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Corton, again! (review)


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Corton, again! (review)

calf | Oct 18, 2012 12:02 PM

I had a lovely dinner. What keeps me coming back is the sophisticated cookery and the playing around with ideas. The food at Corton does tend to polarize diners, mostly because it's ambiguous whether a dish came out "bad", or it was new and unfamiliar. It makes me think to Shojin cuisine, which tells us that in even a mundane activity like eating, there exist levels of intellectual, spiritual, cultural development above and beyond mere sensual pleasure. Tasty food is easy to do: obtain fresh, expensive ingredients, and then serve them simply. But there are other ways that food can be exciting, and even edifying, and it's awesome that some of the important boundary-pushing, exploration, and fusion of ideas is happening right here in NYC.

- Every course was good. Yes, there were weaknesses, but I don't require "perfection", and the good parts delivered.
- Visual/architectural appeal is amazing - clean, precise. There are virtuosic levels of plating in other restaurants, but Corton's aesthetic is unique - a bold minimalism that is yet romantic and evocative.
- Extremely detailed composition. Multiple ingredients, with point and counterpoint structures on the plate.
- Especially impressive were: chawanmushi, matsutake "soup" thing, madai plate, cassoulet, guinea hen plate

Food Negatives:
- Not sure whether flavors as advertised in their descriptions are subtle, or weak. Let's take the hay smoked fish as an example. I couldn't taste much smokiness at all. Is it supposed to be a delicate, subconcious smokiness, or something more prominent? What is the chef's intent? Fortunately it doesn't matter, because that morsel of fish was still wonderfully tasty.
- Feel a tinge mixed about the truffle supplement. Not sure how this currently compares with other restaurants that serve truffle. See below.
- Some sauces verged on salty, but really the amounts were trivial.

Service Negatives:
- Feels understaffed. I have, like, maybe 6 questions about ingredients, but the staff are clearly too loaded to handle much conversation.
- Fast paced meal. Twice the courses were almost colliding, with me still eating off a plate. (Whole dinner was 1 hour 45 minutes.) Do I eat too slowly? Will eating faster make the food taste better? I dunno.
- Honestly this doesn't stop me from coming back. But I'm not sure how to deal with these issues if I brought guests with me.

Dining Advice:
- Pick the Seasonal Tasting. Both times that I have done it were completely worth it. The portions are bigger and therefore tastes are more accessible.
- Eat boldly, chew thoughtfully.
- The ingredient complexity and unfamiliarity may induce an information overload. Relax, enjoy the ride.

At this price range (150 post tax, tips):
Sushi Yasuda, The Modern, Kyo-Ya, 15 East
All excellent restaurants, but I would not hesitate to recommend Corton over each of them.
(I'm not familiar with: Jean Georges, Soto, Momofuku Ko)

At other price ranges:
Atera (1.4×), Per Se (2.5×)
Atera is stronger in the opening and desserts (and bread), while Corton is spectacular with the mains. Meanwhile, Per Se takes technique and execution to a different planet, but their regular 9-course tasting is safer, more accessible.
(I'm not familiar with: EMP in its current incarnation, Le Bernardin, Jungsik)

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