It was a long wait but a wait that led me happily to a pot of gold on clinton street. I thought that the concepts and tastes and combinations that we've all heard so much about these last months were well founded, surprising and just plain delicious. Never having been to el bulli (the food temple in spain) I wasn't quite sure as to what to expect from this kind of approach to food and cooking, there's always some great taste to be discovered somewhere but this was a process that I hadn't encountered. I can only imagine that the kitchen's deep and underlying love for food and the questions that passion raised caused them to take some leap, or maybe work harder in their science lab but this curiousity and joie de vivre revealed itself with each dish, each bite to be something....other.
We started with a lovely champagne followed by several bottles of wine, only one of which I can remember now, an italian wine from campania called falanghina, a
lovely companion to the meal and a partial reason as to why I won't remember all the ingredients, sorry(!). The pounded and flattened oyster served as a large square with a pistachio puree was briny and succulent, one of my favorite dishes of the night. Red shrimp with a chickpea flan, an artichoke soup with ??(some meat so I didn't taste it) and a baby octopus cooked with tiny fingerling potatoes (and something great that I've just blanked on - sigh) were the appetizers we shared. Following this we had one more appetizer made larger for the four of us, hand sliced squid that made us question whether it was pasta or squid...beautifully thin and served in bowls with a lovely sauce of asian spices and flecked with pancetta (though the kitchen graciously left mine out - non meat eater). Main courses were a flatiron beef that I heard was excellent, a monkfish served in a bonito broth that was the star of the evening, a skatefish served with lemon gnocchi and asparagus sliced so thinly as to be asparagus wisps and a daurade drizzled with a shiso pesto.
Desserts were fantastic. We shared the parsnip cake with coconut ice cream, a 21st century rendition of a creme brulee and a trembling panna cotta with a huckleberry(?)coulis. I'm afraid that I've done the kitchen no justice with my descriptions, the fog of wine and satisfaction hasn't yet cleared. I will say that the flavors were so clean and bright, so true that nothing felt fancied about or manipulative. The way things were cut and sliced seem to add as much to the taste as to the presentation.
One companion had an interesting point, that there were so many flavors that one grew weary by the meal's end. That there wasn't a path that led to the top of the mountain-it was all the top of the mountain and felt that more distinction and pleasure would unfold if things were plainer at the start and built up. I
understand the thought and it almost makes sense but I can't imagine how it would be altered and yet achieve the simple complexities that made this all so unique and so worthy of the great wait.