Degustation (NY) – An Unlucky Meal?

Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Degustation has been getting raves from nearly everyone in NYC. Degustation serves small plates in a Prada-black sushi bar setting – quality small tastes in a less formal atmosphere – a model that’s proven rather successful for restauarants like Craft, Momofuku, Fatty Crab, Tia Pol, and others. The reviews have been nothing but glowing so it seemed like a no-brainer for this trip.

And then you get unlucky. There’s quite a few things that can go wrong with a restaurant visit:

  • The ingredients may not be up to par for that day (but the chef has to serve something.)
  • The chef, or an important assistant, may be out, not feeling well, etc.
  • The restaurant may be busy and execution may suffer (that is why Wed & Thurs dining often yield the best meals.)
  • And plenty more.

It’s a human business afterall – people must bring ingredients to the restaurant, people must prepare the food, people must cook it, people must serve it, and people must eat. That’s a scary chain considering how dependable people usually are.

The Menu:

1. Smoked Bacon / Apple Croquettes

A good start – these are neither Manresa nor Bastide quality – but the smoky bacon definitely tipped the scales. Pretty Good.

Degustation (New York) - Smoked Bacon / Apple Croquettes

2. Kampachi w/ Mango, Cherry Tomato, & Thai Chili

A nearly inedible piece of fish. Their sister restaurant, Jewel Bako, serves sushi? Is this their leftovers? Do they serve such strong flavors with it to mask the (unacceptable) quality? Awful.

Degustation (New York) - Kampachi w/ Mango, Cherry Tomato, & Thai Chili

3. Grilled Langostine

This isn’t France or Spain – decent but watery. Ok.

Degustation (New York) - Grilled Langostine

4. Grilled African Red Shrimp

My favorite of the night – nice, sweet taste, cooked well. Very Good.

Degustation (New York) - Grilled African Red Shrimp

5. Squid stuffed w/ Braised Short Ribs w/ Chorizio Lentils

Nice char on the squid but the short ribs were both dry and bland. The lentils lent the dish some flavor (and mositure) but this dish had already failed. There is potential and I guess others have had far more success. Not Good.

Degustation (New York) - Squid stuffed w/ Braised Short Ribs w/ Chorizio Lentils

6. Crispy Pork Belly w/ Grilled Scallions, Mushrooms, Pickled Jalepeno, & Cilantro

Lots of strong ingredients and yet, somehow, a complete lack of taste. Pork belly wasn’t *that* crispy, and its fat masked the jalapeno & cilantro flavors. Not Good.

Degustation (New York) - Crispy Pork Belly w/ Grilled Scallions, Mushrooms, Pickled Jalepeno, & Cilantro

7. Grilled Lamb Loin w/ Truffled Cauliflower Puree & Black Maitake Mushrooms

Lamb lacked any taste but it was cooked correctly; the cauliflower puree was tasty. Ok (thanks to puree.)

Degustation (New York) - Grilled Lamb Loin w/ Truffled Cauliflower Puree & Black Maitake Mushrooms

8. Ribeye w/ Red Onion Marmalade, Molasses, & Bone Marrow

The ribeye, while cooked correctly, had no taste – was it aged? at all? The molasses sauce completely masked the meat (even if the meat *had* flavor, it would still overpower.) Not Good.

Degustation (New York) - Ribeye w/ Red Onion Marmalade, Molasses, & Bone Marrow

At this point, we were still hungry but decided to cut our losses. It was off to Bar Jamon for olives & ham (and lots of wine to purge the memory of this meal.)

Ingredient quality and conception are the 2 big question marks in my mind. The disconnect between my meal and others is rather astounding. Are the ingredients of usually higher quality? Do higher quality meats stand up to the generally intense accompaniments? Execution doesn’t seem to be a problem – everything was cooked correctly. Ingredients and conception… but I will hold off on conception til the ingredient quality is higher.

Would i return? It would take quite a bit… Momofuku is what this restaurant *should* be in terms of quality – Degustation has a long way to go based on my meal.

- chuck

  • Aaron

    I’ve got to agree with you about Degustation. A friend and I literally ordered the entire menu when we visited. On the whole, ridiculously underwhelming.

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