Here is my report on my latest meal at Atlas, which I promised several weeks ago.
I was inspired to eat at Atlas again by a previous poster who had raved about the tasting menu there. I would of necessity be eating late, so when I made the reservation I asked whether a tasting menu would still be available at that time (9:30 P.M.). The answer I got was somewhat different from what the earlier poster had reported. They couldn't guarantee a tasting menu, but they would note that I had requested one. There was no mention of a menu spontane; instead I had the choice of six, eight, or twelve courses. I figured it would be some time before I visited Manhattan again (this was before Sept. 11; my visit was at the tail end of a budget-busting trip), so I decided to splurge and go for the twelve-course menu.
Though I hadn't requested it, the menu was very heavy on seafood: there were six fish or seafood courses, compared to two meat courses. The meal began with an amuse-bouche of rock shrimp with lily flower and parsley gelee. Then came a tuna cru (very rare tuna) topped with aqualiver jelly and served with celeriac and pea puree. I don't know what aqualiver jelly is, but the tuna was very good. Next was a ceviche of dorade with avocado and mango. The dorade was very good, but the mango was overkill.
The next course was a tian (cylinder) of shredded crab with mustard foam on top, a sweet wafer of some kind, and some white chocolate. I didn't find this dish very exciting; the mustard foam wasn't particularly mustardy. Next was an oyster (raw) wiuh confit of heirloom tomatoes and anchovy sauce. I've never cared that much for oysters, and this didn't change my mind.
The next course was rouget (another fish) served with summer truffle vinaigrette and asparagus, which was delicious; and this was followed by poached bass with black trumpet mushrooms, lettuce and peas, which wrapped up the seafood portion.
The poultry course was squab with chocolate tuile, chocolate sauce and black trumpet mushrooms. The squab was very good, with a strong flavor. The chocolate tuile and sauce were not a mole-type thing, but sweet chocolate. Though they weren't overly sweet, the combination still didn't work for me, but the sauce was on the side and the tuile easy to remove.
Next came the palate cleanser of wasabi-green apple sorbet with banana-infused olive oil. This had been a highlight of my two previous visits, but the recipe seemed to have been changed from what I remembered and it wound up being my biggest disappointment. The wasabi was overpowering this time; also sea salt had been added, which didn't blend at all well with the other flavors. The final course before the cheese course was roast beef with beef jus, with onion "ceviche," mushrooms, and pea foam on the side, served with gnocchi. The roast beef was roast beef; it was good, but nothing different from what you'd get anywhere else. The gnocchi were delicious, lightly browned (I believe pan-fried), though too salty.
The cheese course was next. If I recall correctly, you did not choose the cheese you want, but were given a predetermined selection; I was not thrilled by any of them. Next was a "pre-dessert": a coconut tapioca and lime sorbet, which was delicious, and which I actually preferred to either of the regular desserts. The first of these was "pineapple carpaccio" (thinly sliced pineapple marinated in caramel, vanilla and ginger) with coconut sorbet; the second was a gianduja chocolate parfait with chocolate mousse.
On the whole, I'm afraid, I was disappointed. My complaint will be familiar to those who've read other reports of mine: nearly everything was good, and much of it was very good, but nothing was a revelation, and for the price I paid I want at least one revelation (I won't say exactly how much I paid, because I'm embarrassed by it, but it was in the range you'd expect to pay for such a meal at, say, Jean Georges). I'd had dishes at my first visit which were better than anything I had at this meal. While I was eating, it occurred to me that perhaps the idea was that I should "compare and contrast" the very different ways of preparing seafood I was presented with; and perhaps if I were a more experienced diner I would have enjoyed it more. But as it was, while I would still gladly go back to Atlas, I doubt I'll order a tasting menu again.
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