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Nov 24, 2012 06:55 AM

Should we add Corton to our foodie trip to NY?


We are two young foodies from Belgium and we'll be in New York next month. We know the city quite well - it's our third visit - and have been lucky enough to visit fantastic places in NY, such as Eleven Madison Park, Jean Georges, Perry St., Gotham Bar & Grill, Momofuku Ssam Bar and - maybe a little disappointing - Daniel, which be found a little stiff and not extremely exciting.

This time we'll be staying at our family in Brooklyn, so this means we can stay a little longer and visit restaurants we really dream of.

We made plans to eat at very different restaurants, but we are still looking for one great spot. These are our plans so far:

ABC Kitchen
Le Bernardin (lunch)
Pok Pok
The Nomad
Mission Chinese Food
Bouley (lunch)

We can have a reservation at Atera, but it seems quite similar to Noma, which we've experienced, so we'd like something else. Something young, flavorful and very 'new york'. Just as we've loved EMP, but their menus became so expensive... Would Corton be a good choice?
Corton looks really exciting, but people seem to have very mixed feelings about Corton. So... what should we do? We've also been looking at Blue Hill, Gramercy Tavern, Minetta Tavern & Annisa,.

Thanks so much!


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  1. Absolutely, yes, yes, yes. It has 2 Michelin stars for a reason, as much that guidebook is loved and hated.

    However, that would technically give you a third heavily French-influenced restaurant, so that's something to weigh. But definitely add some kind of fine dining to your trip, if you are into that kind of experience. Bouley and Le Bernardin are "old-guard" (but I don't mean that as an insult, it just means there's a kind of maturity and established style that comes with it), so if you want greater coverage there's no harm in forgoing one of these two.

    One thing--I'd consider switching Minetta Tavern into either ABC Kitchen or The NoMad; that will further increase your cuisine diversity.

    Are you interested in Japanese cuisine? NYC has seriously tons of offerings, and sub-genres of Japanese, at all price ranges.

    5 Replies
    1. re: calf

      Thanks for your thoughts. We were aiming for some sort of mix of New York classics (indeed like Bouley, Le Bernardin) and more modern places, that's why I was interested in a modern fine dining place such as Corton. It doesn't look very French to me though? But I'm always having trouble with the term 'French cuisine': I wouldn't consider EMP or Jean Georges truly French restaurants for example.
      Are you saying that there is any resemblance between the ABC Kitchen & The Nomad ? The Nomad sounded like a great, more casual alternative for the EMP-style. And ABC looked just very pure & natural.
      I might be interested in Japanese cuisine - we were looking for a lunch as Sushi Yasuda. But I've never been really impressed with sushi so far, so I wasn't really sure about it.
      Thanks for Minetta Tavern-advice btw! :) We will make sure to follow it!

      1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

        What do you mean by "truly French"? Jean Georges is French fusion, which is a type of French cuisine, and of course Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is French (from Alsace). Do you mean it's not classic French?

        1. re: Pan

          I mean that - as you rightly pointed out as well - "French cuisine" is a very general description. So the days that French cuisine meant "a dinner like every high end restaurant in Paris is serving" are luckily over. French cuisine doesn't equal heavy sauces, lot's of cream, the obligatory slice of foie gras etc anymore. When I look at menus from let's say the 80's it seems to me like every fine dining place was serving the same menu. That's no longer the case and when a restaurant is described as French I often have no clue whatsoever what kind of style to expect.
          Maybe just Daniel is still doing it the old, classical way. And that's why I thought it was, though terrifically executed, of little interest.

      2. re: calf

        Corton is incomparably better than Atera. (And also nothing like it.)

        Minetta Tavern is someplace you simply MUST eat at (if you can get in).

        Ko is more solemn than unfriendly: even though you're sitting at a kitchen counter, don't expect much interaction with the cooks.

        1. re: Sneakeater

          I've found it depends which of the cooks you happen to be in front of. I've had a couple of pretty friendly ones (as long as they're not in the middle of something) - seems to vary.

      3. Minetta Tavern screams NY to me and I assume you'll be ordering the steak for two, which is another very American menu item.

        You could squeeze in a weekday prix fixe lunch at 15 East or Yasuda I think, without breaking the bank.

        Also, consider the New York inspired tasting menu at Torrisi Italian Specialties. Or adding a very NY place like Babbo. They serve dinner every day but also lunch Tuesdays through Saturday.

        7 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Thanks Kathryn. I think we will squeeze in a lunch at Yasuda and an evening stop at Minetta Tavern.
          Do you have any experience with Corton?

          1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

            Unfortunately I don't. But I'd keep in mind the possibility of tasting menu fatigue!

            1. re: kathryn

              :-) Do you have any good New American alternatives, aside from EMP (that I love, but find to expensive) and Momofuku Ko (that sounds great, but very unfriendly) ?

              1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

                I did not find Ko to be unfriendly at all.

                1. re: rose water

                  Thanks; one reads so many opinions, and often they are just silly.
                  Big difference between lunch & dinner?

                  1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

                    Ko provides the fuller experience at lunch (maybe 5-6 more courses). Bottom line: if you can fit it in favorably to your itinerary (and get the res), go for lunch.

                    However, I think that it should be said, from my experience, (and agreed upon by most) that while the staff at Ko is not entirely unfriendly, they are quite far from the friendly standards that would be considered appropriate at most Michelin starred restaurants. For instance, although the cooks were happily willing to talk about the food and answer any questions about it without too much fuss, one could feel that there was little talk desired beyond that. Also, due to the no-photo policy the front of the house was constantly patrolling different angles of the diners like hawks. Of course, I should note that this is coming from the experience of a note-taker--I suppose I'm just more suspect because of that. Feeling leaning glances out of the corner of your eye can be very off-putting, but if you're, say, used to having a body guard, perhaps you won't mind.

                    Some people would convince you to avoid Ko because of service / stiff environment; I most certainly would not. However, you should most certainly not expect a Michelin-starred level (or standard level) of refinement or amiability from the staff.

                    1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

                      From their site:

                      dinner is a set tasting menu devised by the chef and his aides de camp, and it is usually about 10 courses long; at lunch the menu stretches out to 16 courses.

                      Also keep in mind how much more you'll be imbibing if you do pairings.

                      The chefs aren't unfriendly, maybe just a little brusque seeming. They are usually busy in the kitchen anyway, so long conversations aren't really what I aim for when I'm there.

          2. I haven't been to Noma, but I often question why some will say that "X might be too similar to Y" - at that level , every chef has (one hopes) their own personal voice, their own flavor profile, etc. While they might use many of the same modernist techniques, and even have somewhat similar styles, that's akin to saying why bother seeing the Cy Twombly or Franz Kline paintings at MoMA when you've already seen the Pollocks? Or why buy a Miles Davis album when you've already got one by Coltrane?

            In the end it's about the flavors, the textures, etc, and each chef is going to do their own thing. Unless Atera is importing all Scandinavian produce (and heck, even if they are) they're still going to be quite different, and provide very different experiences.

            Can you never dine at a modernist restaurant with a tasting menu again because you've been to Noma once? I would hope to experience the artistry of a number of different chefs in my lifetime, personally. Just because I've been to WD-50 it didn't stop me from going to Momofuku Ko or EMP or wherever. I've had omakases and/or kaisekis at Morimoto, Nobu, Kyo Ya, etc. Some might have been better than others, but none tainted or impeded on the enjoyment of another. Each was good for what it was. (Well, actually, I didn't care for all the selections on the Morimoto omakase - they're better a la carte - but whatever, you get my point...)

            But anyway, if you're looking for another fine dining option... calf made a good point in that you've got a couple of French places already on your list. And while I wouldn't classify Corton as -strictly- French, they do have a foot in that door. Babbo is a gem, and one of NYC's greats - I prefer them for dinner to the more limited lunch menu, personally, but rezzies can be hard to come by. For Japanese, which would provide a stark contrast to your other choices, the kaiseki menu (must be ordered when you reserve) at the aforementioned Kyo Ya is legendary among NYC foodies for good reason, and unless you travel to Japan regularly likely very different than anything you've had - though there is a decent Japanese population in Brussels, I don't think there's anything in Belgium quite on that level, or even aiming for it.

            Actually, seeing as you live - what, at most a few hours' drive to Paris? - I'd be a bit curious as to why have any French restaurants on your itinerary at all. Granted, that goes against my intial point regarding Noma to some degree - but Noma is just one restaurant. You're probably inundated with French food on a regular basis - it's kind of like, I probably wouldn't go to a "New American" resto were I visiting Antwerp. If one even existed there.

            7 Replies
              1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

                Suppose that's understandable. Althought these days it seems that "finding chefs who staged at Noma" is nearly as common in NYC as "finding chefs who worked for Tom Collichio at some point."

                In which case, of the three you listed, Corton would be at the bottom of my list - not that they're bad, just that EMP and Momo Ko (I assume you're talking about Ko) are much more exciting.

                You could also try for Blanca, the "new tasting menu kid in town" - the offshoot of Roberta's. Though I guess rezzies are very tough there. And of course Brooklyn Fare, though the $$ there might be a little too high.

                Another places to consider - not for a super-fancy meal but perhaps in lieu of Blue Hill, Gramercy, etc (which are fine restaurants, mind you) maybe give ACME a whirl - yes, it's in fact the original co-chef from Noma, but doing something completely and utterly different. In fact, he left because he and Redzepi were on such completely different pages it never would have worked out. They're very much a New American place, if he retains little touches of his New Nordic palate - he's quite fond of char/smoke, more likely to use a vinaigrette to dress a dish than a butter sauce, etc, but beyond that nothing similar. Much more hearty/rootsy food, and a younger/hipper ambience for sure than any of the others.

                Marc Forgione might be another one to look into - again, hearty / rustic at heart, but with a playful twist (more playful than ACME, I'd say) - he does a tasting menu of his greatest hits for a pretty reasonable price as well. Fun place.

                1. re: sgordon

                  Know the chef of ACME; he had MR in Copenhagen, right?
                  Marc Forgione seems like a good idea for American restaurant. So does Momofuku Ko of course, but I keep reading that it's quite hostile against clients, and call me traditional, but I like a friendly staff. True of myth?
                  Blanca & Brooklyn Fare are quite expensive indeed: I prefer exploring some different restaurants this time than one big splash, like we did last time at Daniel.

                  1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

                    Momofuku Ko's staff is perfectly friendly. I have never had any issues with customer service there. I think it's definitely worth looking into, the food there is quite exiting and innovative.

                    1. re: oliviervandenbroeck

                      Yeah, it's Mads Refslund from MR. Though it's very different from what he did there from what I gather - much more casual, and with a NewAm local/seasonal focus.

                      As I said in the other part of the thread above, I've had varied experiences with staff at Momo. They've never been mean, but sometimes just not terribly talkative - which is fine, I'm there to talk with my dining companions, anyway. The sommelier has always been very nice, though.

                      That said, as I pointed out to someone else on another thread - have a Plan B. You won't know until a week before if you'll get the Momo rez, and by then most other places would be booked already.

                      I like Forgione quite a lot - and his signature dishes (BBQ oysters, chili lobster, halibut "proposal") are all world-class, and I think all on the tasting menu (some selections rotate) - IIRC, the tasting is $99 for six or so courses (plus a few amuses, etc.)

                      1. re: sgordon

                        I've been watching the reservations page for Momofuku Ko the last days - to figure out how (im)possible it was to score two seats. But it doesn't seem so hard at all?

                2. re: sgordon

                  I agree completely with what you are saying, it's just that Noma has a very particular style and that it's a restaurant with a very strong 'personality' that influences its pupils - such as matt lightner - very profoundly. In what I see, Atera's way of cooking, presenting, serving. is very similar to René Redzepi's. Which means that it will undoubtedly be interesting, but I'd prefer to experience some other modernist cooking when I'm in NY, such as EMP or Momofuku or Corton. Noma's cuisine is so peculiar, that if you're not doing it all perfectly, you might just be stuck with 'an intersting meal', and that's why I wanted to skip Atera.

                  As I said to Calf, I often disagree with the term 'French cuisine'. Daniel: that's French cuisine to me, and I'm a little sorry we've spent an evening there last time. But for exemple Le Bernardin seems much more 'seafood' and 'strongly Asian influenced' to be considered just classical French.
                  Parisian restaurant landscape, which we know quite well, has very much changed over the last years. Of course there are still classical French monuments, such as Taillevent, Le Meurice of Bristol. Restaurants that I often consider way too expensive and very little dynamic.
                  But the restaurants we like to visit in Paris (Chateaubriand, Agapé Substance, Rino, Astrance, Le Dauphin...) have a very different, natural, pure style. A style that's a real contrast to classical French cooking. And a style that I don't see very often in NY otherwise. So I have no problem with visiting a French trained restaurant in NY; it will be very different than the ones we know in Europe.

                3. Corton is excellent; I had an excellent dinner there in August, and their current menu looks great too. I've had two recent meals at Atera (loved the first more than the second). I'll probably return in the spring. Bouley and Momofuku Ko are two of my most favorite restaurants anywhere; heading back to Ko for dinner in a few days. The NoMad is excellent too; I adore their roast chicken for two. You should also consider Jungsik; terrific food and excellent service. I'm not a fan of Daniel either.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ellenost

                    We'll consider Momofuku, and we look really forward now to our meals at The Nomad and at Bouley. Thanks :)

                  2. Back to your original question of Corton - I would say it is a good choice of young and flavorful, though not necessarily 'New York'. You say you have extensive experience with Parisian dining--have you enjoyed your experiences at Gagnaire?

                    IMO, Gramercy Tavern is a fine ambassador of the NY high-end dining scene.

                    Blue Hill is a great New York establishment but I doubt it will do much for your palate, which is probably spoiled with much better produce from your neck of the woods.

                    Though I have yet to visit, I would highly recommend Blanca.

                    For another kitchen counter experience, The Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare makes a very serious case for the most convincing food in all of New York. This is sad, because I have very little inclination to go through the hassle of returning. I would sooner return to Ko, as the drop-off in hospitality is less severe. Interestingly enough, I would say that the food at Brooklyn Fare is executed at a higher level, but the food at Ko is over all more 'different' (in that I encounter Brooklyn Fare-type influences in many other restaurants/chefs, though not so much with Ko.)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ramenbound

                      I've never been to Pierre Gagnaire's so far, so I'm afraid I can't compare. I've been avoiding the Parisian three starred Michelin restaurants: they too ofter disappoint. This being said; I think Pierre Gagnaire is a whole different story and I would love to visit.
                      Thanks for the other suggestions and remarks!