When it comes to top restaurants, I find it very hard to judge fairly when I’m comparing a Tasting Menu to just about anything else. For instance, our Top 10 contains 9 restaurants that were either Tasting Menus or Prix Fixe. But seeing as though our Numero Uno of ALL TIME was Eleven Madison Park, we were excited to hear that a former chef from there (Bryce Shuman) and a former General Manager (Eamon Rockey) had started a new place that opened in Mid-May called Betony.
Betony is located on 57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, in prime Central Park tourist territory. The inside is a very interesting space, with plush brown fuzzy seating and walls and ceiling carved and etched.
The menu is sparse but has plenty of items that sounded quite tasty. The left part of the menu is small single bites.
The middle is bigger sized appetizers.
And the right column are the entrees.
We had a tough time choosing, and when we asked our waitress for guidance, she explained to us that at least half the menu was amazing (making it so hard to choose!)
We wound up going with the marinated trout roe, “tuna melt,” hot foie gras, roast chicken, and grilled short ribs.
We began with some well mixed twists on classic cocktails (Mike got the negroni and I got the mojito) and the table bread was breadsticks (which looked like thin spaghetti with some delicious salt on them) and cheddar chips. Both were salty, crunchy goodness.
Our first appetizer was the Marinated Trout Roe on a puffed rice cracker with cucumber.
Not only was this fresh and delicious…
… it was a work of art!
And then we tried the “Tuna Melt” which had a thin layer of melted fontina cheese on top and was on a brioche. This was also stunningly beautiful and WOW was it good. Like punch you in the face good. (I’m not even sure what that means but it seems appropriate somehow).
My only complaint about the “finger foods” is that there were 3 of each. With a party of 2, it leaves for some awkwardness when you each have one and then look at the last bite longingly. Even though Mike and I have been together for over 5 years and we’re getting married next week (HOLY SHEIS MONKEYS! NEXT WEEK!), we still struggled making this decision. Mike was a gentleman, however, and told me to have the last bite of tuna. I gave him a quick taste because I couldn’t be that selfish. But honestly, I would have rather they served us just 2 or bit the bullet and served 4. Fair is fair when it comes to delicious food.
We were then served an intermezzo “from the kitchen” which was a gooseberry compote with tomato snow. It smelled like flowers and a summer day. I found the compote very tasty but there was something… off… about the compote. It tasted very soapy. Like something went wrong soapy. It was the only blemish on an otherwise spotless meal.
We were then served bread, which was baked in-house by the pastry chef and had caraway seeds, which reminded us of a Jewish deli in all the right ways.
Up next came the foie gras, which was just described as being “hot or cold.” Our waitress guided us to the hot one that came with crispy kale and ham hock consume (which was poured over table side).
It also had black garlic and a few other ingredients in it (including a top chip) that are escaping me. They served this with two plates and an extra bowl of consume.
This dish was very well composed and the kale and the foie were great together. The consume was superb and they very smartly offered to bring more rolls to soak up the awesome leftover liquids. The sommelier suggested a moscato which complimented the rich foie very nicely.
We asked the sommelier to recommend a glass of wine for each of the entrees we ordered, so he suggested a round Pinot Noir and a smokey Rioja. Both were excellent with the meal.
Both entrees were also served with a sauce/jus at the table. The chicken had a rich and flavorful, but simple chicken broth.
It was cooked on the bone but served without it and came with perfectly cooked turnips and morel mushrooms. The skin on top was crispy, but if I can be a nit picker, it could have been a tad bit crispier. But the flavor was very earthy and the texture moist. Well executed.
The chicken came with a side that had a grain (perhaps bulgar?) with dark meat confit and a quale egg. This was fantastic and really nailed all the flavors. (Our waitress told us that in an effort to use every bit of the chicken, the liver dish was also created from the whole chickens they buy).
The Grilled Short Rib came with romaine (which was charred, and beautifully so) and sweetbreads. A beef jus was also poured over the dish at the table and this was an incredibly rich and flavorful dish, with some of the most tender meat I’ve ever tasted. A bit was served on the bone, but the slices of short rib were out of this world.
This was a dish not to be missed.
At this point we were basking in delicious nomming glory but we couldn’t stop there! The desserts just sounded so interesting and were listed without much description with simple the most forward flavor of the dish.
We also ordered a dessert Vouvray (Vouvray is our favorite white wine)
But out came a madeira… which was poured for us before we had a chance to interrupt and ask if this was correct. Turns out it was not, as expected, but the lovely sommelier topped us off and we got to enjoy this awesome dessert drink on the house while waiting for the Vouvray.
We chose the blueberry dish which came with crispy poppyseed flavors, fresh (and superbly delicious) blueberries, and a tea flavored ice cream. This was beautiful and tasty. A very fresh, very summary dessert.
Then we each got the selection of 3 dessert tastes:
Frozen Chocolate Stout Macarons (A very nice balance of flavors, though the macarons were bit dense)
Pink Peppercorn Caramel Chews (A curious and quite good flavor and texture combination)
Dried Cherry & Pistachio Divinity (Awesome… awesome awesome awesome. A great combination of salty and sweet.)
What a meal!
This was a masterpiece. It easily rivaled many tasting menus we have had and I might have to put it right in line with Ai Fiori, our current #10 spot holder on the all-time Top 10 list.
The service was spectacular, attentive, and friendly. It wasn’t at all stuffy and they really cared about how much we enjoyed the food.
It was obvious that the chef is thinking critically about his dishes and doesn’t put anything on the plate just for the sake of putting it there. Flavors are expertly combined and the plating is beautifully crafted. The only miss was the weird tomato snow and some dishes I couldn’t find a single fault with. If this is how good they are just 3 weeks in, I can’t imagine how good they will be as they find their sea legs.
Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10 (we struggled about giving this an 8.5 or a 9, but it is definitely in line with Ai Fiori so we need to keep some consistency around this Nom joint)