At last, my final post about my trip to New York last month. If you’ve read the other posts, you’ll know my dear friend Adi took me on a little culinary adventure. For two days we ate and walked our way around Park Slope, Chelsea, the West Village and SoHo. We re-visited some of my favorite places, went grocery shopping and checked out the new High Line Park.
But the highlight of my week-long stay in the city was not only a great experience, but was an exceptionally unique and intimate experience. The restaurant is Degustation in the East Village. The layout, itself, is a unique concept – a gourmet spinoff of a Japanese sushi bar. As you can see, it is a pretty small space that only seats 19 with all the cooking being done in the middle by four chefs. There was a grill/fry station, sauté station and plating area. It is categorized as a tapas bar due to its small-plate-style. While some flavors and ingredients are definitely Spanish, I would sway more towards American cuisine.
We had the pleasure of sitting in the far left corner of the bar next to the plating area. And we took full advantage of eyeing every single plate that was assembled. They even let us replace one of the dishes on the 5-course tasting menu. The chefs were really nice and accommodated all of our questions. Correction, he accommodated all of MY questions! But it was so much fun watching the intense concentration, the artistry, the flow. If one vegetable was plated facing the wrong direction, it would have to be thrown out and re-plated anew facing the right way.
For me, this is what made the experience foodie heaven. It was being so close to the action. It was seeing exactly why they call it Culinary ARTS. Each plate was the artist’s blank canvas. His mise en place (all the prepped items) was his paint palette. Even if the food had not turned out to be amazing, I would have enjoyed this experience. It’s one thing to watch sushi chefs but a whole other thing to watch a chef make such delicate, thoughtful food. (That’s not meant as an insult to sushi chefs, especially since my brother is currently training to be one!)
The entire restaurant, as Adi put so eloquently, was like a “finely choreographed song and dance”. Every plate was timed perfectly. The moment you finished your dish, it was removed in the most nonintrusive manner. And voila your new dish was placed in front of you. The waitstaff was very friendly and knowledgeable, and (at least when I was there) all the patrons seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
But now to the food. As I mentioned, we ordered the 5-course tasting menu but we also couldn’t resist trying the ham and apple croquettes. Croquetas are a classic Spanish tapa. It’s a small, lightly fried fritter and is usually made with ham (the Spaniards do love their ham!). It’s a wonderfully delicate little morsel of crispiness and creaminess. Having both studied abroad in Spain, Adi and I have had our fair share of croquettes. And I have to say that I never ever tire of them. How can you say no to something fried? Something creamy? Something with ham? The best croquettes are the ones that are almost fluffy and don’t leave you feeling greasy (like fried mozzarella sticks do). And Degustation’s version were perfect. The crunch, the explosion of flavor and gooey-ness. I could have eaten 50 more if anyone let me.(CLICK FOR MORE…)