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Atera - Really??

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edwardspk Apr 20, 2014 01:50 PM

Finally made it to Atera and was really looking forward to a spectacular meal. My partner and I had a prime spot right in the middle of the u-shaped bar that divides the kitchen/serving area from the dining area. I did like the look and feel of the restaurant. It was rather minimalist in a modern Japanese sort of way and the rock music, while on the loud side, didn't detract from the experience too much (although i did have to raise my voice for my dining companion to hear me, even though he was seated right beside me).

I will give props to the presentation of the food and the creativity of the ingredients and how they were combined. Everything is plated beautifully. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the many dishes we had were creatively and artistically presented, but rather lacking in flavor. Exceptions were the duck liver with apple and the dumpling. The sorbets were also quite good, but given their tartness I think they would have done better had they been served before some of the other dessert courses. For just about all the other dishes, the flavor ranged from just ok to not very good. In fact, some of our dishes, even though they were small, we didn't finish eating because we just didn't think they tasted good.

When it comes to cost, I'm not shocked by big bills, and I don't mind paying for good food. I've lost count of the number of times I've eaten at Per Se, enjoyed Masa (back when it had 4 stars), am a frequent diner at Jean-Georges and have eaten at most of the Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris and Tokyo. So I know - and apprecate - how much a good meal can cost. Dinner for the 2 of us at Atera, including tip and pairing (we chose the cheaper of the two pairing options) came to $870. Had the dishes tasted better, I wouldn't have minded that. However, in our experience, it seemed more art over substance. So I didn't feel we got good value for the money. By comparison, I much greatly preferred the meals we have had at Juni for much less money. The presentations there are equally artful, but Juni's dishes deliver in the flavor category as well.

I'll say that I'm glad to have had the experience, so that I can decide for myself what I think of Atera after reading all the glowing reviews. But I have to say I don't think I'll be going back, even if the menu price were cut in half. If you're looking for food that's just pretty, Atera might do for you. If you're looking for a meal that delivers from a culinary flavor standpoint, there are many other much better options in NYC.

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    Shirang RE: edwardspk Apr 20, 2014 09:30 PM

    I am probably the only person here who agrees with you. I have the same problem with WD-50.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Shirang
      Miss Needle RE: Shirang Apr 21, 2014 08:17 AM

      Make that two. Although I appreciated what they were trying to do, I didn't think the food tasted all that great. But I'm realizing I have this issue with a lot of restaurants that incorporate modern techniques. But I will have to say two of my favorite meals were at those types of restaurants -- Alinea and Pierre Gagnaire. I just think it takes a lot more skill to pull off the food.

      1. re: Miss Needle
        kosmose7 RE: Miss Needle Apr 21, 2014 10:14 AM

        Make that three.
        Been to Atera only once and never went back. lol

        1. re: kosmose7
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          fooder RE: kosmose7 Apr 21, 2014 11:42 AM

          Make that four.
          My review from 2.5 yrs ago that pretty much echoed this sentiment: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/879430

          The only thing that is disappointing is that I'd been reading better and better reviews (CH and others) and was hoping they'd improved on that front.

          1. re: fooder
            Miss Needle RE: fooder Apr 22, 2014 06:14 AM

            My visit to Atera was about six months ago. I think it just comes down to preference. Everything was executed well. Presentation was beautiful. Service was great and I feel kind of bad writing this because they were all so nice. I just found some of the courses were more innovative than they were delicious. For me, delicious always triumphs over being cerebral, novel, unconventional, etc. I remember wishing I'd rather being eating a slice of pizza during some of Atera's courses.

            I find this thread helpful as there are others who didn't like Atera as well (I also was starting to think I was the only one -- didn't catch your review from years ago). I'm making a mental note of this as we may share the same tastes with other restaurants.

    2. beaulieu RE: edwardspk Apr 21, 2014 12:01 AM

      "Unfortunately, the vast majority of the many dishes we had were creatively and artistically presented, but rather lacking in flavor. "

      A reason we like Atera so much is that the preparations do not rely on a bit of hot pepper in various forms or some acidic saucing to make the flavors seem interesting. Chef Lightner knows how to make the ingredients sing for us without them.

      1. ipsedixit RE: edwardspk Apr 21, 2014 03:35 PM

        I really enjoyed my one time at Atera.

        For me, it's a restaurant that challenges you and in doing so makes you feel a bit uncomfortable in what your expectations are in terms of fine dining.

        To me that's ok. More than ok, really.

        It's not a place that I'd want to eat at regularly, but then few are.

        1. ellenost RE: edwardspk Apr 22, 2014 07:10 AM

          Sorry to see that I'm in the minority on this one, but Atera has become one of my top 5 restaurants. I've dined at Atera six times (most recent visit was 3 weeks ago). I find Chef Lightner's cuisine to be playful, intelligent, beautiful, but most important: delicious! To me, Atera is a wonderful combination of two of my other favorite restaurants: Momofuku Ko and EMP.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ellenost
            Miss Needle RE: ellenost Apr 22, 2014 07:37 AM

            You're just the minority on this thread. Believe me, before this thread I had no idea that somebody disliked Atera. I thought it was a board darling.

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