This March we had the opportunity to celebrate Tali’s birthday in Atera, a 2 Michelin starred restaurant based in New York’s Tribeca Neighborhood. Its founding chef, Matthew Lightner, who ran the kitchen for three years, was replaced last year by the Danish Ronny Emborg. This change made quite the ruckus online with mixed opinions on the decision to have a Danish chef as the head of a well-established American restaurant.
As we came through the door, we were greeted by name and were politely led to the second floor to wait at bar while the kitchen prepared for the first evening service. We ordered the Rising Sun cocktail ($22 / 83₪) – white rum, Satsuma mandarin, Festival of Stars Sake and lemon verbena as well as a great beer which we sadly don’t remember the name of. The waiter/bartender was very knowledgeable in providing recommendations and explaining the taste profiles of the offered drinks.
We were soon led into the dining area, a floor below and were seated in the corner, just by the kitchen allowing us a great view of the preparation process of many dishes.
The service in Atera is as close to perfect as it can be. When the chef placed the dishes in front of us he made sure to do so slowly, thoughtfully and delicately. There was almost a zen quality to his surgeon-like movements. It didn’t feel like an act of showmanship though, but rather it conveyed the message that the chef wants the plates to be served precisely the way they were envisioned and prepared. The service was meticulous no matter the staff member. For example, when I went to the toilets, my place was cleaned and neatly ordered. When we asked the head waiter to take our picture, he did so with a sense of pride and conviction, but all the while casually and friendly.
The atmosphere in Atera is upscale, but it feels more smart and casual rather than official and sumptuous. This is partly due to the agreeable yet professional staff, as well as the background music playlist which consisted of a light rock and pop including Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival as well as Hootie and the Blowfish. Contributing to this is the seating arrangement itself, a kitchen bar circling the kitchen, which allows you the easily strike casual conversations with your dining neighbour. Our only complaint was that the music was loud enough to make it hard for us to hear the chef’s explanation of the dishes as they were served across the counter.
Before long the first of 19(!) courses started flowing in.
1. Lime juice with pine and apple
This was a great start. Light and refreshing with a woody scent and a surprising hot/cold blend.
2. Æbleskiver with smoked eel – traditional pancakes in a distinctive shape of a sphere.
Super fluffy and airy, with a smoky flavor and a sweet and spicy sauce.
3. Pineapple, lemon verbena and pickled mustard seeds
An amazingly aesthetic dish which was served on a very unique plate.
We mostly felt pineapple notes, but no mustard (Which is saying something ,since I’m mustard-sensitive so I feel even the slightest hint of it).
4. Waffle with aged cheddar cheese, fermented mushrooms and winter black truffles
The first thing we noticed as this dish approached us was the truffles smell. It’s crispy, full of smoky flavors and the cheese served as a fine addition.
5. Siberian sturgeon (Baerii) caviar, pistachio ice cream and beer cream
The tastiest dish so far. Intriguing combination of bitterness (from the IPA beer), sour and sweet (pistachio).
6. Razor clam with beet, horseradish and dill
We are both not huge fans of horseradish so this dish was less to our taste. The parts of the dish that did not contain horseradish were great. Those included the frozen beet disc which had an intriguing texture and razor clams which were placed inside the beat tubes. The clam’s flavor was not as prominent since it was overshadowed by the other, strong flavored components of the dish.
7. Sable fish with green kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage
This one had a delicate citrusy flavor. The sauce was made from Meyer lemon and mussel stock.
8. Sunchoke with oro blanco, heart of palm and white miso
Amazing. This was one of the best dishes of the meal. The cream complemented the palm with notes of cheese.
9. Sourdough croissant and whole wheat batard
Spreads: caramelized onion, butter cultured with Yogurt
The croissant was ok, but the bread was the real star here. Batard (French for “bastard”) baguette – is a more squat version of its long-and-slender cousin with a different crust-to-bread ratio which makes it extra crispy on the outside. The spreads were good but in my opinion their flavors were too pronounced and I would have prefered them to be more delicate.
10. Lobster with celeriac, yuzu, lemon, thyme and apple
A fresh, good lobster is already perfect on its own but the extra ingredients turn it into a true culinary achievement.
11. Lobster bisque infused with camomile
Smooth, creamy bisque with a flowery scented twist.
12. Black currant, peanut and foie gras
This dish was a total surprise, just the way we like it. The texture of the black currant jelly was not at all how we thought it would be from the looks of it. Once moved, it unveiled the peanut and foie gras toastine. A sort of sophisticated twist on peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
13. Rib eye cooked on the bone with smoked bone marrow sauce, fresh wasabi and broccoli
To our surprise, the rib eye wasn’t soft but had a rather tough chewie nature. The bone marrow sauce and seasoning however gave it an extra punch which brought out its primal, meaty flavor.
14 Toasted walnut ice cream with fresh pear, dried pear, sorrel and aged cider
A smart play of textures. The hollow pears contained a soft cream, which made every spoonful a study of exploration in your mouth.
Atera offers wine pairing for ($195 / 750₪) which we passed on. Our neighbours on the bar went for it and amassed an impressive glass collection around the 13th dish mark.
15. Goat cheese ice cream with chocolate and cranberries
Another dish with a neat play on textures. The chocolate block was not entirely airy, like it looks in the picture. They make it by bubbling the chocolate up and letting it freeze afterwards. This creates a texture that transitions seamlessly between smooth and soft to hard and back.
16. Persimmon confessed in spearmint and the other in sugar.
17. Milk chocolate with caramel and miso
18. Flodeboller – chocolate coated marshmallow with a lemon cookie
The petit fours were all nice but the Milk Chocolate with Caramel and Miso was exceptionally good.
19. Chocolate birthday cake
At this point we were beyond full. While none of the previous 18 dishes were large, eating them all proved to be quite the challenge. Nonetheless it was a nice, personal touch that Atera’s kitchen took the extra effort to help us celebrate Tali’s birthday.
Atera was our most expensive dinner to date at $235 / 904₪ per person (including service), but definitely one of the most memorable ones. This is one of those places which requires a special occasion as an excuse to dine in, but luckily for us we had just that 🙂