Could a plate of mushrooms be worth $32? That was the question that entered my mind going through the menu at The Tasting Room this week. Love this place, but haven't been in a few months.
If you're unfamiliar with it, Tasting Room is a teeny, teeny slice of a restaurant in the East Village, offering everything as "tasting portions", around four bites of supreme quality. If you want a larger portion, more akin to a normal entree portion, they offer "sharing" portions at exactly twice the price. And they have this tremendous wine list, domestic wines only.
You go into the place knowing it's going to be expensive. Their pitch is that they pick the greatest, freshest ingredients they can source, changing the menu frequently depending on what's on the market that day. Having had some amazing meals there, I believe it. (Unbelievable scallops, for example.) And you know you can't just pick up wheat berries at Whole Foods.
But $32 for mushrooms as a "share"?? This was, after all, presented with the duck and fluke, not the frisee salad. Porcini mushrooms, not something found only in some soggy part of Asia. It's the price of a serious steak in most restaurants, more expensive than excellent fish in many great places. Shouldn't those be a garnish to the $32 scallops or something?? We had to try it, but cheaped out for the tasting portion.
Out it comes, one of a series 5 plates we ordered. A small plate with a very few chunks of mushroom, a few fat strands of wheat soba noodles and a dollop of quark, a yougurt-smooth fresh cheese, a cousin to cottage cheese.
Oh yes. Amazing flavor. We ate the mushrooms like you would a small piece of tremendous chocolate, savoring every moment. This may have been one of the best things I've tasted EVER. Completely delicious. We regretted not ordering the full share. It is absoultely worth the price. In chatting with the co-owner, Rene, (I was noting the price, not complaining about it) she referred to her husband, the chef, saying "you can't believe how much he has to pay to get those mushrooms.
As always, the service was as gracious and unpretentious as the quarters was cramped. (Expect to become pals with the people sitting near you.)
And a note: The Tasting Room does not have to be a bank-breaking meal. Our check came to $109 for two people including three glasses of wine (total, not per person). Pray that the mushrooms are on the menu.