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Atera

Haven't seen much on this restaurant. I can't find the link to it, but Eater didn't even include it in its Fall Restaurant Openings.

If there's any restaurant opening this year that I'm excited about, it's Atera. I've never eaten Matt Lightner's food, but everything I've read and seen from his former restaurant, Castagna in Portland, makes me super excited for Atera.

Anyone got info on it? Will it be open by Thanksgiving?

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Atera
77 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. I think Atera isn't getting a lot of press because it's viewed simply as a new iteration of Compose (a failure on almost every level), rather than as a new restaurant. I, too, am eager to try Matt Lightner's food. Since everything always opens late, I wouldn't bet on when it'll be open.

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    Atera
    77 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sneakeater

      Atera has been on just about every "New Openings" list I've seen. When the original announcement of Matt Lightner's appointment was made, I recall September being mentioned for the re-opening. Obviously....

      I passed on Compose but would certainly consider going to Atera IF reports are positive.

      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

    2. Anybody hear of any new news on this place? I went to Compose (wasn't impressed), but am looking forward to trying out chef Lightner's food. Eater had news of September opening back in July, but obviously, it's been delayed.

      1 Reply
      1. Opened tonight ... http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/03/...

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        Atera
        77 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

        1 Reply
        1. re: squid kun

          the comments link it to Romera, but I think Atera has huge potential.

          Yes a bit pricey, but not outrageous for the # of courses. Lightner is an established chef in the U.S. as well.

        2. So Plotnicki sucks but the photos of Atera look good.

          I think I'm gonna like this place. Any reviews from people who have eaten there yet?

          http://www.opinionatedaboutdining.com...

          12 Replies
          1. re: wreckers00

            We have a reservation for this coming Friday and I'm happy to report back. We had a really excellent meal at Castagna last summer before Lightner left and have been eagerly awaiting this opening.

            1. re: slcorlis

              Great, would love to hear a report back!

            2. re: wreckers00

              Judging from a recent dinner, Atera has a long way to go. Some dishes made us want to go back, the wine service didn't.

              When you walk in, the feel is very much like the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare -- you're suddenly surprised and invigorated to be standing right there in the kitchen.

              Out of a number of "tastes" at the beginning, one was excellent, an edible faux razor clam shell, with razor clam inside. The rest were good (except for two that were decidedly unappetizing: a too rich fake quail's egg made of, I think, aioli and cream; and a savory granola coated in black sesame butter).

              The main part of the tasting menu felt a little inconsistent -- 2 of the 8 savory dishes were outstanding: a beet "ember", where the beet had achieved an amazing brittleness, inspirationally paired with shellfish sauce and trout roe; and a brilliant fluke and onion dish, where the raw fish had been shredded with a scallop shell and where the textures were soft-silky and the saucing deeply savory. They should bottle the sauce! This fluke dish and the razor clam amuse bouche earlier managed to be both beautiful to look at and eat.

              The other savory courses were mostly good, but less compelling than the fluke and beet were, and their elements didn't always pull together. There were a couple of jarring, sickly-sweet accompaniments: dried pear skin (more hiking trip than fine dining) with pigeon, and a root beer foam-froth with lamb collar.

              One of the uniformly light, ice-cream-centric series of desserts was great - chunks of cocoa 'coal' smoking cold with goat's milk ice cream. A 'banana split' was fun. But a sablé cookie dough encasing a bergamot sorbet tasted like a bad mochi. It was more about look than taste.

              Overall, menu-wise, we were reminded of Mugaritz, where Lightner has worked. There was the same idea of serving a "surprise" dish (at Atera, though, its main element is pretty easy to guess), and there was a similar need for editing. The 2 NY restaurant tasting menus we were most reminded of were those at Brooklyn Fare and Roberta's.

              Unfortunately, our dinner was also overshadowed by a truly strange experience ordering wine. Unlike similar long tasting menus in Europe, where the restaurants do not make a big deal about ordering a single bottle for the entire meal, Atera is very insistent about the need to "drink something sparkling, followed by a white, followed by a light red, followed by a fuller red, followed by a dessert wine"! As Atera doesn't serve any wines by the glass yet, this approach is even more annoying, especially if you're a couple and don't feel like ordering four or five half bottles of wine.

              Anyhow, we ordered a half bottle of champagne and a bottle of red (teroldego grape) that I'd read about and very much wanted to try. We asked the sommelier about the red, who referred us to the GM, who described it as light. Later, the GM suddenly popped up next to us with a different bottle of red (nebbiolo) and, without telling us the price of the bottle but saying that it was cheaper, he said it would be lighter and go better with the unspecified food. We went with it, but it was strange to be told to order a different wine five minutes after discussing and ordering the first wine. Then when we tasted the nebbiolo, which we should have realized was never going to be a light red, we felt like we'd been pushed into a wine that simply wasn't any more suitable and we told the GM as much. To do him justice, he then said he was very happy to bring us the wine we originally ordered and to not charge us for the nebbiolo. However, the bottle he brought us, already decanted, was not the wine we ordered, even if it was from the same producer! The Atera wine list only listed one wine from that producer, a much more interesting, amphora-aged wine from a different year, and the wine we were served was the same producer's more pedestrian, entry-level wine, not on the list. Fortunately, since I had read about the producer, I could immediately point out that this wasn't the wine we had ordered. The GM then went away and came back with the correct wine, surprisingly quickly, and joked about the mistake rather than apologizing. Ha! Not that funny.

              Aside from the frankly incompetent and shady wine service we received, the servers also had a bad habit of trying to take away my food when I clearly hadn't finished. They did it three times, and even told me I should pace myself, not eat everything! This was quite rude. The chefs (who sometimes serve you) and servers also fail to fully describe many of the beautiful herbs on the dishes, apparently so much a part of Lightner's cooking, unless you press them to do so. The chefs were the most charming people to interact with, though, and we felt badly for them because they were clearly working hard and are passionate and the rest of the team is letting them down. Dinner for 2 with wine at Atera is going to set you back at least $500 (probably closer to $700) and for that price the restaurant needs to be better! Otherwise, people will be heading elsewhere.

              1. re: johannabanana

                Based your post, it seems that your experience was more a series of miscommunication rather than "incompetent and shady wine service."

                Reading your post carefully and looking at the Atera wine list online (which I also know from the old Compose list and from having eaten at Atera), there is only one teroldego by Foradori that you could have ordered (I believe that the ones that are not amphora-aged would work better with your food at Atera than the one you ordered, and especially for such a recent year as the one that is on the Atera list, the not-amphora-aged bottling would be showing better right now - but that is a personal choice). Did you order that wine because you thought that it would be good with the food or because you were curious and wanted to try it even if it does not go with the food? I don't think that it would go with most of the dishes at Atera, but I personally don't always care about pairing food and wine so that could have been a choice that you wanted to make.

                Also, I am not sure what you asked them to do to get an answer like "drink something sparkling, followed by a white, followed by a light red, followed by a fuller red, followed by a dessert wine"? Did you try to ask them how one would order wines from their list if one wanted to do a pairing oneself? And why did you not elect to do their wine pairing?

                Not sure which nebbiolo they tried to give you instead (again, I don't think that the wine you actually ordered would work with the food, but that really is a very personal choice) - and I am not sure why you dismissed it just because it was a nebbiolo - because there are actually quite a few nebbiolos that I think would work with some of the dishes, especially the skate, the squab and the lamb collar (well, essentially all the main dishes).

                I am in no way affiliated with Atera, and I am not in the wine business at all (it is just a hobby). Unlike Steve Plotnicki, I don't know the owner of Atera or the chef personally at all so this is just my personal opinion. But I know something about wine pairing and just thought that your experience is very different from mine and did not want your post to deter others from eating there because I am not sure your experience is the norm.

                1. re: Nexus7

                  Nexus7, I see you are new to Chowhound. Welcome! I would appreciate hearing more details about your experience at Atera vis-a-vis the dishes you were served. Thanks.

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  1. re: RGR

                    I am not comfortable commenting publicly about restaurants that I have only eaten at once.

                  2. re: Nexus7

                    First things first: I want to say that Atera very professionally contacted my husband and made up for our disappointment by hospitably inviting us back. Clearly our experience was unfortunate and unusual. I imagine Atera had read my post but they made no mention of it. However, given that we accepted their invitation to return, I didn't want to be mean-spirited and did ask Chowhound some days ago (in vain) to edit my last post so that it not mention the wine.

                    To respond to Nexus7, we chose the Foradori Sgarzon for three reasons: we had been eager to try one of Foradori's amphora-aged wines having read about them (http://notdrinkingpoison.blogspot.com...); her amphora-aging supposedly had remarkable results with the teroldego grape, meaning the Sgarzon might be appropriate at least for a good part of the menu; and the mark-up was very reasonable ($70 for a wine that costs about $50 retail).

                    We tried all three wines we were brought and I feel the Sgarzon we ordered was the best option of the three. In fact, both teroldegos were left with us for the rest of our meal. The Sgarzon had a lot more finesse and elegance - the structure was amazing and it tasted fresher. I myself didn't write that one was inferior to the other--I did write "entry-level"--but the Sgarzon has been aged in amphorae, that vineyard is special etc. Anyhow, the Sgarzon was the wine on the wine list, and the first Foradori wine we were brought was not--without any mention of it being different, let alone more appropriate.

                    What prompted the sommelier's suggestion of ordering a number of different wines was our asking him what the menu would be like (as the menu is not printed before you eat, but is given to you at the end of your meal). In fact, neither the Sgarzon nor the nebbiolo was a perfect match for the entire tasting menu but I do think the Sgarzon was just as suitable as the nebbiolo, and to our minds the substitution didn't make a lot of sense. (In the future, we'd probably choose a light red, or an orange wine--we eat about once a year at l'Arpège and almost always get a bottle of Clos Rougeard red for their tasting menu, which suits us at least.). I'd heard about the pairings (although they weren't offered to us) but we wouldn't have chosen to take them as they cost $90 a person and we really prefer to taste how a bottle evolves over a meal. Regarding being offered the nebbiolo, it was obviously odd not to be offered that wine at the time of ordering but only later when we'd started eating, didn't have a wine list to look at anymore etc.

                    We are looking forward to going back and would have looked forward to doing so before if judging by the food alone (but, for us, eating out is about more than the food).

                    1. re: johannabanana

                      "First things first: I want to say that Atera very professionally contacted my husband and made up for our disappointment by hospitably inviting us back. Clearly our experience was unfortunate and unusual. I imagine Atera had read my post but they made no mention of it"

                      That's because I sent them a link of your post. My blog started getting a lot of hits from your review so I sent it to them. But your post demonstrates why I always tell people to pass on wine pairings when offered (even when they are talking about 1/2 bottles). I'm not tryng to insult my sommerlier pals but I find they rarely match up to the food. It's much easier to bring/buy a bottle of something you know you are going to enjoy and then buy the odd glass if a particular course needs something different.

                      The only time I have found that wine pairings work well is if the party is large enough to consume an entire bottle of wine with each course, and you tell the sommelier to choose a specific bottle from the list for each course.

                      www.opinonatedaboutdining.com

                      1. re: Steve Plotnicki

                        Steve, it wasn't exactly a pairing that we were offered. At the beginning of our meal, we ordered both a half bottle of champagne and a full bottle of red, so that one would follow the other. I generally agree about your wine approach, though.

                        1. re: johannabanana

                          I personally disagree - but it is just personal taste. When I go to restaurants like these in NYC, the first time I always go for the pairing - to get an idea of the palate of the somm there. But I also spent a lot of time studying various wine lists to get an idea of how people approach their beverage program.

                          In France, I would do it differently. Honestly, because we don't care that much about wine pairing the way it is done here in the US.

                          Also, pairings would make you discover more things - I learned a lot about Italian micro-breweries from eating at Per Se and at Marea. Not something that I would have learned on my own, but I am glad that I did.

                          1. re: Nexus7

                            Johanna - If you had elected the wine pairing at Atera, I believe the red wine served with the lamb collar is a red Saumur (like your Clos Rougeard - though these are not exactly what I would call light reds, it is the most full-bodied red served with the pairing).

                            Jancis Robinson claims that sherry goes well with lots of small dishes, you can read about it here: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/article... (but what she describes food-wise is not Atera food).

                            Personally, I would not elect an orange wine but it seems that our tastes are very different. I would not elect an orange wine in most restaurants unless it is an orange wine that I know personally very well, and that I know would actually open up within 1-2 hours (otherwise, you'll be drinking your orange wine with your cheese course or after desserts). In my experience, the orange wines that I own tend to open up so slowly that ordering them in restaurants is a bad idea, well unless you can call them in advance and ask them to decant it in the morning or even the night before.

                  3. re: johannabanana

                    A well written and insightful review, johanna.

                    I agree that the wine service sounds quite shady and this is absolutely inexcusable: "the servers also had a bad habit of trying to take away my food when I clearly hadn't finished. They did it three times, and even told me I should pace myself, not eat everything!"

                    Your dishes sound so interesting, though, even if not all of them worked! W/o taking into acct the wine service, would you go back?

                2. Adam Platt weighs in. Looks like I'm prescient. (I would add a wink emoticon hear if I knew how to do that).

                  http://nymag.com/restaurants/reviews/...

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Steve Plotnicki

                    Sorry to ruin this (good) conversation with a mundane question (but I can't find the answer elsewhere) - what was the cost of dinner (tax/tip/etc.) per person... I'm going regardless, just curious.

                      1. re: Dr. Greer

                        The tasting menu is $150 per person (excluding drinks, tax, and tip) for about 22 courses.

                      2. re: Steve Plotnicki

                        Hadn't seen this review. Now I'm even more keen to check this place out next week.

                        http://endoedibles.com

                      3. Just want to provide a quick update on the beverage situation based on a visit last night. Don't know if anything changed because of the departure of their wine director this past week, but wines by the glass were available and there was absolutely no pressure to order any alcohol whatsoever. Everyone seem perfectly happy to let me nurse my rhubarb-beer cocktail through all 17 plates if I wanted to.

                        As for the food, I think the reviews in New York magazine and the New Yorker were pretty accurate. This is challenging, sui generis eating, chock full of contrasts (temperature, texture, flavor) and lacking easy reference points. The experience as a whole was immensely enjoyable, with an ultra friendly yet very pro staff who could explain as much or as little as the customer wanted. The tech aspects of the prep were mind-blowing (Lightner called it more "arts and crafts" than cooking when he dropped off a dessert) and even watching the team make coffee and tea was great fun. Would this be the first place I'd drop $150 on my maiden voyage to NYC? Maybe not, but I don't think any of the old-time 'Hounds here will be bored in the least.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Andy T.

                          Have a reservation there for the end of June - greatly anticipating it. I wonder if they'll have a replacement for Alex LaPratt by then (but he's certainly built an impressive list there so I'm sure things will be good either way). Will endeavor to post a detailed report.

                          1. re: Andy T.

                            Andy T. - You make a good point about reference points and the role they play in helping someone evaluate a meal properly. If you are someone who has done their fare share of dining at modernist restaurants in Europe, you would find no shortage of reference points to in Lightner's cuisine. However, if you have not, I can understand how you can see the cuisine as sui generis.

                            1. re: Steve Plotnicki

                              You, sir, are correct: the sum total of my European dining experiences is Parisian brasseries - tripe sausages, shellfish platters and the like. I have also not been to other "counter" places in NYC such as Brooklyn Fare and Ko, so perhaps those may have similarities to Atera. We did go to Robuchon in midtown many years back; not many of those dishes contained lichen or looked like a rock!

                            2. re: Andy T.

                              Yeah, just wanted to weigh in here too that we went last week and had no trouble ordering a variety of wines by the glass. They recommended we stick with whites which worked out well. Our favorite with this food was actually a Greek wine, (hope I am getting this right) Sigales Assyrtiko Santorini 2011.

                              Re; the food and overall experience, we loved the layout and setup, the chef and staff were very engaging, and we had a lot of fun. I thought some of the dishes were brilliant, others were misses. It's that kind of place so go if you like places that take bigger risks. A few of the dishes were over-seasoned and I thought the sauce with the quail was a little gluey (a pet peeve of mine with molecular gastronomy). BUT we loved many of the amuse, the beet dish, the seafood dishes (including a soup with "noodles" made of squid, a scallop disk and a fluke dish). The final dish, a pork with wheatgrass sauce, was a fascinating combination but they definitely needed to go easier on the wheatgrass. Presentations were of course stunning. I would definitely go back, was an interesting meal.

                              1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                                Yes, there is nothing sui generis about the cooking. I have been to lots of "modernist" cuisine restaurants both here and in France (Per Se, WD-50, Pierre Gagnaire, etc.), also have been to lots of traditional restaurants (Lutece under Andre Soltner, Lespinasse under Gray Kuntz, L'Ambroisie, Ducasse (both new and old), Robuchon (both in Paris and NY) etc.), and this was the worst meal I have had in a while. Not that everything was bad; some were good, but some the dishes were absolutely atrocious. It was the only time - in all the restaurants I mentioned and more - when I ate maybe only 40% of the food.

                            3. I'll try to post more later, but, in a word, my meal on 31 July 2012 was spectacular. The dishes were incredibly inventive, interesting, beautifully presented, and, in the main, delicious - but delicious in a different way than one is used to using that word for. Everything has been thought through, including the plates on which the dishes are served. Service was efficient and courteous. Wines by the glass are available and the sommelier is extremely knowledgeable and a pleasure to discuss the wines with. To me, the restaurant that it is most similar to is Agape Substance in Paris. They have in common that they both serve black food on black slate dishes, at any rate. (Gagnaire is a totally different sort of place and, on my last visit, incredibly disappointing - it can happen to anyone.) I find Atera a better bet than either Brooklyn Fare or Momofuku Ko. The former is more conventional and there doesn't seem to be the same level of intellectual effort going into thinking about the meal as a whole. For sheer deliciousness, nothing will ever beat Ko's grated foie gras in my book, but there isn't enough variety from visit to visit. I don't know what the new Eleven Madison Park is like, nor the new WD-50. But Atera has raised the bar.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: wea74

                                We also thought the meal most reminded us of Agape and had a conversation with the chef about Agape...

                                1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                                  Oh, how interesting. If you want to expand on the conversation you had I'd be very interested to read about it. Have you been to Noma? I haven't but I'd love to know how people would compare and contrast the two restaurants. I started a board titled Atera vs Noma but no one has responded.

                                  1. re: wea74

                                    Nope, haven't been to Noma (or Brooklyn Fare either)...If I remember the convo was about the fact that NYC restaurants tend not to push the envelope really. I appreciated that Atera is taking risks.

                                  2. re: The Cookbook Addict

                                    Agape and Agape Substance are two different restaurants. Which one did you go to?

                                  3. re: wea74

                                    I've been to Agape Substance recently, I think overall Atera was much better, my only complaint is that there is way too much food at Atera.

                                    1. re: Ricky

                                      I think the best of Agape Substance is comparable to the best of Atera, but Atera achieves that best more consistently. I agree that there's too much food at Atera (my dining companion thought 3 fewer courses would do it), but I was impressed by how well-conceived the sequence of courses was. Brooklyn Fare, in contrast, had a jumble of courses with no clear direction.

                                      1. re: wea74

                                        I'm a young guy, so Atera was the perfect amount of food for me. Such restaurants could very easily accommodate smaller portions; I can easily see how cutting courses which would compromise artistic "integrity" or "message". For example, high-end Japanese sushi-ya will do this (if you've seen the Jiro documentary).

                                        It's not like you would be getting less value, because in these settings, the adage of quality over quantity really applies.

                                  4. repeat from a different thread but fits better here. a bit of my atera thoughts

                                    I agree with above posters that it sort of reads like a 2 star review- my own thought however, is with a place as expensive/fine-dining oriented as Atera is, perhaps the baseline expectation is that this is a 4-star style restaurant. So, in other words, the review is an explanation of why its 'only' a 3 star restaurant as opposed to fulfilling its potential to be 4 stars.

                                    personally, i loved atera though i agree with some of wells' qualms about the starter plates. i'd be interested to hear from others on this, but i personally find atera to be closest to the tasting menu at Sean Brock's McCrady's, with a few dishes strikingly similar (in a good way). beyond that, i'd say atera has had the most impressive desserts of any of the similarly styled restaurants i've been to (ie ko, bk fare).

                                    one thing i will say about atera, compared to some more modernist restaurants, is that the food is *substantive.* i often find that the really beautiful food comes at the price of heat; deconstruction tends to take away from that umami satisfaction of each dish. that was not the case for me here. even dishes that are cold are intentionally quite cold, making the dishes feel satisfying as opposed to a dish that got warm because it was being dressed up.

                                    that said, a couple of the starting dishes do falter (though not all). in particular, i remember the foie peanut disappoint me- i think its biggest problem is making it look like the peanut. the dish has a fun texture and taste, but when i see a peanut i expect that roasty-saltiness, and then you eat it and, because it isn't high in sodium, it seems like a let down. if they'd just called it a pate (or whatever term they choose) i may have ended up likiing it a lot more.

                                    this was way longer than i intended it to be. apologies!

                                    1. Had a fabulous dinner last night at Atera. For the record, the foie gras peanut was not served (maybe as a result of unfavorable reviews). Beet ember, razor clam & squid noodles were excellent, as were the lamb tartare, hake in wildflower honey, barbequed sweetbread, & Waygu strip loin...among others. On par with Brooklyn Fare, for less shock to the wallet ($165/person) and, at least for us, easier to get to. The sommelier was knowledgeable & attentive (wine pairing is now $110).
                                      Our only negative was the obviously flawed personal hygiene of one of the chefs directly handling the food we were about to eat. Such are the dangers of watching what happens in a restaurant kitchen.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: boredough

                                        Awesome. How were the desserts? I think they're amongst the best in that price bracket.

                                        - Yesterday I went over some of the older Brooklyn Fare photos (I haven't eaten there), and my impression is that Atera's cuisine is more highly wrought, with more modernist sensibilities. Brooklyn Fare's courses are very refined but less complex for the person eating it, more like luxury-grade comfort food, but that's what makes their format effective at showing fresh, high-quality ingredients. Would be curious to know if you think this contrast is accurate.

                                        - I don't see the appeal of the beet dish. People love it, but I don't get it. I found the seafood sauce really cheesy.

                                        - Hake: we as a species really are eating our way down the food chain. Once considered a trash fish, it is now served in NYC's finest restaurants—I have bought it several times and it actually is really easy to cook and has a nice chewy, full mouthfeel.

                                        1. re: calf

                                          The desserts were wonderful, although to be honest, I was flagging from all the food by that time and could not totally appreciate them all. My favorites were the salsify churro, toasted grain ice cream, & black walnut chocolate. For an extra $10, my husband had the "cheese course" - just one small slice of a tasty sheep's milk cheese from Vermont (sorry I don't remember more than that). However instead I think it would have been a nice gesture for Atera to serve this cheese in place of one of the desserts (since there were several), instead of having a surcharge. As for your analysis of the difference between BF & Atera, you are right in that the Atera preparations are more complex; the BF dishes more straight forward, as evidenced by the number of sashimi-like dishes. Youir comment about the hake is a good example of the difference between the 2 chefs. BF's ingredient-centric approach would probably mitigate against ever serving such a fish; while Lightner took this "trash fish" and, by playing with it, turned it into something special.