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Two Michelin Stars, New York

Reviewed by Justine Murphy, CEO of mymuybueno – March 2017

In its opening year of 2012 Atera was awarded two Michelin stars under Head Chef Matthew Lightner, formerly of Noma. In 2015. Danish Chef Ronny Emborg, formerly of Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred Marchal, as well as El Bulli and Mugaritz, took control. He has introduced ‘The Sensory Kitchen’, a cooking style where the dining guest must use eyes, ears, nose and taste during the meal (not to mention the camera when guests are trying to capture the true essence of perfection on a plate).

Blink and you would miss the entrance as it’s quite discreetly hidden, located in Tribeca underneath a block of apartments. On arriving at Atera I was met directly with the open kitchen and bar seating, where I promptly took my place. Atera is a small restaurant, just one room, with the bar seating for guests and then one small high table behind in the corner for four. It felt intimate and unpretentious, which relaxed me immediately. Chef Ronny was on dinner service.

A nice touch was that of napkins being strategically placed either side of me, one under my phone to my left and one to my right under my DSLR camera. This was a massive attention to detail and a great start.

Lime Snow and Juniper. This was a fresh and clean amuse bouche.

Ebleskiver. The name literally means apple slices in Danish although apples are not usually an ingredient in present-day versions like this one. This was a pancake in the shape of a sphere with lemon zest and a spiced pickle and black pepper gel. Usually this dish would have contained crab, but due to my allergy it was made without. It was refreshing that I didn’t miss out on this dish as most other establishments would have simply given me a vegetable alternative and I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the same experience as other guests. This was delicious, with strong, sharp, berry notes on my palate complimenting the sweet pancake.

Olives, Grapes. This was a very clever yet fresh and simple dish, presented as Californian Olives – chilled green olives with sea salt and olive oil. However, all was not as it seemed and these were in fact grapes, chilled grapes, under the guise of olives. Genius. This played with my mind, and my senses and most especially my taste buds. My eyes told me it was an olive and the initial flavours and texture confirmed this, but when I bit into it, the crunch and the sweetness of the grape were revealed. So simple, so very clever and a good indication of what was to come. A really playful dish.

‘This played with my mind, and my senses and most especially my taste buds.’

Waffle, King Trumpet, Cheddar. This was a crispy waffle with fermented mushroom, aged Cheddar from Vermont and a fresh King Trumpet mushroom on the top. The mushroom and cheese combination was simply beautiful, each bite delicate with earthy flavours.

Golden Osetra Caviar, Pistachio, IPA. Incredibly good caviar, served with pistachio ice cream and beer cream. Chef Ronny’s instruction was to eat a little of each component together on my spoon. This was very good and felt similar to something that Mikael at Hedone would produce.

Langoustine, Foie Gras, Apple. A raw Scottish langoustine served with a lemon gel, apples, shavings of frozen foie gras and a walnut and grape sauce. This was a precious and beautiful dish, the frozen shavings of foie really worked, as it made the dish not too rich.

Salmon, Daikon, Roe. This dish was everything. The smell was just incredible, and the combination of delicious ingredients and textures made it perfect. Wild salmon was loosely covered with crisp, fresh, super-thin sheets of daikon radish, salmon roe and a horseradish butter sauce with a leek ash. The roe provided little bursts of salty goodness as each pearl burst in my mouth and this flavour fully complimented the sauce. The photo really does not do it justice.

Scallop, Celery, Cauliflower. Plated in front of me, a beautiful Maine diver scallop, with celery, cauliflower and Brussel sprout, which added colour and crunch to the plate. It also featured wild flowers, which enhanced the miniature green garden freshness in front of me. It was brought together with a yuzu cream and a cauliflower purée. Another perfect dish.

Pretzel, Mustard. This was a cigar shaped in a similar fashion to my razor clam dish at Geranium. A crisp shell filled with ham, chive and mustard. So much skill and so much flavour in each bite.

‘So much skill and so much flavour in each bite.’

Whole Wheat Batard. Served alongside the pretzel was their beautiful bread with two bowls of goodness to spread on top. To the left was cream cheese sprinkled with Chicharrón, which was so light and nothing short of brilliant as it tasted so amazing. To the right, butter with wild herbs and pickled broccoli.

‘Cream cheese sprinkled with Chicharrón.’

Yolk, White Onion, Potato, Thyme. This was a pretty plate of poached egg yolk, a quenelle of confit black truffle, lemon thyme, white onion and lemon oil with a potato tuille and a buttermilk foam. The addition of nasturtium and watercress helped restore the balance of the richness from the yolk. This dish erred on the edge of being too rich for my palate however.

At this point, the Carl Douglas hit ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ came on and this filled the room with foot tapping, bopping and just an amazing vibe with both staff and guests. The music selection here is incredible and sums up Atera. Unpretentious, playful and happy. Such music is unheard of, quite literally, in any other Michelin star establishment.

‘At this point, the Carl Douglas hit ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ came on.’

Pork, Leek, Parsley. This gorgeous dish consisted of milk-fed pork, of which an integral component is coconut fat. This lending an incomparable succulence to the resulting pork fat – what a beautiful piece of meat. This was served with leeks, parsley miso and a dashi made from bones of the pork. The dashi was the best I’ve ever had and is was such a clean, well thought out dish.

‘milk-fed pork, of which an integral component is coconut fat’

‘More, More, More’ by Andrea True started belting out of the speakers at this stage and I could not have been happier. Cheesy music and delicious food is my idea of heaven.

Well… just when I thought Atera couldn’t surprise me any more, I went to the bathroom. Now, I would never ever normally write about the bathroom in an establishment, however this one definitely deserves a few lines.

I really was reminded that I was just in one small room, as after slipping down from my stool, I walked just a few paces to where a door was slid open for me and inside I went. Fresh lilies, candlelight, black slate and paintings on the wall of Tintin and a large bare-bottomed burlesque woman awaited me. Just brilliant.

‘Just when I thought Atera couldn’t surprise me any more.’

Duck, Juniper, Beet. This featured duck breast from Crescent Duck Farm in Long Island, which had been dry-aged in-house for five days, a beetroot crudité, dehydrated beetroot glazed in its own juices, lemon thyme and juniper and duck jus from the roasted bones. The skin was salty and perfect and glazed and delicious. The sous vide duck was perfectly pink and the dehydrated beetroot was a revelation – a mass of sweetness but still tasting of beetroot. The jus was gorgeous. The wine pairing here was spot-on to cut through the richness of the fatty glorious duck.

Rice, Citrus, Sea Buckthorn. This featured blood orange, kaffir lime and lemon citrus crisps on top of rice pudding with almond ice. It was a fresh, crunchy and crisp, well balanced palate cleanser.

Heart of Palm, Oak, Honey. This was an ice cream sandwich with toasted oats, crispy honeycomb, dulce de leche and meringue. It was beautiful.

White Chocolate, Huckleberry. This was a white chocolate layer with huckleberry ice on top, served with fresh chervil.

Madeleine, Black Garlic. This was unusual and it worked – a lemon madeleine with a black garlic centre.

Miso Caramel, Chocolate. Gorgeous.

Flødeboller, this was a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat, another Danish confection. Lovely.

The Petit Fours were delicious, each one equally well thought-out and served in front of me with beautiful hand-pressed coffee, which again echoed Geranium. My final photo to share is of the beautiful hand-crafted ceramics made locally by Jono Pandolfo.

Wine:

  • J. Vignier Silexus Sezannensis, Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2011 France
  • Stadlmann, Rotgipfler, Thermenregion, 2011 Austria
  • Chene Bleu Rose, Vaucluse, 2015 France
  • Relic “The Stage” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California, 2014 USA
  • Michael Shaps, Petit Manseng, Monticello, Virginia, 2015 USA
  • Chateau Pradeaux, Bandol, 2012 France
  • Renato Fenocchio, Barbaresco, 2012 Italy
  • Chateau Coutet, 1ER CRU Classe, Barsac, 2006 France

Favourite dish: Salmon, Daikon, Roe.

Napkin Fold: Yes

Menu to take home: Yes

Meal for two, including with drinks and service: £780.

Final Thought: I haven’t had this much fun from a restaurant experience ever before. The food was incredible – sensational ingredients treated with love and respect and brought together in perfect harmony. The vibe – awesome. To be in a restaurant, any restaurant, let alone one with two coveted Michelin stars, that pumps out its music loudly and proudly was very satisfying. Extra points for the bopping by all staff, including the manager. The service was slick and flawless, but it just comes naturally to this well put-together team. The bathroom, of course, another tick and unashamedly so.

The attention to detail, the honesty and the passion here make this a very special place. Ronny is such a talented chef, and you can clearly see the influence of elements from his time at previous residencies. I loved it here and I would fly to New York just to eat here again. Atera is cemented forever in my heart and mind as a firm favourite and in my top ten so far.

Atera
Address: 77 Worth Street New York, NY
Telephone: + 1 212.226.1444
Hours: Dinner: 6pm – 9.30pm
Website: www.ateranyc.com