I am blessed for many reasons, one of which is living in New York City. If I had to live anywhere outside of Paris, NYC would be my home. Well, as it happens, it is.
The quality of the food, wine and available cultures is just amazing, making this really the center of the world. Despite the fact that everything in the US tastes just slightly knocked down a notch from its European counterparts, life isn't so bad for a hungry boy like me.
Take last night.
We went to Degustation, a wine/tapas bar in the East Village, open for about a year now. We sat down right around our reserved time of 8:30pm, leaving at 11pm.
Pros= excellent presentation, interesting combinations. We ordered the chef's 5-course tasting menu ($50), and enjoyed almost all the dishes. Cost is quite low considering the quality we got. Chef Wesley was outgoing and very nice, and the staff made sure we weren't allergic to anything or had any dietary restrictions. The decor is sort of Joel Robuchon Light, where everyone sits at a bar while they cook in front of you. When we got there, we had to wait a few minutes, and the hostess brought us 2 glasses of Spanish white, which was a nice touch. Also, they comped us 2 glasses of Ordonez Muscat with dessert, which was very nice. Food was excellent in general, with only 1-2 weaknesses.
Cons= Desserts were weak, however, with a yogurt-based dish that seemed abnormally sour (bad yogurt?) and a chocolate/banana pudding thing that lacked flavor. Also, one part of one dish seemed slightly salty (the lentils matched to a squid stuffed with braised short ribs - absolutely fantastic and moist and tasty). Wine and water service were a bit slow, I had to ask to have both refilled more than once. The wine list is heavy in lower-cost Spanish wines, understandably. But I would have liked some Champagne, as I believe it would marry quite well with most of the dishes. The Reserve List was nice but climbed quickly into the 3-digits. We ordered a $40 Spanish white, a Naida Ruada.
But what really turned me off was the owner, Jack Lamb. Two guys right next to us were wine geeks who brought a 1964 Rioja and the owner kept coming over and hanging out with them, even blind tasting them on a 1994 Chapoutier Hermitage. Not once did he acknowledge us or even ask us how things were going. He glanced over a few times and, frankly, we could have been empty chairs for all he cared. We didn't even get a nod. Then again, no one else was looked at either.
For a place set-up as a communal eating experience, where interactions are encouraged, this was quite strange.
Conclusion= would I go back? Yes, for the chef, whose talents are evident and who is very nice and outgoing. He was a pleasure to speak with and his passion for his food is quite evident. Also, the cost is quite low for the quality of the dishes they offer. Except for the water/wine service, the staff was accomodating and quite pleasant as well.
Corkage is $30-35, hostess wasn't certain.
Aaah... another night in the Big City. Life is good.