Chef Lightner has a background that would perk the ears of any gastronome: L’Auberge (CA), Mugaritz( Spain), Noma (Copenhagen) and Castagna, (Portland). Not only has he been working at some of the best kitchens but he has also been recognized by the likes of Food & Wine magazine as 2010 “Best New Chefs” list and a 2010 nomination for “Rising Star Chef” from the James Beard Foundation. Impressive, to say the least!
He, like many Rene disciples, are intensely focused on sourcing local and somewhat obscure ingredients many of which are foraged by the foraging master, Evan Strusinski of Maine. (I just love how Maine is finally coming into the culinary spotlight…its about time!)
So, Yes the food at Atera is fantastic and as you all probably know the New York Times just gave it three stars.The experience is bound to impress even the most picky and worldly foodie while simultaneously soothing the ears of the music snob. That’s right the playlist ROCKS! The GM has damn good taste and knows how to keep those full and possibly sleepy folks awake. The playlist was so quirky and thoughtfully composed that I almost asked for a copy to jam out to at work. Nice touch guys! The environment is also beautifully designed with all details hinging around simple natural elegance, like the vertical garden which lives above the only table in the restaurant. One detail We particularly loved was the unmarked door. (who doesn’t love a secret entrance…that never gets old)
Onto the staff…everything worked like an elegant dance with tons of fancy footwork, just what you would expect from a restaurant of the caliber. We especially loved the amusing interjections that one of the well dressed guys made throughout the meal. (I want to say that his name is Bruno) He was hilarious. I was almost as excited to see what he would say next as I was to try the next course.
The food was overall creative, playful and packed with mad techniques. That being said there were a handful of dishes that we were not overly impressed with. Most of which were the snacks…With the exception of course being the Razor Clams
The dishes below represent some of our favorites of the evening:
Rhubarb Yogurt and Shad Roe
This dish was familiar to us. It was identical to one of the snacks we tried at Geranium in Copenhagen. I have to say that I enjoyed the Geranium one a bit more.
Line Caught Haddock
What a surprise. It is unusual to come across an all white dish. To some degree we are pre-programed to think color means tasty so off the bat my taste buds were telling me no but my curiosity was telling me yes. Regardless of that tug o war game this white silky composition was fantastic.
I love this spin on strawberry shortcake. The shortcake was one thing to the eye and another thing once you put it in your mouth. The cold cake mixture was a magical texture, one that quickly melted in the mouth.
When the waiter put this dish in front of us he left and then came back around and said “Oh I forgot to tell you about this dish…It’s a rock” Wonderful sense of humor! This was another gem! Loved the citrus and spice.Here are a few more photos from the night
Crisped sunchoke root with yogurt
Squab pheasant-back-mushroom sauce, pear, tarragon
Not a huge fan. Interesting flavor but the gummy nature of of this dish was a bit of a turn off, especially when it stuck to the roof of my mouth.
The Coffee Master/Comedian. The dinner would not have been as wonderful without him. It was fun to see the joy in Jose’s eyes as he chatted it up with another coffee geek.
Parsley Root Split banana ice cream, chiffon, milk skin
This was marvelous! Such deliciously bizarre flavors and textures. One of our favorite desserts of the night.
“Churro” Salsify, white cardamom, cinnamon
This unique take on churros was sadly not our fav.
Overall: We deeply enjoyed our dinner at Atera. There were a few dishes we could have done without but overall the experience was fantastic. Great food, music, service and atmosphere. We have been informed that the winter menu may be better than the spring one. Can’t wait to try it out again, that is if we can get a reservation…
More photos of our May 31st dinner here.
77 Worth Street
New York City
website Chef Matthew Lightner
The $150 for 22 courses
Great for a special occasion or a place to impress your foodie friend.