July 18, 2018
Apologies; facing a lot of deadlines, I haven’t been posting a lot lately. And at the moment I’m at the airport, on my way to Italy where I’ll be on the jury for The Basque Culinary World Prize.
But my last meal in New York was so wonderful – in every way – that I can’t leave the country without giving a quick shout-out to Contra. The small, modest restaurant on Orchard Street is serving truly lovely food, and at $78 for 6 courses – plus an amuse bouche – it is, by city standards, a bargain.
Another note: the room is small, but surprisingly quiet. We sat, for hours, just talking and eating and enjoying ourselves. I could hardly believe it when I looked at the clock and realized we’d been at the table for more than three hours.
A little tidbit to start, a single raw shrimp, wrapped in shiso with a faint touch of fermented vegetables. One startling little shot of texture and flavor.
Could anything be lovelier? Raw slices of scallop nestled between crunchy little bits of lemon cucumber. On top of all this gentleness, a couple of loud shouts of hyssop.
I really loved the way the chefs didn’t try to draw these ingredients together. They just let the ingredients mingle, so that the Japanese uni, the various summer squashes and the nasturtium leaves stood alone, waiting to dance. It was up to you to start the music, introduce them to each other, and then experience how well they played together. This is very confident cooking which relies on the purity of ingredients.
This pollack was nearly translucent, and it positively reveled in the peas and peppers in that sauce.
Guinea hen is the loveliest bird – the flesh more texture than flavor – and here it’s paired with agretti – a Mediterranean herb, with a crisp saline quality that’s extremely hard to find in the States. Those creamy potatoes were the perfect counterpoint.
To end, a couple of perfectly cool and simple summer desserts. This is a semifreddo of blackberries and bitter almonds
And this the most delightful little ode to cherries.
I’m off. I expect I’ll be eating very well in Italy. I’ll let you know.
Categorised in: restaurants