One of my most memorable dining experiences in New York City in the past five years was at Atera more than three years ago, when I was just absolutely dazzled by the creative, foraging-inspired tasting menu of chef Matthew Lightner. I still can’t forget to this day that magical moment where each dish seemed to be made out of gastronomic heaven somewhere outside of this world. Last year, chef Lightner decided to move on to pursue a new project in California, and a young star Danish chef Ronny Emborg took over the kitchen. For my girlfriend’s birthday dinner, I figured a revisit to this restaurant was in order. Overall, it was another wonderful dinner where I encountered a lot of pleasant surprises.
The tasting menu at Atera (at $275 per person) starts with a bunch of snacks, followed by savory courses and desserts afterwards just like last time. The meal started with a bang in the form of absolutely delicious “waffle” of mushroom and summer truffle, followed by a bowl of foie gras with cauliflower and lemon verbena that had elegantly light touch to the flavor. I didn’t expect pistachio ice cream to be part of a starter, but it surprisingly worked marvelously with caviar. Other dishes like salty mackerel with cucumber and horseradish and oyster with kohlrabi and thyme also showcased the kitchen’s ingenuity and careful attention to execution in the way they tasted.
Among the starters, the winner clearly belonged to lobster with celeriac and yuzu. The crunchy texture of lobster and celeriac was pure delight and the flavor of the dish also displayed plenty of richness without overpowering your palate. After taking a break with wonderful bread, other savory dishes followed, such as the squab dish with funky display or the absolutely tender piece of beef with zucchini and allium.
Among the desserts, the one with toasted hay (!) and raspberry had delightful and mildly citrusy flavor without too much sweetness to my liking, and the one with blueberry, lemon and elderflower was also quite delicious. Compared to chef Lightner’s level of creativity where I really didn’t expect what the dish would look or taste like, chef Emborg’s kitchen seems to have a bit more predictability to it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when the technical sophistication is still there and each dish displays something unique in flavor and texture while maintaining consistency across the board with others in displaying the kitchen’s philosophy.
Getting a reservation at Atera will always be a difficult endeavor, so advance booking is highly recommended. Make sure to get seated at the counter in front of the kitchen where you will get to see the chefs in action and handsomely dressed staffs all over the space to make sure you have a pleasant experience. The atmosphere at Atera seems to have lightened up a little bit compared to my last visit, while still maintaining that serene vibe making you feel like you’re sitting in front of a kitchen in the middle of nowhere forest. There is full bar as well as wine pairing and non-alcohol drinks pairing options. I’m really glad I made the return trip to Atera; it is still one of the top dining destinations in the city.
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 77 Worth Street, New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 226-1444