Despite the oddly antiseptic LED lighting that imbued me and my companions – not to mention the food – with a sallow, slightly cirrohtic tinge, Corton, occupying the Tribeca space formerly home to the late, great Montrachet, builds on Drew Nieporent’s unbroken string of gastro-success. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to dine here on a regular basis but let me qualify that by saying I mean that as high compliment. The food at Corton is rarefied, and as is the current fashion within molecular gastronomy circles, purposely imperfect. Visually stunning, it does not, alas, invite the diner to dig in with anything resembling gusto. Each course in the five-course Seasonal Tasting – there is a 10-course tasting menu as well – comes with an assortment of intriguing side dishes: an Albacore tuna amuse with charred limes on a brick of pink salt; tandoori monkfish twinned with both a cocotte of vegetable stew and a single, perfect Kushi oyster; red-legged partridge accompanied by a partridge shepherd’s pie. It’s the perfect dining exper –
ience for a group: each plate is greeted by oohs and aahs and quizzical looks and occasionally, shrieks of glee. Part restaurant, part gallery the plates are studied at first, as if stanchioned behind a velvet rope, before being timidly poked and prodded and twirled about. (and photographed, natch.) While I wish the wait staff were a bit more instructive in how to approach each course, there’s something to said for the fun involved in discovering the satisfying contrasts of texture and flavor that crash like waves across each successive dish. (Word to the wise: try to get a little bit of everything into each bite.) Even more surprising is the fact that after three hours, five courses, a quartet of amuse and mignardises, and one magic magnum of St. Julien that mysteriously paired beautifully with both fish and fowl, four happy diners trotted off into the windy night feeling perfectly sated yet not stuffed. Uniformly imaginative and delicious, the experience of Corton is so very grown up, so very European. Which is perhaps why I can’t shake the sensation that dinner here resembled less of a Top 100 meal than a vacation.