A few months ago, J and I were deciding between dining Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare and Atera for a celebration in August. Both had very extensive tasting menus, but Atera is the newest thing in Manhattan, circa March 2012. The head chef at Atera, Matthew Lightner, also has an impressive resume; he’s worked at Noma (currently ranked #1 in Top 50 restaurants) in Denmark and Mugaritz in my favorite place in the world, San Sebastian.
Ultimately, we ended up at Atera because I was swayed by Pete Well’s glowing three star review of Atera on New York Times. After the beautiful photos from the article, I knew I had to try it. Great thing that we did, because a few weeks after our meal, Atera was awarded with 2 Michelin Stars in 2013!
WARNING: spoiler alert! If you plan on visiting in the next half a year, I’d advise staying away from reading through this post completely if you would rather be surprised in your meal. Just know that I recommend this place for a fun unpredictable meal! If you’re looking for something that’s simple and a bit more traditional, this is not the place for you.
Getting a reservation
Knowing what a great review on NYTimes would do for Atera, we were lucky to have gotten a reservation. J did some research and figured out that reservations came up on OpenTable every Thursday at Midnight – so, Friday 12:00AM. However, we fell asleep too early the Thursday night that we were supposed to make the reservation. On Friday morning, I woke up at 5AM with only one thing on my mind: Atera!
Like a mad woman, I turned on my laptop and hopped on OpenTable and luckily, there were 3 reservations open for 6:30PM, 8PM, and 9:30PM – those turn out to be the standard seating times at Atera. Out of panic, I picked the 9:30PM and woke up J to make a reservation for 8PM, just in case.
However, 5 minutes after I got my reservation, we saw that the reservation for 8PM was taken by someone else. This means, some kindred spirit (crazy person) was also awake at 5AM making a reservation as well! So now, after this, I’m honestly not sure what time the reservations came up, but I’m glad we had one locked down for 9:30PM.
There’s nothing that I love more than a great cocktail to begin a great meal. Atera’s bartender is a magician in his concoctions. He comes up with special cocktails every week to fit the tasting menu. Our favorite cocktail that he introduced us to is a vintage drink made in the 1800s called the English Milk Punch which took him 2 days to make. He starts off by steeping alcohol, hot water, fruit (pineapple, lemon are amongst a few of many) for a day. Later he adds milk to the concoction so that the citrus in the mixture curdles and he strains it. The result is a creamy fruity drink that is just divine. Here’s a close recipe that I’ve found based on his description. With that much care and attention used to make a cocktail, you can imagine the rest of our dining experience.
With a delicious cocktail in hand, we began our journey through the 26 courses at Atera. Since we sat at a Chef’s table that surrounded their kitchen area, we were able to spot out what others before us were eating, and also see the chefs prepping our course. Bonus points for each of the Amuses coming out one at a time. This gave me and J some time to appreciate each dish for what it was. One of my favorites was the caviar macaron from the following:
Their duck heart salad was beautiful to look at but a lot less exciting for me to eat once I realized it was duck hearts (ick!), with a village of vegetables.
The next dish was their take on ramen. It came in a plain white bowl (I saw the chefs prepping this dish – noodles? Yes please!) with noodles and a clear packet of flavoring, dried herbs similar to what you see in ramen packets. They came with test tubes of broth and poured it over the packet to see it blend in beautifully. One bite into this dish, J noticed the texture isn’t quite like the noodles we know and love. At the end of the course, the server told us that this was a blanched squid dish! I really enjoyed that play on ramen.
- White Rose made of frozen rosewater served with a wild flower sorbet, this was so pretty and super refreshing as a palette cleanser.
- Peach dessert was very creative. It was a peach served with a sunflower toffee ice cream shaped like a peach pit.
77 Worth St
(between Broadway & Church St)
New York, NY 10013