I thought that the ranking of "Counter" at citysearch was too high! So, I typed in the following review for citysearch, but discovered that it was 250 words too long. So, rather than cut it, I just thought I'd post it here:
First, a disclaimer. I had dinner at Counter as part of a special fixed menu event. But, what I have to say may still be relevant for you.
Although the chef Scott Barton doesn't have the ingenuity of raw-food godess Roxanne Klein, or the fine-tuned elegance of Charlie Trotter, he certainly seems to have learned some tricks from them. The vegan cheeses made from nut milks, the attention to seasonal local produce, and thoughtful combinations will certainly be interesting, and welcome to most diners. The effect though, judged from a purely culinary point of view, suggests that the means don't always justify the ends.
Take the carmelized onion and sauerkraut tart topped with some kind of nut-cheese. I loved the homemade sauerkraut, but I thought the tart shell ruined the dish. One can imagine how good a rye-flour tart shell sounds---it's a twist with the right kind of alsacian heritage that fits with vegan craft---on paper anyway. On the plate, it really missed the the mark. The dish succeeded if you scraped the good stuff off the top, and left the shell behind.
The story with the other dishes was mostly the same. The carmelized pears had a fantastic sauce, but the pears were so unripe. What a shame! The braised cabbage and chestnuts were pretty tasty, but the trofie had a too-chalky texture and the red wine jus was just a dry stain---it had evaporated completely on a plate that was too hot and under a warmer too long. It was about then, that I started looking longingly at a basket of fries that had arrived at a table near mine (not part of the tasting event) wishing I could finish my meal with a little more practiced substance.
The heirloom bean ragout was a winner, however. The beans and potatoes were amazing, with nothing out of place. It had the balanced feel of a dish nearing perfection. The wine, a kind of super-tuscan from Coturri, that was paired with this bean ragout was delicious too.
Anyway, I could see myself going back sometime. But, my advice to diners would be to try to find out what the standards on the menu are and stick to the favorites. My advice to the kitchen would be to take some time to taste the dishes, and imagine what they taste like to someone who doesn't know how clever you have to be to have created it!
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