Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Still Thinkin' After All This Time: Alta, NYC

Since eating at Alta in NYC, I have tried to recreate one of their dishes no less than half a dozen times. Listed on the menu as brussel sprouts with Granny Smith apples, pistachios and creme fraiche, it epitomizes the food I ate there.
What arrived was a heavenly combination: roasted sprouts topped with an apple cider and vinegar reduction, the tart apples, earthy pistachios and dollops of cream. Each dish there replicated this experience: a seemingly simple sounding dish that I wanted to order over and over again.
The balls of fried goat cheese with lavender infused honey were precisely that addictive sweet and salty treat that are such a treat at a restaurant.
The same was true of the decadent chunks of seared fois gras that were paired beautifully with buttery tastes of brioche, mango ginger chutney, pistachios and bee pollen.
The housemade grilled merguez, toasted falafel, red wine pudding, and lebne goat cheese sauce was a meaty compliment to the other dishes.

Our waitress steered us towards the "Enormous Whole Shrimp." The giant gambas were simultaneously succulent and smoky. Desserts were just as delicious.
We began with a sweet and sour play on french toast: Marcona almond croquant, with marscapone gelato, pineapple "air" and pomegranate sauce.

The finale: warm and crispy ricotta churros with 2 delicious sauces: an apple lemon thyme and a blood orange Compari. We dipped the crisp curls again and again until we had nearly licked the plates.

There is no equivalent of Alta in Boston. Perhaps that is for the best: With over 45 dishes on their menu, I am not sure I would ever go anywhere else! But for now I can dream of going back, and struggling with ordering something new or just repeating the delights that I had the first time.

Alta, 64 West 10th, NYC, New York

1 comment:

  1. I just returned from a dinner visit at Alta this evening. I have never written a review, positive or negative, about a restaurant online, but after my experience tonight I feel compelled to do so.

    I have to start by saying that the food was, on the whole, very good. The service, however, was abysmal. Our waitress took an exceptionally long time to bring us our wine and food. This wouldn't have bothered me normally, but when I saw a mouse scurry by the table, I was taken aback. To make sure I wasn't crazy, I asked my sister if she saw what I saw. She did, and we complained to one of the servers (not our waitress, who inexplicably disappeared for the rest of the night). The server shook her head and yes'ed us to death that she would tell the manager. A few minutes later, a man, who we assumed was a manager, came up to us to ask if we would like to order dessert. We explained to him that we saw a mouse and wanted to let him know about it. He too shook his head as if to make us feel like he understood, and brought us a menu of wine, presumably because the bottle we had ordered was not available per glass. When we lingered over the reds to try and decide, he said "a round of red?," making us feel as if this would be on the house because of the mouse issue.

    When we got the bill, we saw that neither the dessert nor the two glasses of red wine, which cost almost as much as the bottle we had previously ordered, were included on the bill! When we went to leave, we asked to speak to the manager, and explained to him the entire situation. Contrary to what the server had said, the manager seemed to have no idea about the mouse. Rather than apologize and offer something to make up for this horrifying experience, he simply gave us his business card and said if we ever came back, to ask for him. Fat chance!

    I have experienced some pretty embarrassing restaurant service in my time, but nothing has ever been so egregious that I felt the need to go online and write a review about it. I was so disgusted with my experience at Alta, less because of the mouse, and much more so because of the pathetic way it was handled. Rather than scream and make a scene at the sight of a mouse, my sister and I were respectful and quietly told the staff and manager so that they would be aware and could perhaps address this issue without embarrassment. This discretion on our part was completely ignored, and I find that extremely unprofessional.