Finally made it to Atera and was really looking forward to a spectacular meal. My partner and I had a prime spot right in the middle of the u-shaped bar that divides the kitchen/serving area from the dining area. I did like the look and feel of the restaurant. It was rather minimalist in a modern Japanese sort of way and the rock music, while on the loud side, didn't detract from the experience too much (although i did have to raise my voice for my dining companion to hear me, even though he was seated right beside me).
I will give props to the presentation of the food and the creativity of the ingredients and how they were combined. Everything is plated beautifully. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the many dishes we had were creatively and artistically presented, but rather lacking in flavor. Exceptions were the duck liver with apple and the dumpling. The sorbets were also quite good, but given their tartness I think they would have done better had they been served before some of the other dessert courses. For just about all the other dishes, the flavor ranged from just ok to not very good. In fact, some of our dishes, even though they were small, we didn't finish eating because we just didn't think they tasted good.
When it comes to cost, I'm not shocked by big bills, and I don't mind paying for good food. I've lost count of the number of times I've eaten at Per Se, enjoyed Masa (back when it had 4 stars), am a frequent diner at Jean-Georges and have eaten at most of the Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris and Tokyo. So I know - and apprecate - how much a good meal can cost. Dinner for the 2 of us at Atera, including tip and pairing (we chose the cheaper of the two pairing options) came to $870. Had the dishes tasted better, I wouldn't have minded that. However, in our experience, it seemed more art over substance. So I didn't feel we got good value for the money. By comparison, I much greatly preferred the meals we have had at Juni for much less money. The presentations there are equally artful, but Juni's dishes deliver in the flavor category as well.
I'll say that I'm glad to have had the experience, so that I can decide for myself what I think of Atera after reading all the glowing reviews. But I have to say I don't think I'll be going back, even if the menu price were cut in half. If you're looking for food that's just pretty, Atera might do for you. If you're looking for a meal that delivers from a culinary flavor standpoint, there are many other much better options in NYC.
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