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Pete Wells has awarded three stars to Atera

kosmose7 Jul 17, 2012 11:25 AM

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/din...

Having heard from Atera staff that The New York Times review would be released this week, I had to move my reservation from next week to tomorrow, because I didn't wanna dine when it becomes too crowded. I guess I was a bit too late. Wish me luck! :)

  1. v
    valcfield Aug 2, 2012 06:41 AM

    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 Reply
    1. re: valcfield
      q
      quddous Aug 2, 2012 10:48 AM

      When you have something valid to say then it's never too long. Great analaysis.

    2. c
      calf Jul 18, 2012 11:54 PM

      I made a reservation last week. I'm eager with anticipation and ready for a challenge.

      3 Replies
      1. re: calf
        q
        quddous Aug 1, 2012 08:47 PM

        How long ahead of time do they accept reservations?

        I was looking on opentable yesterday to book for September 17th and it seems they take reservations that far ahead in time and that they are fully booked.

        1. re: quddous
          c
          calf Aug 2, 2012 06:15 AM

          1 month, I had used OpenTable and got my seat which was 2.5 weeks out, probably due to someone cancelling (I had been checking the site over several days and that time slot opened up). Aside from that, there wasn't much choice. Try calling them, there might be more options that way.

          1. re: quddous
            estufarian Aug 2, 2012 06:31 AM

            2 months (maybe 60 days).
            However, it seems like they confirm 48-72 hours ahead, so cancellations get posted about 2 days ahead. I was watching for those when I went - just don't recall the exact time they were posted.

        2. salvati Jul 18, 2012 10:40 AM

          I was going to read the review and then I noticed the picture of one of the chefs preparing food on a plate with tweezers. That, I'm afraid, turned me off to the restaurant despite the three stars. Food and tweezers just don't go together in my opinionated mind.

          6 Replies
          1. re: salvati
            estufarian Jul 18, 2012 11:53 AM

            Tweezers have replaced the traditional 'fingers' (used in many other places).
            Given the open kitchen, tweeezers are probably more acceptable to many diners!

            1. re: salvati
              ellenost Jul 18, 2012 12:38 PM

              Last year there was an article in the NY Times that EMP uses tweezers for its beautiful and intricate plating..

              1. re: ellenost
                estufarian Jul 18, 2012 12:42 PM

                As does Brooklyn Fare (again an open kitchen)

                1. re: ellenost
                  salvati Jul 18, 2012 04:50 PM

                  I'm sure the plates look beautiful, though something about "plating" with tweezers just doesn't jibe with good eating. Call me old fashioned, but when I go to an art gallery, I usually don't eat the art. .

                  1. re: salvati
                    estufarian Jul 18, 2012 06:25 PM

                    Although I've heard it rumoured that some art is no longer painted with fingers - they have these things called brushes!
                    OK that's probably not a good analogy - but it did amuse me.

                    1. re: estufarian
                      q
                      quddous Aug 1, 2012 08:47 PM

                      I thought it was a pretty good analogy actually.

                      I agree though that food that is plated with tweezers is usually too pretentious and sometimes looks much much better than it tastes.

              2. f
                fm1963 Jul 18, 2012 09:27 AM

                The review actually dissuaded me from trying Atera. Wells seemed to imply that a lot of dishes looked good but weren't all that delicious. Three stars for innovation I guess.

                8 Replies
                1. re: fm1963
                  gourmandish Jul 18, 2012 12:09 PM

                  I was there a couple of weeks ago and found it both innovative and delicious, plus the place had probably the best beverage pairing I've ever had anywhere. I can kind of understand how the "snacks" might not be to everyone's liking and I agree with Wells that the kitchen really hit its stride when the main dishes started coming out, but personally, I don't feel this should dissuade you at all. (I also liked some of the dishes that Wells professed not to like, so there you go).

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/857472

                  1. re: gourmandish
                    f
                    fm1963 Jul 18, 2012 12:40 PM

                    Good to know! I guess I'll try Atera and see for myself. Thanks for your first hand report.

                    1. re: gourmandish
                      estufarian Jul 18, 2012 12:41 PM

                      I totally endorse the comment on wine/beverage.
                      I don't recall a better pairing anywhere in North America (in 10 years).

                    2. re: fm1963
                      r
                      RGR Jul 18, 2012 01:57 PM

                      To me, the review read like a 2-star. He didn't just imply that some dishes didn't taste good, he actually said so with regard to the opening "snacks." Though he liked many of the main courses, he still found some negative things about them. His highest praise was for the desserts. So, it seems to me that you're reasoning as to why he gave it 3 stars is correct.

                      Despite the fact that there have been quite a few very positive reviews, I'm not convinced that I would like this food.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                      1. re: RGR
                        f
                        fm1963 Jul 18, 2012 02:23 PM

                        Right.. I have a preconception that Atera might be like Alinea which, in my experience, was more about showmanship than harmonious flavors. But hopefully I'm wrong.

                        Interesting though that Wells, perhaps correctly, characterized the NYC dining community as less adventurous that our counterparts in other cities.

                        "Wonder is not on the menu at most restaurants in New York, nor is it much in demand in this relentlessly pragmatic city. Wylie Dufresne and Paul Liebrandt are among the small corps of chefs busy keeping Manhattan supplied with new inventions. But on the whole, novelty-seeking adventurers have looked to Spain, to Scandinavia, to Chicago and to northern California."

                        1. re: fm1963
                          r
                          RGR Jul 18, 2012 02:56 PM

                          I'm not the most adventurous eater, so it always amazes me how much I like Liebrandt's cuisine at Corton (been there several times). I find it very complex but seriously delicious. As for Dufresne, I had no desire to go to WD-50 because I'm not into science experiments on the plate. However, when I heard that the food there had become more "normal," I finally went several months ago and loved it. Right after that, Wiley completely overhauled the menu. Now, looking at the new tasting menu, I'm not so sure I want to go again.

                          We've never been to Alinea.

                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                          1. re: fm1963
                            estufarian Jul 18, 2012 02:57 PM

                            I preferred Atera to Alinea. But then, I think Alinea still has too many 'gimmicks' (which I view as distractions). However, both are in my top 10 dining experiences in North America.
                            And I think we'd be worse off without either - both deserve a place in the dining landscape. I hope enough people agree so that both are potentially available to me - if only we had such a choice North of the Border!

                            1. re: estufarian
                              gourmandish Jul 18, 2012 03:08 PM

                              Hah... amen to that!

                      2. ellenost Jul 17, 2012 11:43 AM

                        So glad I've already made my reservation at Atera! Look forward to your report.

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