December 28, 2021

I brought my sons to Atera, returning less than 5 months after my first incredibly impressive visit (see below). Atera is a 2 star restaurant with 3 star food. It's 3rd star lacking from service (which was improved, but still lacking) and the insane 3-star restaurants it "competes" with (CTBF, le Bernadin...). While I preferred my first visit - it had a few more stand-out dishes - this meal was essentially without fault. And a beautiful introduction to Michelin dining for my kids.

The number of items that were different on the menu after only 5 months was impressive. I anticipated maybe 30% of the menu turning over. It was exactly the opposite - about 70% had changed. It shows a chef who is not content to rest on his laurels and continually innovating. Bravo.

I went with the non-alcoholic temperance pairing. Every option is fully made in-house, from the pine "champagne" to the "martini", beet juice "red wine" and deliciously bright melon digestive finish. But the "whiskey" GOD that drink. It was far and away the best thing I put in my mouth all night. Black tea, honey, lemon, Chicopee root, ginger root, torched oak chips at the bottom of the glass with a branded ice cube. It's impossible to describe how complex this drink was. Powerful in its complexity and equally delicious. A show-stopper to be sure. I would come back just for that glass.

There were some substantive service misses. Running out of foam before the last cup was filled. The chef handled it wonderfully, but it's a mistake you shouldn't make at this level. Our far-too-friendly waiter was back. (He's been mentioned in some Google reviews - they need to let him go.) "Are you from around here?" he asked, uninvited, while we were mid-course. I realize that may sound snobbish, but there is a respect you give food and the experience someone is having at this level which values that time of enjoying each dish as pretty sacred. For him to attempt to open a conversation in the middle of it really shows immense disrespect to us, our experience and the restaurant as a whole. It is as if to say "My desire to small talk is far more important than the entire reason you are actually here as well as the immense effort the chefs put into what sits before you to enjoy right now." So not OK.

I also take copious notes when they describe a dish (to include here on the blog). The sommelier indicate a few times that they would provide a menu at the end of the evening. Everyone does - but they rarely contain the detail I am looking for. When I asked him to repeat what was in the final beverage pairing, he kindly noted again that "You will get a menu at the end of the evening with all of this information." I asked "It will have every single component listed?" "Yes sir, it will." You can see in the photos - it does not. Curious as to why he would be so adamant about something that is clearly not true.

Service was saved by the hostess, who was absolutely outstanding. I had indicated on my reservation that one of my sons is a chef. She came over (between courses, of course) and asked "Whos the chef over here?" Some lovely banter followed - she had gone to college in our hometown of Saratoga Springs. 

As we left, she handed us our coats and invited Ryan to stodge with them at any time. (Spend a day in the kitchen with the team for experience.) Quite the offer from a 2-star establishment! And a really nice touch.

I still recommend Atera to you, especially if you are looking for your first Michelin-level experience. Not that it's the lowest rung on the ladder - far from it! But the food is delicious and accessible, even for palates that may not be used to food of this sort. Really delicious and very high level cooking. I'll be back.

Oyster, osetra caviar, passion fruit, dill oil
Red snapper crudo, sushi rice, crispy nori
Keluga caviar, benito custard, bullion, smoked olive oil
Tuna tartare tartlet, Maine sea urchin, black truffles
Fingerling potato dumpling, lemon oil, parmesan foam. Really deep parmesan here. Super delicious dish.
Maine diver scallop, almond butter brussel sprouts, pearls made from kelp, lemon verbena. My favorite dish of the night. That sauce was to die for and the scallops were perfection.
Halibut, cuddle fish, fingerlime, yuzu. Really well done plate of food.
Far and away the best thing I put in my mouth all night. "Whiskey". Black tea, honey, lemon, Chicopee root, ginger root, torched oak chips, branded ice cube. Impossible to describe the layers and depths of delicious flavors in this glass.
Wagyu beef, confit quail egg...
Adding shrimp bullion...
Wagyu beef, Confit quail egg, snap peas, shimp bullion, sesame and chili oil.
Venison loin, raspberry, hazelnut, puffed rice. Beautiful dish and that raspberry jus was mindblowing. With...
Side dish of raspberry, salsifee, mushroom puree, sherry foam
Beef cheek, black truffle, beef jus with miso, brown butter, lemongrass. Heck of a way to end. Incredibly unctuous and delicious. Perfectly cooked.
Lemon buttermilk sorbet, dolce e leches...
Ginger ice cream, chocolate, almond, yuzu topped with...
Camelized white truffle foam. Terrific dish with the bright ginger and yuzu cutting through the warm umami foam.
Final cookies
They have a madeira selection with 12 options going back over 100 years. I tried this 1912 version. Generous pour, really interesting. The sweet "head" of a typical madeira is removed leaving the earthy, nutiness alone.
August 10, 2021

From a food perspective, Atera deserves 3 stars (not just the 2 they have). From conception to execution to sourcing, this is some of the best food I have ever had from start to finish. 

So why 2 stars? The service. The wines were incredible, but the sommelier's manner was awkward. (Why would he wear a chef's hat?) And the waiter was far too friendly and overbearing as the night went on. 

But do not let that stop you. The kitchen more than made up for any of that. Most seats are at the bar looking directly at the kitchen the entire time. I looked up at the end of the meal and the kitchen was closed, empty and fully cleaned. I didn't notice a sound, soapy water...anything. I will go to my grave wondering how they did that.

This is one of the very best restaurants in New York. Get here.

Oyster, horseradish cream, caviar, dill, passion fruit
Crispy chicken skin, ham salad, rye toast. So perfectly salted.
Cream custard, keluga caviar, bonita boullion. Decadent umami here. This dish said "We're not playing..."
Yellowfin tuna, king crab, sushi fried rice. Very inventive dish and just freaking delicious. Base was the sushi rice which had been seared on the bottom, then the king crab salad on top of that, wrapped in a piece of tuna that looks like deli meat. Eaten with your hands. See the next picture for the inside. Could have eaten 7 more of these!
Trying to capture the inside of this really inventive bite.
Hudson valley Fois gras, mushroom boullion, apple, truffle. Best fois gras I've ever had, by far. Its gaminess was exquisitely balanced with the super deep mushroom broth and the crisp, sweet apple. The knife work on that apple is superlative. It held together but each "strip" came off easily with just your fork so you had a slice of apple with each bite.
Razor clam, confit cherry tomatoes, crispy jasmine rice, basil blossoms, white wine foam, basil oil
Cured steamed halibut, cucumber, smoked mussel sauce infused with parsley oil, white fish roe (the orange stuff on top). Once again, a beautifully conceived dish, perfectly executed. I can't describe how buttery that halibut was.
The chef showing us the tenderloin wrapped in cedar wood, coming a few courses ahead.
Wagyu beef, confit quail egg, sugar snap peas, shrimp boullion, sesame chili oil. Just the right crunch from little slivers of sugar snap peas, a little heat from the chili oil...this dish is the lap of luxury.
The best dishes make me giggle when I eat them. This one absolutely did that. Cedar wrapped tenderloin (that the chef showed us earlier), pilsner jus, sun dried tomato. Yes, the tenderloin tasted as good as it looks. Yes, you could taste the smoky effect of the cedar they cooked it in. That jus was SO incredibly delicious in its own right, and then added incredible layers of flavor to the beef. This goes on my top 5 all time dishes. I would return to this restaurant just for this plate of food.
The tenderloin was served with this: corn, ricotta, lime, butter foam. My friend loved it so very much we asked for another one and were told the kitchen had wrapped up and wouldn't be able to provide it. Totally fair response. But, 5 minutes later, another portion arrived. Stellar hospitality.
New Zealand Roasted Lamb, baby zucchini, parmesan, cauliflower puree, jus of truffle and peas. The dish was straight up the middle (conceptually), but the very best delivery of it. The quality of the lamb was also the best I've ever had. When I placed my fork into it to cut it, it just sank under the fork, it was that tender.
Lemon buttermilk sorbet, dolce e lecce, lemongrass, vanilla pearls
Ginger ice cream, macerated strawberries, almonds, white chocolate. I didn't get a picture of the dish before they covered it with the white chocolate whipped cream. This dessert is one of the best I've ever had. A photo of the insides is in the comments.
Milk Chocolate, peanut butter, sorghum, salt (right) Mango, almond chocolate cookie (top) Chocolate wafer, coffee caramel (left)


What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.

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Replying to Steven Smith