On Sept 22nd, I was able to dine at the fascinating new restaurant Romera New York – located at the Dream Hotel Downtown in the Meatpacking District. Michelin-starred neurologist/chef Dr. Miguel Sánchez Romera, of L'Esguard outside of Barcelona, was brought stateside by Sant Singh Chatwal to head the Dream Hotel's flagship restaurant.
They have a strict "NO PHOTO" policy, but I was able to take just a few shots before being informed of it and respectfully complying. Above: the chef's wife (L) and translator (R) look over the interior herb gardens.
Vintage Versace china and Christofle flatware called for a '98 Krug Clos du Mesnil to kick things off.
The menu: 11 courses. $245. Not that anyone's counting…
Here is the menu, transcribed. Each course was also accompanied by "ingredient-driven waters that compliment the flavors and aromatic properties of each dish."
A coupage of extra virgin olive oils accompanied by a pistachio and mint puree, a black olive puree, mini pansy flowers, rose water, crisp potatoes, pollen grains and poppy seeds.
A creamy mousse of seaweed and shellfish wrapped in a fine, transparent sheet of rose water marinated the Daikon radish and flower petals.
Toro and hamachi tuna overlaid with seasonal flowers and freshly snipped aromatic herbs with coconut cream and crystalline sauces of jasmine and orange blossom.
Twelve varieties of grains drizzled with olive oil encircling a smooth tandoori sauce topped with black olive jam and sliced black truffles.
A Romarian mosaic of dried vegetables with vanilla and wild garlic aroma, garden-fresh mini vegetables with Cassavia butter en-cocotte followed by a vegetable soup.
ROSA DEL AZAFRAN
King salmon with savory aromas of saffron, orange, ginger and beets accompanied by smoked shellfish cream and salmon roe.
Foie gras poele with a fine layer of white chocolate Cassavia gel topped with radish, strands of garlic, rose water and beets, tandoori, turmeric, ceps, rosemary, and vegetable charcoal accompanied by smoked eggplant mousse and a sauce of black truffle, ginger and aromatic herbs.
New York strip loin on the grill with black truffle butter and garlic served over a Romerian mosaic of cheese, bacon, onion and tomato, completed with a homemade sauce of smoked black truffles and ceps.
Strawberry, kiwi, mango and blackberry sorbets coated with natural lemongrass and served over a mousse of lychee with white chocolate.
A homemade dark chocolate soup served over sweet banana and dark chocolate cake with orange and white chocolate confiture and gold leaf flakes.
A selection of sweets featuring our in-house production of Romero Chocolate Gourmand bonbons and tablets, along with signature bonbons filled with coffee cream made from a homemade Coffee Gourmand, carrot cake with lemon, vanilla and saffron and tandoori meringue with mint cream.
The take-away: cards describing the inspiration behind each dish.
A quick Google search will return an avalanche of negative comments from early diners on various mass critisism sites. "Preposterous!" "Pretentious!" "Bonkers!"
My take? LOVED it. I'm not a casual diner and my dinner companion had capped an impressive culinary tour of Michelined Europe with one of the final seatings at elBulli earlier in the year. We found it whimsical, visually breathtaking, and fascinating on the palate. Obviously, it's ridiculously expensive – remember that this is my only hobby, this sport dining thing. Romera's "neurogastronomy" may not be for everyone, but it is certainly not the work of a madman – well, perhaps… but I dig it.
The waters were fun and did progress the meal in an unusual and pleasant manner. But the Clos du Mesnil didn't hurt!
The platings were exquisite - some examples can be found on the Romera website, but not even the most impressive are featured.
The next day I was chatting about the experience with another multi-Michelin-starred New York chef who had also dined at Romera earlier in the week. He, too, found the experience remarkable and his eyes gleamed as we recounted the meal. But, he knows New York. If the reviews don't come in, he could see how New York would – eat this one alive.
UPDATE: Seems like some of the traditional media is having a positive first reaction. Here is what the Wall Street Journal's Katy McLaughlin has to say in the piece Romera New York: Does the Food Live Up to the Hype? (Hint: it does.) Katy was allowed to take a few snaps.
As I occasionally do, I ducked away from the peeps and relished in a lavish multi-course tasting menu (with wine pairings), all by my lonesome – it is my only hobby, after all. I have no problem doing this from time to time – facebook keeps me company as I people watch, and I can indulge with ravenous glee – with only strangers the wiser. I've been looking forward to dinner at Marea, Michael White's Italian influenced seafood restaurant on Central Park South – and two dishes in particular. I chose to enjoy the grander of the tasting menus that are available upon request.
But first, a cocktail at the handsome and impressively stocked Egyptian onyx bar.
I sat at Table 1, with a full view of the goings on. And now the first of the dishes I covet:
^ Ricci: sea urchin, lardo, sea salt. Stunning. This sets the stage for the meal to come. Salt, fat, uni… it's a revelation. Having an intimate relationship with sea urchin roe in its many Japanese preparations, I find this dish fascinating, challenging, and remarkable. It continues to evoke meaningful discussion with the chefs that I count among my friends.
^ Ostriche: east and west coast oysters served with morellino mignonette & cucumber-lemon vinegar; and Crudo al Taglio.
^ Astice: nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil seeds. Outstanding; ^ and the Calamari: lobster and shrimp filled squid, slow cooked tomato, basil oil.
^ Risotti Mare: shrimp, lobster, scallops, rouget; ^ and the Orecchiette: spot prawns, chilies, rosemary.
And the other dish – my raison d'être. ^ The Fusilli: red wine braised octopus, bone marrow. The dish is White's play on a Surf & Turf, if you will. It's alchemy. The gelatin from the octopus binds with the liquified marrow, allowing the sauce to emulsify. Brilliant. Decadent. Perfect.
My server was excellent. When there was a slight mis-pour on the wine pairing for my requested seafood "main" course, I was asked if I'd prefer to keep the red on the table – enjoy my fish course with the appropriate pairing, and accept the meat course on the house… no need to waste that gorgeous Brunello.
Above ^ Dentice: seared atlantic snapper, blood sausage, whole roasted sunchoke, apple, chiodini mushrooms, sunchoke puree. Are you kidding? …killer. ^ and the Bistecca: grilled Creekstone Farms 50 day dry aged sirloin, bone marrow panzanella, braised romaine.
^ Gianduja: cocoa nib crema, hazelnut chocolate, fior di latte gelato; and dessert truffles.
A wonderful meal, excellent pairings – and equitably priced. Marea did not disappoint. I'll return for a full serving of the Fusilli, and that seductive Ricci to start.