Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Corton Review

Another very belated restaurant review.

Corton is an upscale restaurant in Tribeca with lofty culinary ambitions. It takes after Alinea and the other molecular gastronomy powerhouses, striving for a modern, revolutionary take on food. But where Alinea brings us to new heights, Corton stays a bit too grounded.

Paul Liebrandt, touted as a talented young chef, originally from Britain, is Corton's bold leader. He opened Gilt restaurant and has many accolades to his name. Frank Bruni's verdict on Corton was three stars.
My meal here came shortly — and perhaps unfortunately — after my Alinea experience.  Alinea was like a time machine that showed me a glimpse of the future in its food. Corton, on the other hand left too much up to the imagination. The dishes at Alinea may have been wacky, but they generated a real, glorious flourish that left a lasting impression. Corton quickly faded from memory.

The restaurant suffers from ambition gone awry. The room is pretty but so formal as to feel pretentious and stuffy. The host was unwelcoming. The servers are so stiff and unfriendly they act as though they have been abused and are afraid to commit any misstep. (Liebrandt has been known to be temperamental.)

Amuse Bouche

A slightly sweet egg yolk bagel and a pea sponge. I am not wowed.


"From the Garden": Young Vegetables, Herbs of The Season
A beautiful splash of colors bloomed out of one of the most carefully composed salads I've ever seen. But the vegetables were either so exotic as to be unfamiliar or the ingredients were too well-disguised and were unidentifiable. Unfortunately,  the waitstaff didn't shed light on this.

Hamachi: Avocado, Cucumber, Violet Mustard
Usually, fancy restaurants serve hamachi as sashimi; I've rarely seen it served as a roll. The fish tasted fresh, but the roll was dry and kind of dull. Continuing our theme, the presentation and garnish were the only notable parts.

Tasting of Late Summer Sea:
This was a series of seafood dishes all served in separate dishes. An intricate, clever idea. It was intriguing, but complicated and distracting. Nothing really stood out. And with two orders of it for the table, it became a practical mess just trying to find enough room for all the dishes on the table. The food was impressively composed, but the flavor didn't live up to its presentation.

Madai, Yuzu Gelee

Peekytoe Crab, Tomato, Oyster Leaf
The oyster leaf actually had flavor slightly reminiscent of the briny vivalve.

Octopus, Smoked Beet, Sudachi

Sepia, Romanesco, Mangosteen

Uni, Lemongrass, Pine Nut

Main Courses
Each main course was served with its own set of sides that came in separate plates. The sides were extensions of the main ingredient of the main course. Again, an interesting idea, but the execution left me feeling like the meal wasn't cohesive.

Cod: Risotto of Peas, Serrano Ham, Melon, Arugula Chantilly
Served with a cod belly fritter.

Maine Lobster: Heirloom beets, Parmesan Crumble, Bergamot
Accompanied by lobster knuckes.

Painted Hills Beef: Fig, Comte, Black Olive Oil
Served with veal cheeks and fig fruit leather.


Strawberries: Devonshire Double Cream, Bitter Chocolate
The sorbet was good, the rest of the plate forgettable.

Brioche: Passionfruit, Coffee, Banana
This dessert channeled breakfast, specifically, french toast. Too sweet.

Cashew Fruit Tart: Lavender, Muscovado Sugar, Cashews

Clafoutis: Sour Plum, Lemon Verbena, Black Mission Fig
This was the best of the four desserts. Served warm, it was a small spongey cake, similar in flavor to a madeleine.

On our way out, it almost felt like we got a metaphorical kick in the behind. The host clearly watched us walk right past him as we left, but he didn't make eye contact, thank us for coming or offer any parting gesture.  His attitude said "don't bother coming back." He won't have to worry because I likely won't.

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