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Mar 9, 2009 08:47 AM

Degustation Report

Degustation is a wonderful place and I highly recommend it to all you Chows out there for a unique NYC dining experience.

We had a 10:00pm booking for Saturday night. I had heard a few stories of reservations not being observed on time, but we had no problem, and were seated around 10:10pm.

The small room was abuzz, it smelled wonderful and everyone seemed to be enjoying their meals. I was excited!
I noticed the Chef Wesley Genovart was not at the helm, but wasn't fazed; the food that was being plated looked perfect!

We decided on the 10 course tasting menu, but also added the fois gras dish that was on the menu. Because it sounded amazing, we asked the server if it was included on the tasting, she said it wasn't, but urged us to add it in.

Our wine was served and The feast began with an Amuse bouche of:

Pork croqueta on one side of the little dish, tortilla with quail egg on the other.
The croqueta was amazing, creamy yet incredibly tasty, the tortilla was a bit disappointing; I felt the potato was slightly underdone.

1st course:

Hamachi crudo with carmelized onion, garlic chips and dried black olives.
So fresh! the acompaniments were each deliciously wonderful and had thier own distinct personality! (I loved the garlic chips!)

2nd course:

Breaded, fried artichoke hearts with oysters in mussel broth with some sort of foam on top.
This one was odd!
I loved it, but it was kind of strange, seafood flavored liquid with fried artichokes in it with grapefruit bits, and a raw oyster chucked in! I thought it was fun but I didn't really get the correlation of all the various ingredients.
DH said it tased like dishwater!

3rd course:

Three versions of Sardines. On the left, a small piece of skin-on sardine served oved potato salad.on the right, in the middle was a lovely breaded crispy fried sardine, and on the right was a char-grilled sardine.
This was DH's favorite savory dish. Each preparation was unique and tasty. I like thie fried the best , but the potato salad was delicious and the grilled sardine was great too.

Fourth course:

Flash-fried baby cuttlefish over some sort of black squid ink risotto.
This one surprised me, because the deep fried bits on the plate didn't taste like cuttle fish at all - maybe more like fried clams...but not even as fishy as that!
The risotto was tasty, and I just couldnt stop eating it!

Fifth course:

Scrambled duck egg presented with black pepper and salty, delicious, crunchy lamb bacon, served in an eggshell.
WOW - OMG this was incredible, it had intense flavor, salty, and buttery and peppery. The bacon flavor was intense.

Sixth course:

Grilled pork belly with grilled octopus.
Another winner! My DH usually won't eat octopus, but it was so tender and had a good char-grilled flavor, that he ate it and enjoyed it.
The pork belly was tender and fatty but had a great cracking crust on top. Very good indeed!

After this course I started to feel full.

Seventh course:

Slightly cooked knobs of foie gras on toasted Mallorcan flatbread with lots of little bits of the green parts of scallions.
Well this course was a huge disappointment. Fois Gras is my all time favorite, but here I felt it was totally drowned by flavors that did not even compliment it.
I tried to fish out the bits of Fois gras but they were covered in a Horrible flavor that tasted exactly like Liptons onion soup powder. It was so strong and overpowing, even after only a few bites, my mouth could not rid itself of the taste.
I gave up, and both DH and I left this virtually untouched.

Next came the GOOD Fois Gras course!
After the previous course, I was sooooo happy we added the extra Fois Gras
It was a nice piece of Fois,seared with an olive oil and chocolate sauce, served with pepetas. It was perfection. The chocolate sauce was not sweet but had a rich texture and taste, the oil added silkiness.
The pepetas added crunch and contrast.
I started to struggle here as my belly was getting very full, but I managed to finish it, and I got told off by DH for sticking my fingers in the sauce to lick every last bit. If I was home I seriously would have licked the plate.

Eighth course:
I can't remember the preparation, but I was so full by now, that I only managed to taste them.
They were delicious.
I have always been slightly afraid of sweetbreads, but these were so rich and delicious - my mind has been changed. I look forward to trying these again when my belly is less full! DH liked this course.

Ninth course:

Breaded oxtail.
By this time I was stuffed, and DH had to eat this one for me.
I just managed to taste it, and it too was delicious. Tender and tasty, rolled with mashed potato....very rich and satisfing.

Tenth course:

OMG this was the best dessert I have ever had in my entire life. I am not kidding.
Suddenly I had room to finish every last bite!
It was brioche soaked in cream ...very simple....just creamy, buttery doughy goodness...
It was served with grapefruit wedges to cut the richness, and had a crackling layer of burned sugar....They also served a sweet dessert wine with all went together beautifully.
Honestly it was perfection...everything I have always wanted bread pudding to be but never has been...

We had a very moderately priced bottle of wine, and all & all the meal came to $300.
I feel it was worth every penny.

The service was brilliant, and since we were the last patrons, they became very friendly and chatty towards the end of the meal, but never made us feel rushed.
The chef that night was a lovley young French chef by the name of Daniel, and he did a super job.

My only regret is that since we had such a late booking, we went out for a few drinks beforehand. I made the mistake of having beer. i think that's why I got so full so quickly.
Next time, I would still do the 10 courses, but I would NOT have any drinks beforehand to ruin my appetite!

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  1. That sounds wonderful. Thank you for posting. We live in NoCal and visit NYC a couple of times a year. This place has been on my radar but I hadn't really researched it. I think the price you paid was excellent for what you got. I drooled over almost every dish --- not so sure about the sardines :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Thanks - I'll have to post some pics tonight.
      Yes, I took a pic of every dish because I have the memory of a goldfish, and I wanted to remember every bite!
      Next time you are in NY - you must check it out.
      Because of the set-up - the focus is clearly on the food, and it really makes for a unique venue.
      Oh and I bet if I was more creative with the food descriptions - you'd be drooling over the sardines too!!

    2. Nelly, thanks for the report. You two had almost the same tasting menu my girlfriend and I did, except that I think we had sardines two ways rather than three ways, and no extra foie course. It's interesting that we had some different reactions to the courses. I thought the foie course on the Mallorcan bread was great, and I loved the strong tastes that accompanied the foie. But I think it must be common to dislike one course in a 10-course tasting menu - for you it was the foie; for me, the oysters. And still, both of us considered it a great meal. :-)

      7 Replies
      1. re: Pan

        Hi Pan

        Yep - I re-read your report before I posted and reazlied the exact same things you mention!

        I did love it - the food, as well as the whole experience of it. I'm kicking myself now - wishing I could go back and finish the sweetbreads and oxtail!!

        Pan -one question - Do you know - was Wesley Genovart your chef for the evening - or did you have Daniel as we did?

        1. re: NellyNel

          OMG! That food sounds amazing....of course I honed in on the dessert because while I love savory...dessert is what I really am after!

          1. re: NellyNel

            Nelly, I really don't know what who looks like, so I couldn't tell you. I'll say this: The man doing the cooking that night was a young man, and fairly tall and thin/narrow-torsoed, if I remember correctly.

            1. re: Pan

              Yep - sounds like Daniel - the guy we had!

              1. re: NellyNel

                Pan, your description could be Wesley as well. Here's a link to a photo:


                1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                  Now that I'm seeing that photo, I think he was there, but at this point, I'm not sure. We did drink enough to be buzzed. :-)

                  1. re: Pan

                    The other chef does kind of look like Wesley - they could pass for brothers!

        2. Degustation is great. We stopped in on Thursday and ordered the ten course tasting...and we left stuffed, happy, and amazed at what they can accomplish in such a small space.

          Amuse: pork croqueta with apple puree on one side, a "tortilla" of quail egg and shallot confit on the other side. The pork croqueta was serving hot and crispy, and tender and meaty inside. And upon biting into the crispy "tortilla" the runny quail egg is pierced and mixes with the shallot confict. Looks like both of these are on the a la carte menu, and for good reason. I could probably make a meal of eating several of these, each!

          Salad: This was a dish that arrived compliments of the kitchen. A salad of endive, blood orange segments, mint, other herbs, red onion, marcona almonds, and thyme yogurt. Light, refreshing, seasonal. I could have used a little more yogurt on mine, as it was a little bit difficult to compose a "perfect" bite each time. Overall, I found this salad a little busy, and wished there were a little bit less going on, especially in the herb department. I believe this is on the a la carte menu as well.

          First: Hamachi crudo with red sorrel, olive soil, crispy fried garlic chips. Amazing. The olive soil offered just the right amount of olive flavor per bite, so that the delicate nature of the fish still shone through. I would definitely get this again and saw that it was on the a la carte menu.

          Second: Fried, breaded artichoke hearts with in broth with a raw oyster, served with a grapefruit foam on top. You really can't go wrong with fried artichoke hearts. The oyster was an interesting pairing. I can see how some people might not like this combination, but I did, however I think latter courses were definitely more interesting and delicious. Not sure I would order this if offered the chance (though I do not believe it is on the regulra menu) as I preferred the hamachi crudo more.

          Third: Sardine three ways. First, was a grilled sardine with red sorrel and pickled cabbage and carrot. This slaw was piquant and definitely woke me up. The sardine was grilled to perfection. Second, was a crispy sandwich of sardine, where the fish appeared entirely encapsulated by two paper-thin slices of buttered and toasted bread. On top was pickled red onion and pickled red pepper. This was my favorite treatment of the three. Addictive, crispy, spicy, juicy, refreshing. The pickled garnishes gave it a bit of an Asian kick. Third, was a pickled sardine served with a delicate, creamy potato salad. Three wonderful, contrasting treatments of the same ingredient. This is great. (I don't think this is on the regular menu.)

          Fourth: They gave myself and my fiance two different courses. I received a grilled squid served in dashi with maitake mushroom. Perfectly cooked squid. Tender, sweet, juicy, flavorful, and everything you could want in squid. It's disappointing that squid is so often rubbery or tasteless, but not the case at Degustation. I liked this a lot but I think my fiance's dish was even better: chopitos (baby cuttlefish), breaded and fried, and served over a squid ink risotto, with garlic aioli. Fantastic blending of different flavors and textures. The risotto was creamy and hearty. I spied the chopitos on the regular menu, too.

          Fifth: We were both presented with soft scrambled eggs served in an empty eggshell, with a garnish of a thin slice of fried lamb bacon, "migas" (tiny perfect croutons), and freshly ground black pepper. Wonderful. I'm a sucker for soft scrambled eggs and this was one of the best, creamiest preparations I've had. I found the lamb bacon a tiny bit too salty, though. (I don't think this is on the regular menu.)

          Sixth: We then had grilled quail served with red beets, golden beets, thyme yogurt, candied pistachio, and candied ginger. The candied pistachio and ginger really pulled this dish together, and the interplay of the thyme yogurt, meaty quail, and candied nut was perfect in the mouth. I'm not a huge beet fan, though, and left about half of them on my plate. They were certainly high quality beets, but probably wasted on me! (Not on the regular menu, either, there is a grilled quail but the accompaniments are different, I believe.)

          Seventh: We were presented two different treatments of a poached egg. My poached egg was served over a mustard green puree, with crispy bits of serrano ham, a tempura battered maitake mushroom, and grated pecorino on top. Really nice with the ham mixing with the runny egg mixing with the mustard greens. My fiance received a poached egg with a big chunk of pork belly (fatty on one side, crispy on the other, as it should be), charred baby leeks from the Greenmarket, red quinoa, and morel mushrooms. The combination of the baby leek, morels, pork belly, and egg really put this one over the top for me. One of the best things we ate that evening. Fantastic and tasted like spring was just around the corner. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for morels. (My poached egg is on the regular menu, I believe the new one is its replacement?)

          Eighth: I was served a grilled sweetbread course with an amazing, spicy, eye-opening sauce consisting of white bean and chili pepper puree and lemon juice, topped with a dried lemon slice, and micro cilantro on top. Tender sweetbreads seemed to pair really nicely with such a spicy sauce (and lemon for acid) and I appreciated getting something to wake my tastebuds up so late in the tasting menu. My fiance thought this was fantastic. It was nearly as fantastic as the dish he received, the fois gras coca. Two small torchons of foie gras, on a toasted flatbread, with green onion in between, and a drizzle of balsalmic reduction. I thought this course was great. It was kind of like a deconstructed green onion pancake (like from a Chinese restaurant) with foie gras on top. Perfection. The foie gras dish is on the regular menu, not sure about the sweetbreads.

          Ninth: I was quickly getting very, very full, but they weren't done with us yet. For this last savory course, I received a blossom of rare, wagyu flank stank, thinly sliced, served with a gorgonzola sauce, and two discs of toasted, buttery rye bread, roasted red peppers on top. This is their signature "cheesesteak" dish and it is not difficult to see why it is so famous. This was amazing. Perfectly cooked and flavorful steak, with a nicely balanced cheese sauce (not too thick or overpowering). I almost didn't want to share this with my fiance, but if I hadn't, I would not have gotten a taste of his dish. He had the oxtail and potato cannelloni with crispy shallots and pickled apples. I loved the tender oxtail meat mixing with the soft and creamy potatoes, with the fried shallot chips on top, and pickled diced apples for acid. This was a bit heavy, especially after having half of the cheesesteak, but I powered through, and enjoyed every last bit, picking at the pickling apple cubes afterwards. (Cheesesteak is only available on the 10 course menu, sadly.)

          Tenth: carmelized bread pudding served with pink and regular grapefruit segments. Brioche bread soaked in cream with citrus zest overnight, and blowtorched to become crispy on the outside, and unbelieveably creamy and flavorful on the inside. If you've had the creme brulee battered french toast at Jane, you might know what I'm talking about. This dish was about ten times better. My fiance loved it and he doesn't even like creme brulee to begin with! Excellent.

          We were completely full by the end and overwhelmed with how good the food was, especially for the price of $75 for the ten course tasting. Degustation is a gem.

          3 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            It was great to read your report, and I feel a bit envious of some of the dishes you got, though I shouldn't be, because the meal my girlfriend and I had was probably just as great. It's interesting how much they've already changed the tasting menu in a few weeks. It's also interesting that they gave you and your fiance different courses, whereas they gave my girlfriend and me the same courses. Did you request different courses?

            1. re: Pan

              No, but they wanted to give us some items they were working on.

          2. I'm dying to see your pix!
            please hurry...............

            1 Reply
            1. re: tattud_gurl

              So sorry - DH deleted the pix off his phone :(

            2. How long did your meal take? I plan on going there in a few weeks but will also have other plans that night, so I want to plan accordingly.

              Also, how far in advance do you recommend making reservations? I plan on going on a Saturday night and am thinking about a 7pm reservation.

              6 Replies
              1. re: phr208

                phr, We went a couple weeks ago on a Friday night. It was busy. And our 10 course tasting menu took approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes from start to finish. The timing of the courses was quite sporadic. Some would come out quickly, and some would take upwards of 15 minutes between courses.

                The food was incredible. I loved it. My only beefs with Degustation were that it took too long between some courses and that it was REALLY warm in the restaurant to the point that it became a little uncomfortable.

                I'm not a huge fan of hanging out in a warm restaurant on a bar stool for close to 3 hours, but the food was so delicious that I'll definitely go back. The service was also impeccable. Perhaps, next time I visit I will just order several plates off the menu. That way we can get in and out a little quicker.

                1. re: Slob

                  and how far in advance should reservations be made for a saturday evening reservation?

                  1. re: phr208

                    I think we made ours about a week or two ahead of time.

                    1. re: phr208

                      I made mine on the Wednesday before, but we had to take a 10:pm time slot, so I'd reserve ASAP just to be safe

                  2. re: phr208

                    Go on a night when you don't have other plans. Tasting menus are the main entertainment of the night. As I recall, my reservations were for 7:30 PM and I got home around 10:20. Keeping in mind that my girlfriend was a little delayed in arriving and also how long it took us to pay and walk back from the restaurant, I'd say the meal took a bit less than 2 1/2 hours. This is slightly less time than Slob describes for his/her tasting menu, and we thought it was perfectly paced. It was also far from overly warm that night, which was a very cold night. I would really dislike an overheated room. The seating is not at typical bar stools, but is in my opinion quite a bit more comfortable than that. Your mileage may vary.

                    1. re: Pan

                      I'm probably fatter than you, Pan. Maybe that's why the stools got a little uncomfortable after close to 3 hours. The warmth of the place was really worse than the stools though. The fella across from us was so hot that I saw him wiping his bald head and face with a dampened napkin a couple times. It was not a cold evening when we went, and, perhaps, they didn't adjust properly for that after a spate of colder weather.

                      In any event, the food was incredible. The warmth of the room and sporadic timing of the dishes certainly would NOT keep me from returning. Perhaps, I would just order several items off the menu instead of waiting for 10 dishes to be delivered.