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cabrales | Jan 6, 2004 09:26 AM

Despite my continuing disenchantment with NY restaurants, I couldn't resist an invitation from one of my favorite dining companions to sample Asiate. The meal was fairly good, and dining room team service was generally capable, based on this limited assessment.

Decor is generally attractive, with excellent views. Modern interior dominated by brown hues. It's quite Tony Chi in decor style, as most evident from the worm-like or coral-like (but more angular) silver-colored "art" items placed on top of the ceiling of a large portion of the dining area. This is reminiscent of the white-colored, larger, macaroni-like or worm-like items on the ceiling adjacent to the window area of NoMI in the Park Hyatt, Chicago. Like NoMI, there are expansive glass areas to permit diners to enjoy the view (at NoMI, it's of the Hancock tower and environs).

Amuses included gougeres (alright; with gruyere, of course, and seaweed specks). Also, a little round squat ceramic container with cauliflower veloute and a bit of pumpkin veloute in the center of the preparation. Very nicely, this resembled a sunny-side-up egg when one looked at it (white surrounding a yellow area, which represented the pumpkin veloute). Appropriate tasting.

(1) Foie Gras -- Venison and foie gras terrine, mache salad, sauce vin cotto

This was quite nice, with the terrine not representing a typical "cross-section" slicing. Each of two rectangular sections of terrine consisted of a stacking of two portions of cubed foie against two portions of cubed venison. Nice utilization of elasticky meatiness of venison (elastic, due to manipulation) against the softer, richer texture of the foie. A dining room team member mentioned Chinese wine might have been integrated into the terrine. My dining companion noted juniper berries; there might have been some black pepper as well. I tasted a very, very slight bit of black truffle oil-type taste in the aftertaste of the terrine, but I am not sure about this at all and the juniper berries my dining companion noted could have been contributing to a false perception (??). Brioche toasts served with terrine were nice, although my subjective preference is for softer brioche effects.

There was also a piece of foie gras torchon, which was nice, with a piece of burgundy-colored quasi-dried radish on top. When my dining companion asked a dining room team member, pointing to the radish, what that was, the member indicated it was a torchon preparation. The team member should have come forth with a more developed answer, instead of my having had to ask him about the item on top to clarify.

Baby mache, presented in the shape of a bouquet on the plate, was appropriate. As were slivers of daikon in the mache.

Nice saucing, reflecting vin cotto. There were certain umami tastes that were expressed for some reason in the overall dish that made the Asian "fusion" (word I dislike) aspects of this dish not inappropriate for Asiate.

-- Caesar salad soup -- This was quite nice, with bacon foam, lettuce veloute and little bits of Israeli cous cous or tapioca (or similar item) at the bottom. Bottom of the soup was at a significantly warmer temperature than the top. I liked the generally hot temperature of the soup.

(2) Duck -- Duck confit, seared foie gras, daikon, peking duck broth

Served in a circular metal bowl with a wooden lid one sometimes sees in less formal Japanese restaurants. Nice, very crispy skin to the duck, with fat that remain unrendered and that was nice. Flesh of confit was appropriate.

Seared foie gras had hints of sourness that suggested a less than pristine piece, given that sourness was likely unintended (obviously not a verjus-type preparation).

The menu said Peking duck broth, but the broth had no logical connection to Peking duck I could imagine (and I doubt Pekin duck had been utilized and there had been a misspelling). Anyhow, soup was nice and the daikon had been softened and included as a large piece in it (like one finds in certain Japanese stews or certain Japanese noodle presentations).

I did not like the crosnes in this dish, which conferred a great deal of crunchiness, but then I generally don't particularly like crosnes. I've never liked them, even though I've sampled them in various dishes, including at Guy Savoy.

(3) Apple, apple, apple -- Dessert was presented in three shotglasses. Many renditions of apple, including one presentation intended to mimic the tastes of apple pie. This was quite nice. Desserts do not appear to have Asian fusion aspects, necessarily.

$65 for 3 courses. Wth a reasonably priced bottle of Italian red chosen well by my dining companion and a glass of dessert wine each, it was $170/person after tax and tips. (There's a tasting menu for $85 before wine pairing)

The suckling pig was sold out, which I found to be a strange development, given the general press coverage of this dish.

Overall, the meal at Asiate was fairly good. While there was no dish so far that I felt was pleasing in the way that dishes at Danube recently were, the dishes sampled were fairly good. Obviously, one visit does not a good basis for the assessment of a restaurant make.

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