Monday, August 4, 2014

Tasting Menu at Contra

It's been a long time now that I've been wanting to try Contra, and our group of 5 finally made it over there on a Tuesday night. The American restaurant offers a five course tasting menu (3 savory and 2 sweet) for $55, and it changes on a daily basis.

Although my best friend is cousins with the chef Jeremiah Stone, I promise that this review is completely unbiased. The creativeness of each plate made this meal a truly spectacular experience. Every single dish was exciting and innovative. Oh, and the food quality? Superb. Two courses in, I decided this had become one of my new favorite spots, and by dessert, I was thinking about who I could bring here next. I plan to return again and again. For a date night, birthday, or to take out-of-town guests.

Prepare to have your mind blown here.

The restaurant is in the Lower East Side, and is easy to miss, as the neon sign 'Contra' hangs on the wall right inside.

The modern dining room is on the small side, but does stretch far into the back, where the kitchen is.

Toasted buckwheat bread, $3
Fabian von Hauske, previously a pastry chef at Jean-Georges, is responsible for the bread and desserts, and although the bread comes at a cost, it is a must. The bread is made with chicken fat, and although I'm not sure what that really means, it is delicious, especially after adding a generous smear of the butter (made with zatar spice). 

First course:
Tomato, eggplant, physalis
A very fresh salad, with watermelon, eggplant, and the sweetest tiny cherry tomatoes. Not much sauce, but that wasn't necessary, as everything was naturally flavorful.

Second course:
Scallop, cabbage, sorrel
Perfectly cooked pieces of scallop accompanied by a seaweed matcha (green tea powder) broth. It may sound strange, but I was very tempted to lift up my plate and finish off the broth like a soup after I was done with the scallop and cabbage. 

Third course:
Beef, beets, currants
This NY Strip angus was much more rare (and slightly chewier) than I usually prefer my steak, but I did enjoy the combination of the meat with the heat from the horseradish and sweetness from the beets. 

Cheese plate, $8
Similar to the bread, a cheese plate is offered at an additional cost, and you absolutely must order it. That day we were served a grated cheese from Hardwick, Massachusetts placed over sweet corn purée. This is definitely the most interesting take on a cheese plate I've ever experienced. There were kernels of corn scattered throughout the dish, and although the cheese was strong, the light and fluffy texture made for a good balance. We were told that this dish was a unique take on how people often prepare popcorn with sprinkled parmesan cheese on top. I'd take this fancy version over that any day.

Fourth course:
Chamomile, strawberry, olive oil
This ice cream had a ice-y, sorbet-like texture to it, and the dish was so unexpected and delightful. I love olive oil cake, but had never had olive oil in dessert any other way. This had my boyfriend talking about wanting to try replicating making desserts with olive oil at home. I doubt the outcome will be anything like this, though.

Fifth course:
Potato, blueberry
Another unusual spin on dessert. This dish was composed of potato mousse at the bottom, blueberry granita, blueberry compote, and potato chip crumbles. It was served very cold, and I thought the potato chips were actually mini ice chips because of the crunchiness and cold temperature. Absolutely incredible.

138 Orchard Street (between Rivington Street and Delancey Street)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 466-4633

*Only serves dinner. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Contra on Urbanspoon

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