I had the pleasure of dining with CH ImmanuelGilen and his lovely family today at Chef's Table tonight. The room is like a gorgeous industrial kitchen with copper pots hanging and stainless steel counters.
We were there for the first seating at 6:45PM.
To preface the review, no photos are allowed, no note taking is allowed, I have terrible hearing, I do not have eidetic memory, and I was a teensy bit tipsy from the glass of delicious champagne graciously shared with me... so there may be (probably are) some errors, e.g. 2-3 dishes might be listed out of the order in which I had them, forgotten components, etc.
First bite was a miniature rye crisp tart with creme fraiche(?), dill, and a mound of exceptionally fresh and bright trout roe. I'm not a fan of rye, but the flavor was subtle and the texture of the crisp was light and without fault.
Next was crispy kelp with madai (snapper) grilled over Japanese white oak charcoal. The texture of the madai was perfect but this dish was the sole dish I had issues with. It had a chemically (gas? lighter fluid? I'm not sure) taste, and the taste sat in the back of my palate for half the meal.
Saba, Japanese mackerel was served with ginger. The quality of the mackerel was impeccable, it had mild taste with a finish that lingers and becomes more "fishy". The ginger brightened the mackerel, but I am not the biggest fan of even perfect mackerel. This was however, the best mackerel I've had, eclipsing the previous best I've had, at Yasuda from years ago.
Black sea perch with crisp rice crust was one of the highlights of the meal. The toasted rice was technically exquisite, an armor of little nubbins that crunched to air over silky, sweet, fresh fish. Black vinegar added an aged, caramel acidity.
Hokkaido uni was brushed beautifully with a soy(?) glaze and draped with lovely circle/paper thin slice of perigord truffle on cm thick wafer of brioche. The uni was faultless and the balance of flavors impressed me with the flavor of the uni, truffle and soy complementing rather than one component overwhelming. I contrast this with the black truffle lobster dish I had at Modern that was woefully one note and masked the flavor of the lobster. Subjectively, I would have preferred a vehicle for the uni, other than brioche because the butter in the brioche took the flavor of the uni to a place that was almost duck foie-like in context. Purely a personal preference to preserve more purely the briny sea like butteriness without the dairy notes.
Osetra caviar with dashi sabayon was served in a mini glass coupe. The dashi sabayon was very rich, unctuous and had tiny bits of crispy potato and chopped chives (?). Osetra is a rare treat for me, firm, luscious, little pops of fresh brininess really made for the most luxurious play on a baked potato I have ever tasted.
Foie gras soup with ramps was another highlight. An unusual preparation of hot foie gras in a viscous clear broth (a perfect slice/rectangle of liver), served with chunks of sweet Norwegian king crab and a spicy component (togarashi?) and truffles(!) A balancing act showing brilliant hand and palate.
Poached lobster was soft and yielding, technically competent. It was layered with a flexible, paper thin rectangle of cooked cucumber and topped with cucumber flower blossom that added a peppery finish. Brilliant. The aqueous, "cooling" taste of mild cucumber adds a tone to the lobster that doesn't overwhelm, and the peppery finish of the flower is just brilliant.
Japanese bass with white asparagus was served over a vibrant sauce of epazote. Precise cuts to the fish, lovely presentation and rich with clean flavor/fresh fish oils. The peeled white asparagus was a respectable stalk (no head), the texture of which was exceptionally fine, yielding but not mushy. A vinegary component gave it a little tang.
Wild turbot was served with white wine foam that gave a subtle tannin, pea shoots, sweet pea puree, the most beautiful shelled snap peas I have ever seen. The fish was impeccable, and the peas fresh, toothsome with crisp vegetal sugars.
Abalone was served draped with a translucent rectangle of seaweed, a luscious bodied nori sauce, a quarter of sauteed porcini mushroom,baby turnip (?), succulent heart of palm, grilled asparagus with delicious maillard spotting and a pungent wasabi flower blossom.
Miyazaki wagyu with radish, highlighting knife work, gorgeous quality of beef, cooked medium rare with juice and blood, sliced to a perfect thickness for soft yielding bites and freshly grated wasabi root with floral mustard notes. The best wagyu I have had in New York. Straightforward preparation, highlighting quality of ingredients and excellent technique. The thickness of the wagyu is a choice that enhanced the eating experience. Too thin, and there is not enough for the teeth to sink, too thick and even with lovely marbling, the buttery quality of the meat is lessened. Both the wasabi and the radish offer lightness to the mouth perception of the fatty meat.
Duck was a hybrid breed of Pekin and Normandy. The duck was cooked on a plancha and the skin was crisped, fat was rendered to an exceptional degree while still keeping the meat juicy. On the plate, the duck was ladled with jus. One of the best preparations of duck I've had outside of a Chinese restaurant. Intensely flavorful. My only quibble is the little thread-like sinew running through the meat. The duck was served with charcoal blistered shisito pepper stuffed with duck leg meat that tasted like a rapturous, insanely delicious spin on sausage and peppers.
Shiso sorbet, so smooth and so creamy in texture, with a round, shiso leaf flavor is just.... is just, a doorway to heaven for shiso lovers. I literally paused after taking a bite, savoring the flavor and couldn't continue for a few heartbeats. A sweet palate cleanser non-pareil.
For dessert, cornichon sized, cylindrical Malaga wild strawberries were fragrant, sweet, so ripe but lacking even a hint of mealiness. The berries and a berry coulis, were served in a bowl with a swirl of smooth, frozen, rich and tangy (I'm almost positive) cow's milk yogurt. Perhaps just the slightest touch too sweet for me since the berries were already gorgeous with malic sugar.
Next was a beautiful popover looking cloud of frozen chocolate that literally dissipates on your tongue like a puff of air. The chocolate flavor is subtle and more in an Asian fashion of chocolate desserts. If you've ever had astronaut ice cream, you have an idea of what I am talking about. There are chocolate "crunchies" and butterscotch that tie the dish together. The whole is dusted with matcha powder that tones the chocolate flavor and sweetness with some bitterness. Imaginative, unexpected, delightful.
Lastly, two bites, a meyer lemon cookie served warm and tasting like a madeline but with the distinct mild flavor of high quality Meyer lemon, and a dome of chocolate filled with liquid caramel that tastes like soy sauce.
There was a grilled scallion in the meal somewhere but I can't remember what dish it was with.
The kitchen was a marvel, like clockwork, teamwork, efficiency and organization. Service was very professional and accomplished. The chef was very, very gracious and although I had some reservations after reading the news report about treatment of customers... Not only am I of Chinese descent, I am very Chinese-y looking, and Chef Ramirez was not only perfectly courteous, he was warm and enthusiastic in sharing his food and very generous with his conversation and time. I was seated next to the chef, and in fact, there's no restaurant that I've had MORE interaction with the chef. Considering the amount of prep, cooking, orchestrating that he needs to do to execute such high level food with consistency, I'm truly appreciative and surprised by just how social he is. His team is really amazing to watch. Every single chef under chef Ramirez displayed inspiring technical ability from the cooking to the plating.
IMO better than Per Se. Better than Eleven Madison Park. Better than Jean Georges. Better than Le Bernadin. They're not directly comparable of course, but in terms of overall experience with regard to the TASTE of the food, I have not had such a stunning meal in NY since Lespinasse's white truffle tasting menu under Gray Kunz. Chef's Table is setting the bar for NY.