Went to Corton a few nights ago and thought we'd report back. Firstly, we were surprised at how empty the place was, only getting about 70% full by 9 o'clock on a Thursday and only a very few tables occupied before 8 pm. I guess when Corton is this quiet, the room feels less welcoming. It's not that great a room anyway but, early on in the evening, it really needed a few more diners to cheer it up. Recently, I've noticed how much easier it is to get a reservation there and I wonder how well the restaurant is doing. A lot of the other diners near our table were French, whatever that means.
The non-food stuff: our server was disappointing -- she kind of reeled off menu descriptions in a very automatic way and abandoned us once she took our order. Nearly all of our food was served by the bus boys, who were friendly but couldn't respond that well to comments on the dishes. Liked the sommelier. The really bad part of the service was the spacing out of the courses in our three course menu. They bring some amuse-bouches before you have even ordered and then our first course came out extremely quickly, so fast that I didn't have time to go to the bathroom after our order was taken. Then, after they had cleared the first course, my fiance saw them starting to bring out our main course while I quickly went to the bathroom! I was in there for no more than a couple of minutes and we thought this spacing was very very poor. And pointless, frankly, as they didn't need to be turning our table that fast judging by the large number of unoccupied tables. Also, after our main course was cleared our server (who never asked how we liked our main course, or first courses) took about twenty minutes to come and ask us what we wanted for dessert, which made the service seem all the more amateur.
The food: liked about 50% of the amuses-bouches, particularly a parmesan 'marshmallow'. First courses: "From the garden" was excellent -- exactly what you've read about it, although our very prominently placed radish's greens (standing straight up in the middle of the plating) were not that fresh; "la Plume" was too fractured so that nothing felt substantial: three different plates, one with an egg yolk over a kind of tartlet, another with some tiny pieces of quail, and then a foie gras chantilly with a cucumber jelly that tasted profoundly like a face product and was not at all tasty (made me think of reports I have read of certain unpalatable dishes at Pierre Gagnaire). There were a bunch of other ingredients too in "la Plume" but these didn't shine that much.
For the main course, we shared the ossabaw pork belly, which was magnificent. They make a show of displaying it to you (while you're eating your starter) under a glass dome full of eucalyptus smoke. The eucalyptus flavouring was very compelling without being too dominant, the pork was meaty and tender-fatty and there was an unbelievably good, black, smoked eggplant paste and also a jellified tamarind to go with. The aligot that came with it separately was unremarkable (maybe even a little undercooked?) and not even worth finishing but we didn't mind much and could easily disregard it on its tiny plate. If we hadn't had the pork, I think the meal would have been quite a big disappointment but as it was, this stood out as a very accomplished piece of cooking -- unusual stuff going on without anything unnecessarily detracting. Desserts were ok -- tasty popcorn based one, brioche less well executed.
Overall, wouldn't rush back but wouldn't be upset to eat there again! Mainly because I don't know if the price point is really so good, despite the prix fixe seeming less than some of the other big players, and the service and atmosphere were quite bad. But the pork was a memorable dish.
239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013