Apologies in advance for an overly long and rambling report, but wanted to describe the experience in detail to try to do this wonderful new restaurant justice!
Had one of the best dinners in recent memory at the newly opened Asiate restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel located in the Time Warner Columbia Circle complex. The meal was fantastic on all levels from the cuisine to the decor to the service, but the really remarkable thing was that we had dinner last night (Sunday the 16th November) which was only the second day the restaurant was open. The restaurant operated so smoothly, as if it had been open for months. Very impressive.
The restaurant is located at lobby level in the Mandarin Oriental which in this case is on the 35th floor. Needless to say, the sweeping views of Central Park were amazing from this vantage point, the huge glass walls on two sides of the restaurant allowed for spectacular views. The decor and vibe and 35th floor location of the restaurant kinda reminded me of the wonderful New York Grill at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. Comfy booths with leather benches and feathered cushions, all in a muted beige color. Interesting blown glass art on the ceiling, along with two huge and somewhat overly showy glass walls/cabinets which housed the large and expensive wine collection.
My boyfriend and I went for the three course prix fixe ($65). The chef is Norie Sugie (formerly of Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and somewhere else in Sydney Australia- Tetsuya maybe?), and the cuisine was described as French/Japanese fusion, but seemed more modern french with japanese touches than japanese with some french fluorishes.
We started each with a glass of rose champagne ($22), forgot to take notes and can't remember the producer or vintage, but it was delicious (kinda tasted like the house brand Lucas Carton rose champagne). The pour was substantial and the stemware for the evening was all lovely Speigelau (sp?) crystal. Bread was freshly baked mini baguettes with a light crushed nori sprinkling on top (could barely taste the nori so was more like a nice warm french bread). First amuse was tiny warm gruyere gougeres, once again sprinkled with seaweed flakes. Delightful. Second amuse was a small cup of what was described as persimmon tea, but was more like a clear sweet fruit soup. Served warm, it really refreshed and opened the palate for the food to come.
My boyfriend had the prawn with truffle shavings and handmade pasta noodles steamed en papillote with the house spicy XO sauce (my description, took no notes so can't remember official name on the menu). It was delicious, spicy, complex, with perfectly al dente noodles and perfectly cooked prawn. Several large black truffle shavings as well. A very large portion for an appetizer. I had the clam etuvee, which was a melange of fine pieces of perfectly tender razor, ark, and geoduck clams sauteed with brunoised carrot, celery, and onions, in a rich buttery coconut broth. Also a very large portion, extremely rich and tasty with great clam and coconut flavors. We split a glass of ginga shizuku junmai daigingo sake ($20, such a generous pour seemed like two full portions) which was outrageously fragrant and light. I realize most junmai daigingo's are too light to be paired with buttery foods, but this one worked, especially with the coconut flavors of my clam dish.
Next came another freebie which was the "caesar salad soup". Sounded gross, but turned out again to be delicious. Was warm pureed lettuce with tiny blobs of some sort of grain (not barley or quinoia, forgot to ask exactly what), topped with a parmesan foam. For our entrees, we both ordered the highly recommended (by both our waiter and the sommelier) suckling pig. On a large square plate we got two rectangles of pressed roasted suckling pig with crispy skin but no visible fat (rendered out in cooking and pressing perhaps), a spherical croquette of minced pig trotter parts in a panko crust, and a portion of braised pig cheek. This was resting on lighltly sauteed cabbage and apple puree, both intricately spiced with fennel and sumac. All elements of the dish were equally delicious. Again, another large portion. Getting very full by this point. Shared a bottle of Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto d'Alba ($48).
For dessert, my boyfriend had the "chocolate chocolate chocolate" which was three shot glasses filled with differed parfaits of white, dark, and milk chocolate each uniquely scented and spiced with exotic tastes like ylang ylang it seemed. He hoarded this so I didn't get too much of a taste, but what i tried was really yummy. I had the passion fruit souffle with vanilla sticky rice ice cream. The passion fruit souffle was very tasty although nothing out of the ordinary, but the ice cream was very unusual and tasty. Kinda like a pureed mochi ice cream ball! We were given another freebie dessert to try, bluerry compote in a champagne glass with cheesecake foam on top and graham cracker sprinkles. This was just average tasting. All three desserts were large portions and we were really quite full at the end of the meal. Split a glass of 1995 Chateau d'Yqeum ($50, again such a generous pour the "split" rendered two glasses of about four ounces each). Unctuous and delightful, definitely a bit young but still so satisfying.
Fantasic value, with the three course prix fixe at $65 and the seven course tasting at $85. The calibre of the experience is right up there with Jean Georges and Daniel. The food was just so delicious! The wine list was substantial and on the expensive side focusing on french and california wines and unfortunately most of the wines were "safe picks/crowd pleasers" without too many adventurous/lesser known choices. Several good wines by the glass, and a nice sake selection by the glass.
Service was perfection. Gracious, knowledgable, unpretentious, and lighthearted. Formal french in basic service style, with waiters in suits, but definitely relaxed. Our three course meal lasted from 8.30-11.30pm, but nothing lagged and the time flew by since the flow of service was so spot on. Again, can't believe it was only their second night. It's clear that they have hired professionals from other top end establishments in New York. The clientele seemed to be a mix hotel guests and couples in their early thirties through fifties, in dressy casual wear.
All in all, a sublime dining experience. Couldn't wait to go back so much that we made two more reservations in December! Get there before too much word gets out or the restaurant is reviewed in the Times and it becomes impossible to land a reservation!