Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar

06. June 2006 American, East Village 0

239 East 5th Street off 2nd Avenue
$130 for two, with two drinks, with tip
♥ ♥ ♥

The latest from the Jack and Grace Lamb empire, Degustation is the replacement for Jewel Bako’s robato grill next door. They kept the same layout: an open kitchen where you can sit at the bar and watch everything unfold as you wait for your food. This time around, polite Latino chefs show their skills behind the counter instead of the more familiar Asian chefs along Second Avenue.

Head chef Wesley Genovart, fresh from Perry St., is twenty-six years old and looks it, too, but he’s adventurous enough to fry artichokes with Kumamoto oyster in mussel broth and celery leaves. He’s smart enough to recognize that a slowly poached egg can be served with Serrano ham in chicken broth and, bless his heart, stuff a squid with braised short ribs and serve it with lentils.

The lamb was perfectly grilled with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and served with a sauce simply called “chlorophyll” which was, you guessed it, green in color. The pork belly is so crisp, the fat just screams Eat Me as soon as the plate arrives in front of you. The grapefruit in caramel water was the perfect complement to the seared foie gras and the lemon juice went well with the grilled jumbo shrimps. To end our night out, one of the chefs grilled strawberries and served it with ginger granita and basil and mint sauce. My only regret was not ordering this in between our seafood and meat courses to cleanse our palate.

Our 8pm reservation was easy to get, but we ended up waiting for forty minutes at the door to be seated. The staff never forgot us and served us complementary glasses (two each!) of champagne while we waited. A croquet amuse started us off and they still kept us in mind after six dishes and served us a wild arugula salad with ham and almonds to show their appreciation for our patience.

For a minute, I forgot that we were in New York City because of the exceptional service but, really, where else can I get this much good food for under a hundred dollars?