Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Celebrating Spring and Steve's Birthday with an Epic Roberta's Tasting Menu

So we thought we'd try something a little different for this post. Rather than a traditional write-up, Steve and I instead decided to have an in-depth conversation about our recent epic 15 course tasting menu to celebrate Steve's birthday at Roberta's with Chef Carlo Mirarchi cooking the meal.

Chef Carlo Mirarchi & Duck.

For Steve and I this might have been our most anticipated meal of the year. Our idiosyncratic (but mostly harmonious) opinions after the jump...

1st course: Beau Soeil Oyster with Citrus Granita
Noah: I thought it was a high quality oyster, but pretty unmemorable otherwise.
A good start though.
Do you even remember the flavor of the granita?
Steve: Agreed, oyster was fresh and briny, didn't really get much acid from the granita.
Noah: And they served it when MW was in the bathroom. Is that bad form?
Steve: No, i don't really sweat the small stuff from Roberta's. Jean-George or Per Se, totally, but not here.
Noah: Ha, fair enough.
Did you have higher expectations for the service since it was a tasting menu?
I thought other than that little point, the service was really good.
Steve: Yeah. New plates/flatware were replaced after each course and nearly every course was served by Chef Mirarchi himself. Can't even expect that kind of personal attention from even the "best" restaurants.
Noah: Yeah, that was pretty cool. I think he personally served every course that he actually made.
Oh, I forgot about our drinks. The Roberta's Sixpoint Saison was really good. Dry but still a little sweet. Good for drinking outside. High drinkability...
What was it called?
Steve: - Six Point Get Safe Saison (5.2%) "A Roberta’s Original" – Belgian Style – Redhook, Brooklyn.
Noah: I remember the name of your drink of course...
Steve: Boston Pea Party - Plymouth Gin, Snap Peas, Lemon, Black Pepper
Refreshing but tasted mostly of Gin and not much of the peas unless you actually ate them, which gave the drink some additional sweetness.
Cannery Row - Rittenhouse Rye, Cynar, Lemon, Rosemary, Ginger Beer - was more to my liking. Very balanced and liked the savoriness of the rosemary.
Not sure how you liked the El Ulises - Tequilador Resposado, Spicy Habenero Jam, Lime, Grand Marnier
Noah: Eh. I was a little drunk by the end of the meal. I probably should have gone with something else.
Or stuck with the Get Safe. OK, course two...
Steve: Fair Enough. Regarding Service, I want to add they started us with a complimentary glass of Prosecco which was a nice touch.
Noah: Very nice touch. I forgot about that.

2nd Course: Roberta's House-Cured Prosciutto with House-made Bread and Cultured Butter.
Noah: Carlo said he makes it with his dad on Long Island. That's pretty cool. I wish my dad made prosciutto with me.
Steve: Prosciutto was very fatty (in a good way) and not as salty as typical types.
Noah: You're right, it was mild, but that made the fattiness the star-- especially with more butter.
Steve: Yeah, it definitely keeps with the theme of Roberta's sourcing locally and doing as much as possible in-house. Also, that butter kicked ass.

Noah: Same with the bread. We used it to sop up the extra sauce from the next few courses.

3rd Course: Stracciatella with Osetra Caviar and Sorrel
Noah: It was nice to try sorrel in a non West Indian restaurant.
Steve: I thought it was very balanced. Sorrel added some bitterness to the mild cheese and salty caviar.
Caviar makes everything better.
Noah: Yeah it does--- that was a really generous helping too.
So you think the osetra was locally sourced?
Steve: Haha I hope not. Don't really want something from the East River.
Noah: Hahaha. East River Osetra... I hope locavorism doesn't come to that.

4th Course: Diver Scallop with Asparagus Juice, Trout Roe, Yuzu
Noah: Here's where it started to get serious. For me at least.
Steve: Thought this was very good. Nice sear on the sweet scallop, saltiness from the trout and some acidity from the yuzu.
Noah: Yeah, I liked the mix of asparagus juice and yuzu-- really well balanced.
Steve: Asparagus juice made for a nice dipping sauce with some of the bread and butter.
Noah: You're right-- that was a great dip combination.

5th Course: Japanese Sea Bream with Snap Pea and Olive Oil
Steve: IMO best dish of the night.
Noah: Ok, maybe here is where it actually got serious.
Technique-wise, yes. One of the best cooked pieces of fish I've ever had. I love sea bream too, and how the skin cracked when I put my fork through it.
Steve: The dry aged meat was great, but the technical precision to cook the fish as well as that was mind blowing.
Noah: Did you have as good a piece of fish as that at Le Bernardin?
Steve: Technically yes. Flavor-wise, Carlo did what your supposed to do with excellent product: Don't Fuck It Up. You don't expect that kind of fish from a so-called "pizza joint."
Noah: Hehe.

6th Course: Pheasant Egg with Cheese Sauce, Bread Crumb, Asparagus, Arugula Flowers
Noah: He got some good asparagus at the greenmarket that day.
Steve: Could have been grown out back actually...
Noah: Yeah, I guess it's possible.
Steve: Good egg dish. Cheese sauce with a runny yolk and the bread crumb for texture...didn't get much pepper flavor from the arugula flowers but it made the dish look prettier.
Noah: The cheese sauce by itself was a little mild, you had to mix it with the egg yolk.
Are arugula flowers supposed to be as peppery as arugula? I've never had the flower before though...
Steve: Not sure...seemed like that was the intention for adding it but I could be wrong.
Noah: There was pork in the bread crumbs too. He didn't say so when he described the dish, but it was pretty noticeable.
Steve: Seemed a bit like a gourmet version of stoner food. Cheese, runny egg, I'm glad he avoided throwing something like pork belly on it. Although, that would've been Bourdain's wet dream.
Noah: Well good on him for pacing the tasting menu well. It would get much heavier from then on.

7th Course: Maltagliati with Snails, Basil and Chili
Steve: Pasta was al dente, and you can't go wrong with the garlic and snails combo.
Noah: Everything goes well with that maltagliati. Even though it was a classic combo, the execution was perfect. Nice chili hit too.
Steve: Pasta was clearly made in-house. I think that should be added. I've had three-four pastas before and they've always been cooked spot on.
Noah: I had the maltagliati made with rabbit last month. Cooked perfectly that time too.

8th Course: Foie Gras with Rhubarb, Black Pepper, Lavender Flowers
Steve: Just awesome. I loved the pairing of cool rhubarb jelly with the seared foie. Carlo likes pairing pepper with foie and this was just incredible.
Noah: The rhubarb gelee was a revelation for me, I've never had foie paired with something that sour.
Yeah pepper and foie is awesome.
I don't remember what the lavender flowers were doing there though.
Steve: Presentation maybe?
Noah: I guess. It's a nice looking dish. They didn't taste like much though.

9th Course: Cucumber-Meyer Lemon Granita
SteveNice palate cleanser.
Noah: Good to have after the foie.

10th Course: 3 Week Dry Aged Duck with Kumquats and Dandelion
Noah: This was intense. I've never really had aged bird before. Very different taste than aged beef.
Cheesy and sulfuric.
Steve: Funky is the only adjective that comes to mind.
Noah: It was funny, I went to the bathroom after this course, and only then could I really taste the cheesiness. I was so proud of myself, I came back and sat down and MW says to me: "that bird tasted really cheesy." I hate getting one-upped like that.
Steve: Very ducky and definitely had a ripe cheesy aftertaste.
Noah: I liked how Carlo gave us the extra plate of skin and meat-- which was expertly crisped btw. May have been overkill, even though I wanted to gnaw on the whole leg myself.
Steve: Agreed, in hindsight, should've passed on the extra fatty.
Noah: If I had one complaint about the dish, I wish the kumquat was better incorporated with the duck. 

11th Course: 90 Day Dry Aged Wagyu Ribeye with Fingerlings, Ramps and Sweetbreads
Noah: Speechless.

Steve: Super intense dry aged flavor. Sweetbreads were expertly fried and the potatoes were very good.
Noah: I've never had a steak aged even half as much as that one. It was a whole other level of aged flavor and you could cut the meat with a fork.
I love how they cook those fingerlings-- I need to start doing that at home.
Steve: Yeah, and despite the ramps not being great, I liked how they had a purpose being on the plate with the vinaigrette.

12th Course: Lupo Pizza with Pesto, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Cotto, Spring Garlic
Noah: Very garlicky.
Steve: Was requested in place of a composed cheese plate.
Between the pesto and spring garlic it was potent. But given the mild cheeses, I still thought it was good.
Tasted like a celebration of Spring
Noah: Sort of a second palate cleanser too.
Were you hoping for more savory courses?
Steve: I suppose more proteins would've been cool, but I thought the meal as a whole was expertly prepared and thoughtfully composed.
The only thing I was surprised not to see was lamb, given the Spring season. I guess if I did this is in winter I'd expect Venison, Fall maybe Pheasant...
Noah: You had me anticipating marrow. On the whole though he clearly put a lot of thought into the progression of savory courses. And it was clear that this meal was about Spring in NY.
Steve: Haha, I guess the marrow will have to wait until next time. Plus it's heavier, so maybe a fall/winter dish...
Noah: When has that stopped me?
Steve: Obviously never.

13th Course: Sweet Tea Gelato
Noah: I loved this. I want more. I remember having sweet tea soft serve at Momofuku awhile back. This blew it out of the water. It had the taste of a quality tea mixed with that saccharine sweetness Southerners love so much, but it wasn't overkill.
Steve: Yeah, this was really good. Not sure how they were able to replicate that flavor so well. I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the flavors. It somehow managed not to be cloyingly sweet.
Noah: I may have closed my eyes because of so much food and alcohol at that point though....
Steve: Yeah, somewhere was a bottle of Red. Dry, and was very versatile with all the various courses.
Noah: Oh I forgot about that. It was slightly oaky too. I liked it.

14th Course: Yogurt Panna Cotta with Rhubarb, Torta Sbrisolona
Steve: I really liked this too. The tanginess from the yogurt was a great contrast to the buttery cookie crumble and rhubarb.
Noah: I want Sbrisolona on more menus just so I have an excuse to say that word.
Steve: I want it with tea. Like an Italian shortbread cookie.
Noah: The dessert was good though. Classic flavors, but with the rhubarb cutting through it all again.
I demanded one more dessert right?

15th Course: Mint Chip Gelato with Peanut Butter Crumble, Marshmallow, Chocolate
Steve: Yes. Because we're fat asses we added a 15th course.
Similar to a classic ice cream sundae but better.
Noah: Overkill. But I liked the marshmallows and gelato. I always like marshmallows though.
15 is such a good number too. Sounds much cooler than saying 14 courses.
Steve: I thought ending with something cool like Mint gelato was nice.
Agreed. Surely an overkill meal, but one that everyone should do at least once in their life.


Noah: So overall, what did you think? You eat way more tasting menus than I do.
Steve: I thought the choice of proteins and range of various courses (raw seafood, pasta, fish, meat, cheese, desserts) was outstanding. Much more interesting (and seasonal) than most tasting menus.
Noah: I loved it. Definitely a unique experience, especially cool was how we were essentially eating at a restaurant unto ourselves within Roberta's.
I felt special. And instead of the benches you normally sit on, I got to pick my own chair....
Steve: I echo the special aspect. Carlo cooked for us and bounced when he was done. He answered every question we asked and enjoyed talking about his food.
Unlike most restaurants with extravagant tasting menus. This is one that I'd gladly like to do again...preferably in different seasons. Plus, the ambiance, music and everything, its way less stuffy.
Noah: For me I guess the best way to describe it, and echoing what I said earlier how special it was, is that it feels honest.
Like you said, the ambiance, the music... everything feels right. And they played the Replacements song I was listening to on my iPod when I first walked in.
There's really no other restaurant I'd rather be at on a regular basis than Roberta's, and too have such a singular, special experience within that was extremely cool.
But it will soon be separate...
Steve: Yeah. Excited to see what Carlo can/will be doing with a new space. Wants to keep it intimate and possibly expand the menu. Very ambitious.

261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 417-1118

You can read our two previous posts about Roberta's here and here, and the rest of Steve's photos can be found here.

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  1. Great post! I've been dying to try Roberta's for quite some time now and it certainly looks great from your various posts. I can't believe I only recently discovered this blog, it's absolutely amazing!

  2. The progression of food looked amazing! And I like the conversational style of writing.

  3. @Ada Thanks, glad you like it!

    @Hungry Thanks. Maybe we'll try it some more. I liked doing it.

  4. WOW! I heard about the tasting menu at Roberta's and you now give me a reason to go out to Brooklyn, ha.

    I also like the conversational writeup. I would do it with Yvo on some of our joint posts, but she would just yell at me to shut up. ;)

  5. Planning my NYC trip 2 months in advance so I hope luck is on my side with scoring a reservation here. As I read your conversation and view the photos the post was getting better and better. Lovely photos!