Single, pure-white orchids decorate each table, as elemental and exotic as the courses to be had. Seated at the glowing, white linened table, the pearlescent chargers glimmer under a warm spotlit beam. We enjoyed a smooth, creamy potted salmon flecked with chives atop crusty rolls from a
selection of artisanal breads by the hottest oven of the moment, Maison Kayser in nearby Yorkville. The chargers themselves are admirable conversation pieces, with rims beaded like droplets of seaspray. These are soon whisked away as your first course arrives. I began with Barely Touched (preceding this is the Almost Raw section which I tend to circumvent) sea scallops, sliced into coins and warmed to firm their texture just
slightly. They floated atop a buttery lime-shiso broth, anointed with dots of shiitake-miso jus and precious shards of crisp snow pea.
roasted black bass, a generous hunk of pristine skin-crisped fish amidst a golden pool of Peruvian chicha sauce, inspired by Ripert's recent trip to Peru. The slight funk of fermented corn was spliced with lime, and then joined by buttery chunks of acorn squash ceviche garnished with shishito pepper.
butter, one of those sauces that will resonate in my memory with no foreseeable terminus. It was a dish so grand, so sumptuous, that its accompaniment of beautifully perfumed basmati rice was served aside so as not to distract from the exalted fish, adorned with rich pistachios and almonds, onyx currants and ruby-toned barberry, and a crinkle of gold leaf to appear worthy of its companion.
After such grandiosity, our first dessert displayed a refreshing humility and simplicity. A small garnet plum topped with sake sorbet was flanked by sastrugas of gingery foam with tiny leaflets of shiso, a dollop of zesty plum sorbet atop a small square of light, spongey cake. Not to be outdone, however, a playful composition of chocolate and popcorn followed. A bar a thick, smooth Madagascan ganache balanced crisp kernels of caramel corn, candied peanuts and a crisp sugary tuile, its extravagance balanced by a small quenelle of creamy popcorn ice cream, reminding us there is still fun to be had amid all this luxury. Finally... well, next-to-finally arrived more child's play: two squares of buttery, nutty sablee
hugging hazelnut gelato, but so as not to trivialize things too much, it is presented in a flourish of silver foil, somehow elevating a simple ice cream sandwich to something exceptional. Needing not a morsel more, the actually-final dessert came as a trio of tiny dense pumpkin cakes, moist and spiced... although perhaps gilding the lily. Or the orchid, as it were. But if ever there were a restaurant to live up to a little pomp, this is the New York Times four-starred, Michelin three-starred, highest-Zagat ranked candidate to do so.
155 West 51st Street