“There are no borders for food passion”. I do not remember  when Michael started posting his food photos in my flickr group from USA. In this way we met. However I know, I can feel, that each shot shows the passion that we share around gastronomy and food. That’s why some weeks ago I offered him to prepare a post for the blog including his photos.  And today he brings us this excellent experience in a restaurant in New York plenty of taste, details and photos! Many, many  thanks for sharing Mike and I sincerely hope  you like to be our guest in further occasions. Amazing post!! (Javier Lastras)

Degustation - Dining Room

This restaurant review is special to me for several reasons. Degustation was one of the first restaurants I visited when I moved to New York two years ago, also it was one of the first meals I shot as an emerging food photographer. As such, I wanted to see how much I have grown as a food writer, and how, if at all, my photography style has improved over this relatively short period of time. Also, I wanted to see if Degustation itself has changed as well.

Degustation - Kitchen

Equally as important, I was looking for a restaurant that would be universally interesting to both European and American crowd, primarily because I was invited to write a guest review for www.ellaboratoriogastronomico.com/ – a blog for truly passionate foodies, an excellent read and a great source of food-related information for it’s followers.

And so, the dinner at Degustation was in the works.

The restaurant spots only 16 seats, all at the C-shaped counter around a busy, but well-organized and well-managed kitchen.

Degustation kitchen is relatively small, but quite active. Essentially, the restaurant is the kitchen, with diners seating around and in very close proximity to their food, prepared right in front of their eyes.

To those of you who have not had a chance to visit New York yet – few words about the East Village neighborhood in which Degustation is located:

The area was once generally considered to be part of the Lower East Side, but began to develop its own identity and culture in the 1960s, when many artists, musicians, students and hippies began to move into the area, attracted by cheap rents and the base of Beatniks that had lived there since the 1950s. The neighborhood has become a center of the counterculture in New York, and is known as the birthplace and historical home of many artistic movements, including punk rock and the Nuyorican literary movement. It has also been the site of protests and riots.

The East Village is still known for its diverse community, vibrant nightlife and artistic sensibility, although in recent decades gentrification has changed the character of the neighborhood somewhat. That said, it still remains “down-to-earth” kind of place, primarily because of the student population of NYU ( NY University) and the younger crowd it naturally attracts.

Degustation - White Allagash Beer

Home to countless eateries, East Village tends to be somewhat less expensive than posh Manhattan neighborhoods, but it definitely has some restaurant gems, such as Degustation and a few others.

Although Degustation has a nice wine list I opted for a White Beer – similar to Belgian White Ale.

First Course:

Green Salad - Greens, radish, roasted cauliflower, mushrooms, cheese.

Degustation - Salad

Somewhat surprisingly, this salad was actually served warm. The flavors were a bit more complex than I was expecting, yet still relatively simple. Although this was not an unforgettable dish, I was quite impressed by the quality of the greens – they were absolutely superb, perfect in in their natural shape and light, bright green color.

Second Course: Marinated Sardines - sardines, Nori paste, salmon roe, citrus foam.

Degustation - Marinated Sardines

This is one of the plates designed by Degustation new Chef ( who is originally from Barcelona). I have to say that the combination of flavors was as good as one can be – sardines were excellent, and marinated very nicely, Nori added an excellent shot of umami, but what truly made this dish complete for me was the salmon row – slightly salty, briny and rich overtones of that right completed the plate.

Third Course: Veal Sweetbreads (ris de veau) - Brussel sprouts, yogurt, cucumber, dill.

Degustation - Sweetbreads (close-up)

This was an addition to the 5-course tasting menu, and the one that I was very excited about. Sweetbreads were nicely cooked – just right. The Greek inspired dill and yogurt sauce, although extremely familiar and comforting to me was just a touch overpowering – the delicate flesh of sweetbreads got a little lost in the background.

Fourth Course: Braised Octopus - potato, pork belly, orange sauce.

Degustation - Octopus

Perhaps my favorite dish of the night. Octopus was cooked sous-vide and was very tender, rich pork belly was tossed with crispy green herbs, citrus served as a mild astringent. Masterpiece of a plate.

Fifth Course: Poached Sturgeon - tapioca, shellfish broth

Degustation - Sturgeon Plate

Another much anticipated course – sturgeon is on of my all-time favorites. Again, fish was cooked sous-vide, although it still retained the medium-rare texture in the middle, tapioca seem to have been a play on caviar (which would be an interesting fusion, actually), shellfish broth was rich but delicate (almost à la nage). Truly an excellent plate. Yet again I wondered if sturgeon ever shows up in Catalan cooking. Perhaps my Iberian audience can comment?

Sixth Course: Rabbit - rabbit loin, mushrooms, Broussel sprouts, croquette, green puree

Degustation - Rabbit (close-up)

I felt like this was closer to Catalan cooking than French, but either way – it was superb. The puree was most likely beans with some kind of herb or edamame. I absolutely loved this plate.

Seventh Course: Squid - braised short ribs, squid ink oatmeal risotto, garlic aioli, parsley

Degustation - Squid (close-up)

Excellent combination of flavors, although the risotto was a touch too salty for my palate. Short ribs were perfectly braised and matched well with the squid – braised meat and shellfish are a popular combo on many restaurant menus. I wondered if it was the case in Catalan cooking as well – it ought to be, I guess.

Desserts: Chocolate Pot-a-Creme - burnt marshmellow

Degustation - Pot-a-creme

Nice pot-a-creme, although marshmallow was a little too burnt for me. The desserts at Degustation were unchanged from the previous chef – it is interesting to see if the new Chef is going to change them.


Caramelized Torija - caramelized bread pudding, grapefruit, creme patisserie

Degustation - Bread Pudding

Traditional dessert at the Degustation – it was very nicely executed. Bread pudding was fluffy and sweet just enough.

Overall Impression:

This 16-seat East Village eatery represents a interesting fusion of flavors and techniques: Catalan and French. Degustation 5-course and 10-course tasting menus priced at $55.- and $80.- respectibely remain to be some of the best fine dining values in NYC. The restaurant is currently in transition, as the new Chef took over the kitchen, yet the food quality, original menu and good service remain undisputed. I absolutely recommend this restaurant to both local and visiting folk, and look forward to returning to the Degustation myself. More photos here.

Wine and Tasting Bar
239 E. Fifth St. (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves.)
New York, NY10003
web: www.degustationnyc.com

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