February 25, 2015
When we pulled up for dinner at Alma last night, I went to park the car in the lot next door. Meanwhile Michael sat on a bench outside, having a chat with a man who hit him up for enough to buy a bowl of chili. "I gave him ten bucks," Michael said, "and I bet he's going to enjoy his dinner more than I enjoy mine."
Although Alma is aimed at adventurous eaters, even a reluctant gourmet like Michael is bound to come away happy. When the dishes hit – which they do most of the time – they're really delicious. And when they don't, they offer very interesting food for thought.
These were the hits (at least in my opinion) of our dinner.
Uni on a teensy english muffin with a bit of caviar and a few leaves and petals. How could this be anything but fantastic?
It was followed by a lovely little tofu and seafood beignet, which I gobbled up while it was still warm, neglecting to photograph it. I liked that beignet a lot, but I wished it had been a little less timid. Seaweed is such a fine, forceful flavor, and here it seemed muted.
Ari Taymor is fond of surf and turf combinations, although he always does it his way. Here the surf is trout and trout roe, the turf asparagus and nasturtium. These flavors did a little tango together, weaving in and out, hitting new flavor notes I didn't know any of the ingredients were capable of. Total hit.
The first time I tasted frozen, shaved foie gras was at David Chang's Ko, and I was totally smitten. Foie gras does something amazing when it melts in your mouth, becoming even softer and richer than it is in its native form. Taymor pairs the frozen foie gras with coffee granola – which gives it both flavor and texture contrast – and a splash of maple. I loved that combination. Not sure those carrots were absolutely necessary…..
Bad picture of a totally great dish. Sunchoke soup, which has its own intensity, paired iwth date puree and an egg yolk cooked until it's practically taffy. This is a little symphony of soft textures, and completely appealing. I'll never look at sunchokes the same way.
Sturgeon and black truffle. Need I say more?
The simplest dish of the evening, and for me, the highlight. This was the most delicious duck; if we'd had nothing else I'd go back just to experience it again. The skin was crisp, the meat as funky and metallic as the best aged beef. But what put it over the top was the bitterness of the endive, and the gentle citric zing of the poached kumquats. (The little duck boudin, up top, was also a treat.)
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