Whenever I visit NYC, I am always on the lookout for unique and fun places to dine. This particular trip, which started out as a long arduous few days of work ended on Friday evening with a welcoming adventure of a fusion of French, Spanish and Iberian tastings, which surprised, delighted and awakened forgotten taste buds.
My friend, Stacey took me to a tasting room called Degustation in the East Village. A discreet doorway leads you into a warm intimate room with a long table seating about 22 people in front of the Chefs at work. We were seated at the corner of the table of the empty room, which was a perfect location for taking in this small space, as well as catching up. Throughout the evening every chair filled up making it seriously cozy and touchy. I know I touched the guy’s leg next to me multiple times. I really hope he didn’t mind.
Stacey recommended the Chef’s Tasting of 7 (we got 8) courses at $85, which as much as I know is a high price it seemed quite reasonable for a Chef’s tasting, which run at about $150+ these days. Waiters appeared to share the tasks of working with every customer, greeting them with a professional yet friendly flair and deftly changing out the silverware at every course. We shared with them I had a cinnamon allergy and didn’t eat red meat and asked if that was okay for the tasting menu, it was. Our journey was about to begin.
Led by Chef Nicholas Licata, four chefs stood behind the long thin counter and dazzled us with their swift and quiet artistry of the small plate.
Stacey said “we are about to be amused” and indeed we were with an amuse-bouche of Sammish Bay Oysters with pimento butter and crispy shoestring potato. My taste buds immediately woke up from their boring salad work week.
A bottle of white Bordeaux was recommended to us as a white wine pairing for our many courses to come. A spiky, dry and sharp wine, which did wonders for our early tastings.
The first tasting was a crunchy broccoli with creamy bitter sheep cheese and pumpernickel soil, which resembles dirt. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish.
Delicately prepared beef tartare was next for Stacey, while I was served a veggie bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet kale and crushed funions. One of my favorite dishes of the evening. I was now two for two with loving the vegetarian dishes.
Scallops in Thai Red Curry with cucumber and finger limes came out next. The spice kicked my tastes buds up into another fun gear.
We asked them to slow down our tastings a little as we needed a bit of a break but I also wanted to savor the evening as long as possible. They happily obliged.
I am forgetting our next dish, which is a shame as it was one of my favorites. I think it was a cod. I do know it was a mild and melty white fish layered with a salty pancetta or prosciutto.
Next came the pork belly with mole sauce and kohlrabi. Our least favorite dish of the evening. While pork belly is a super fatty meat, this for me was like tasting just fat. I wasn’t a fan at all.
I was a huge fan of the next tasting of perfectly medium rare, slightly seared lamb loin with pickled sunchokes.
Our dessert dish of the evening was a Torrija, a Spanish bread pudding with cajeta and sea salt. We watched one of the Chef’s torch the sugar on top of the custardy dessert in a controlled and expert manner to faultless crispness. I am not a dessert fan but this dish seriously made me want to offer myself carnally to the Chef. We honestly could not stop talking about how good it was.
I was definitely full but not overwhelmed from our tasting. All our plates were tapas sized and just the right amount of food to leave you wanting more but ready to move on to the surprise of the next dish.
While I didn’t try anything off the main menu I think that the chef’s tasting is worthy of $85 and a great call if this is the first time dining at Degustation.
Degustation would be a great place for a date night or a catch up with an old friend, especially if you are both lovers of food and adventure. I would probably not recommend it for more than two people given the side-by-side tasting.