Degustation in need of service augmentation
We’ve heard and read the raving reviews about Degustation in NYC so we had to go on the first night of the trip. We ran a bit late, but luckily, instead of being seated at the wine bar, they were still able to seat us at the shared restaurant space with Jewel Boka, which has a romantic and relaxing ambience (Figure 1).
Dinner started out fabulously with an oyster amuse bouche seasoned with mustard seeds, green onion and a taste of the sea (Figure 2). I was amazed that the mustard seeds didn’t overwhelm the pure taste of the fleshy oyster.
To drink, I had a sweet and smooth 2011 Sauvignon blanc from the Iona winery in South Africa (Figure 3) that paired nicely with the oyster. It was a beautiful blend of white grapefruit, gooseberry and kiwi that popped as a burst of tropical fruit and then leaving the palate with a mineral tone. Definitely one of my favorite wines, but if you enjoy a wine with more tannins, it’s best if you try one of their reds.
The first main course was lobster in a Thai red curry with cucumber and sunflower seeds (Figure 4), which had colors perfect for the spring. However, one taste of the curry with cucumber, and my taste buds were suddenly overwhelmed due to the liberal (this is an understatement) use of lemongrass in the kitchen. Thankfully, the lobster was practically flavorless and perfectly cooked, allowing my palate to take a breather after the initial shocking, sharp flavors.
At this point, we realized that our waiter had no clue what was in the dishes that he served us… Each time, he had another lady tell us what each dish was composed of, and he told us that the spice in the lobster dish came from the red curry (no kidding).
The grilled white asparagus was plated over a spinach purée and topped with lemon meringue and pistachios (Figure 5). This had the essence of spring! They certainly chose some top quality white asparagus, which had a non-stringy, crunchy texture even though it was a slice about an inch in diameter! Plus, the underside of the asparagus had a tint of sweetness, pulling all the flavors together.
My favorite course was probably the poached egg topped with Funyuns and caviar (Figure 6). No, I did not write that incorrectly; they had chopped the Funyuns so finely so that it was a crunchy powder over the soft poached egg. The unfortunate part was that the eggs had been overcooked since the yolks were already halfway solidified. It’s always a sore disappointment when the yolk doesn’t run out like a river of gold.
At this point, we realized that the time in between courses had gradually become longer. When we waited over 20 minutes after the poached egg, I was getting antsy, and my tummy was rumbling. So I ordered a plum wine (Figure 7) that was sweet and infused with plum flavors. This honestly kept me from complaining about the slow service.
Finally, the grilled white fish was brought out over a bed of chickpeas (Figure 8). I didn’t find anything in this dish to really stand out, although the fish was cooked with a light crunch on the surface.
The final savory course was a risotto with bacon, Hawaiian blue prawns and chives (Figure 9), which sounds delicious. But in reality, this dish has a strong taste of vinegar and a lack of prawns (in fact, I didn’t taste a single one). On top of the unsatisfactory flavors, the risotto came approximately 30 minutes after the previous course! And at this point, our waiter had been AWOL for the last 2 courses!
Thankfully, I found the lady who had been explaining the courses and let her know that we would like the courses to come out a bit quicker… So we were immediately served with the cranberry gelée with a side of pop rocks (Figure 10)! Of course I love pop rocks so the textures were wonderful, but I’m a bit uncertain about the flavors, which didn’t exactly work together.
And finally, we were served the roasted French toast soaked in a maple syrup (Figure 11). I was surprised at how fluffy the bread still was and would like to have this for breakfast every morning!
I am disillusioned in the meal and service at Degustation. After the 3rd course, we never even saw our waiter, and having to wait a maximum of 30 minutes between two courses is just inappropriate at a fine dining restaurant. Although it was our fault that we did not make it on time to sit at the wine bar, I don’t think Degustation should have forgotten about two paying customers who ordered the tasting menu.
Tip: Make sure that when you go to Degustation that you are sitting at the wine bar. Otherwise, they may keep on forgetting about you.