/seafood/small vegetables, in addition to the final savory dish of the skirt steak. As far as I can make out, each dish consisted of about 3 to 5 bite sizes. Without a doubt, though, the dessert serving was very small, such that, afterwards, we actually made our way to Veniero’s for canollis and coffee.

        If we were to go for another dinner, I’d opt for the 10-course tasting menu which, at $75, seemed to be the better value. Although, I have to admit that I may re-think about going back and spending close to $250+ for 2 at this place, especially since there are other restaurants that wowed us more for lower costs.

        I would note that I wasn’t thrilled with the wine pairing. The wines were not paired well, as far as I’m concerned. I’d suggest ordering wines by the glass if you have to.

        1. re: RCC

          I don't think you'd be happy with the 10 course if you weren't full after the 5 course. It's pretty much the same amount of food. In the 10 course meal, the tasting portions are about half the size of the 5 course. I think you'd be better off ordering 10 individual courses and sharing them.

      3. i split about 10-11 dishes with my brother, had two glasses of wine and left comfortably full and spent around $150 with tax and tip. I think if you dine here you don't need to do the tastings as I find its better to pick and choose what you want. What sets you back is the wine, so if you can hold off on the wine then it is quite affordable.

        Still one of my favorite restaurants in the city.Great value for the quality and skill put into each dish

        1. i few months back my husband and i enjoyed a great meal at Degustation. i was worried the 10 course menu would be too much so we did the smaller one and i was perfectly satisfied. it allowed me to have the cheese for dessert and not feel like i need to pass out immediately (which can happen when i get to cheese for dessert)
          my husband who is NOT a light eater what so ever wasn't as full as i was, but nor was he hungry after. i am surprised that you felt that way.
          as for the cost, the restaurant is not cheap but is not a every day kind of place. it is a higher level of dining and therefore you will pay for the quality. if you compare it to other places of that caliber you are still way within the reasonable price range.

          2 Replies
          1. re: slewlew

            In fairness, I probably took the $50 tasting menu for granted especially as I am reminded that it’s almost impossible to find a high-quality tasting menu at that price in this city. Just to reiterate my approval of the quality in this restaurant, the olive-oil Poached halibut is one of the best halibut dish that I’ve had in a long time.

            However, after being assured by my wait staff that the $50 menu was sufficient because they have large servings, I took the bait there and then. On the other hand, as another poster here has noted, even had I ordered the $75 10-course tasting menu, the quantity would be the same as the $50 menu, with the difference being, I assume, the variety of dishes. Even then, I am not one who likes too many tasting menu dishes in one sitting.

            In terms of comparing Degustation with others, I can recall a couple of local dinners that bested Degustation as far as Quality/Quantity-Price-Ratio (QQPR) is concerned. The satisfying 5-dish tasting menu at Hearth, with the usually comped additional pasta or mushroom dish from the chef, and with order of 5 or 6 glasses of wines, tallied at about $270 for the 2 of us. Another tapas place that, in my book, knocks Degustation in QQPR was our last couple of dinners at Casa Mono. Just about 2 weeks ago, the 2 of us were very satisfied with 6 dishes and 5 glasses of wine and our bill was in the $170 range. My point here is that I don’t mind shelling out the bucks, if both quality and quantity were in sync with the pricing. Imho, Degustation neglected the quantity part of the equation.

            1. re: RCC

              I stand by my method of splitting 10 or so dishes with someone else, I found it to be filling (not overly stuffed) and also reasonably priced. A few drinks, 10-11 dishes plus tax and tip and I left spending less than $175. Just my two cents.


          2. I too agree with RCC that Degustation’s portions left me wanting more to say the least. My SO even commented that we had come into the restaurant not too hungry, and not too full – but left feeling the same way – not too hungry and not too full. This could have proven disastrous if we had planned to have a full meal there! Since we had just completed a meal at Jean Georges earlier that day (for lunch), we decided we needed to top off our stomachs before our long journey home (to Toronto). We made early reservations at the restaurant and were treated with almost a private kitchen! The three chefs were very skilled, and surprisingly young. I see good things coming from them in the future!

            We decided to go a la carte, as we figured we were too full for a complete tasting menu. My SO and I started with the recommended 3 dishes per person as a minimum. I started with the olive oil poached halibut. Throughout my entire trip to NYC, I was attempting to find this “Ideal” in my mind of a perfectly oil-poached fish. This was the ONLY fish that met my expectations (I had earlier attempted to order poached fish at Perilla and then again at Jean Georges). The fish was cooked skillfully to my desire – just a touch raw in the centre, the meat plump and juicy. It was sheer perfection! All of their dishes were artfully presented (though, with such small portions, there is room for creative plating!). My SO received his grilled quail simultaneously. Excellent smoky flavour. The thing I treasure most about this restaurant is their ability to handle ingredients with mastery and their innate ability to keep things simple. Because of their excellent preparation of dishes, they don’t have to hide them behind fanciful ingredients and flowery garnishes.


            Among other dishes were tried and highly recommend are the slow-poached egg with crispy fried asparagus (pure heaven), Wagyu with tempura-d shimeji mushrooms (I have never had such a great tempura dish and the Wagyu had great flavour – though not as tendered as I had expected), Snap Pea Salad with lamb bacon (tasted of spring, so fresh and the peas so plump and taste-intensive. It was perfectly complimented by the crisp bacon’s saltiness), a fish carpaccio special of the day (subtly marinated), and the grilled octopus (because we were so impressed by the first grilled dish). Everything on the dish was edible and elevated the dining experience. It all had a purpose - which is refreshing! No fancy tricks, just good solid food.

            Snap Pea Salad:
            Poached Egg:

            You may be thinking to yourself, hold-on, there were 7 dishes named. Since we were still feeling a bit munchy after our ‘starters’, we decided to add that last grilled dish. I would therefore have to agree with RCC in that this is a very expensive restaurant. One would have to spend quite a bit to be relatively satisfied. To leave a restaurant $90 poorer, yet just as full as when one entered leads me to believe this could be a money trap. However, I would have to say that this is an excellent restaurant with well thought out menus and excellent prepared dishes. I am sure they would do much better in terms of repeat customers if they were to lower the prices of their dishes by a few dollars each, or increase the servings to match the price. I would definitely return to this resto, but unfortunately, only when I’m perhaps already full.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BokChoi

              I wouldn't go to Degustation if it was my first meal in 3 days, but I went with my brother and his friend (we're hungry guys in our 20's) and were all satisfied with the 10-course meal - which was actually 12 including dessert.

              The only other item we ordered was a bottle of wine, it was about $100pp + tip and we all left happy.