Thursday, December 8, 2011


Surprisingly, Paul Liedbrandt's highly recognized TriBeCa haunt was nearly dead on a recent--though rainy--Wednesday night. The dining room is spare anyway, in varied shades of white, so the emptiness feels even more obvious when the place isn't full.

Corton strives to be a four-star restaurant, but sometimes it misses its mark. Service is scattered and servers don't know the answer to obvious questions (like where their proteins come from, for instance). Utensils were often ill-suited for the task at hand (and I had to use my butter knife to scoop the sauce from one small bowl, left spoonless). My wine glass was near empty until a sommelier deigned notice. A series of amuse bouche--pastry filled with Sauce Mornay; a warm croquette; an egg custard with black truffle gelee that needed salt; a weirdly smoked quail egg; and a successful albacore tuna skewer with charred lime--underscored the ambition of the evening, even if they didn't all work.

Our first course of a puck of foie gras wrapped in beet, was dainty and beautiful, but not the best I've ever had. A course of monkfish was admirable cooked and sparely plated, with an accompanying warm oyster laced in foam and a lentil and onion soup.

A Wagyu beef course was a painting in black: a circle of beef crusted in black toasted brioche; a black oval of sunchoke; black truffle sauce on the plate; a square of short rib in more brioche; charred sweet onion; and a side of potato with a melting sauce inside.

Next: a gorgeous sesame custard with concord grape sorbet that surprised me in its elegance and restraint. Caramelized sesame on top offered the necessary crunch. Finally, an apple composition arrived, puff pastry filled with apples and a side of white coffee ice cream. It might not last forever in my dessert memory, but it was nice while it lasted, as was the parade of final notes: pate de fruits; chocolates; and macarons. I held court with a perfect glass of 1982 Coteaux du Layon.

The food is good, if a little too conceptual for its ilk. We'll see if it grows or shrinks with age.

239 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013

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