Note: Click here for a more recent review of Asiate.
A friend had asked where I’d like to be taken out for my birthday. I chose Asiate, where we dined on a wonderful Saturday evening in late November. This must be the most spectacular room in New York City, particularly at night. At one end of the room is a massive wall of wine bottles; on the ceiling, a glass tree-branch scuplture. Most striking are the wraparound windows offering unobstructed long-distance views of the skyline. On a clear evening, as it was last Saturday, we felt like we were suspended in space, looking out on a futuristic fantasy city.
Asiate’s evening menu is $75 for three courses, or $95 for the seven-course tasting menu. We selected the tasting menu with wine pairings at $145. Chef Nori Sugie has been at Asiate from the beginning. His adventurous way with food reminded me of what Wylie Dufresne has been doing at WD-50. He misfired occasionally, but the overall impression was highly favorable. Amanda Hesser’s one-star assassination of the restaurant is a disgrace. Since I’ve been reading the Times, no review has under-shot the true merit of a restaurant by so wide a margin.
The menu was as follows:
Slow Poached Egg, Bonito, Ginko Nut
Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs, Reims
This amuse totally misfired. I did eat the whole thing, waiting for the pleasant taste sensation that never came. My girlfriend abandoned it after one bite. It resembled an eyeball suspended in a turd, and tasted not much better than that. I would guess that an awful lot of slow poached eggs have been sent back. Reading our minds, our server advised, “It gets better.” So it did.
Seasonal Tasting Dishes
Strub Riesling Spatlese “Niersteiner Paterberg” 2003, Rheinhessen
Tentaka Kuni “Hawk in the Heavens,” Junmai Sake
This is the set of six appetizers served in a bento box, much written about. The printed menu I took home doesn’t note what they were, but for me the highlight was a candied foie gras that reminded me of WD-50’s treatment of that same dish. There was an oyster suspended in a tangy green sauce. There was a delectable sliver of grilled striped bass. And three other items I don’t recall. We much appreciated the pair of contrasting wines that went with this course.
Caesar Salad Soup
This was totally funky — soup that looked like espresso, but tasted like caesar salad.
Fish of the Day
Zoémie De Sousa Brut “Cuvée Merveille,” Avize
This, I believe, was a black bass fillet, and probably the best single course of the evening. Tender, supple to the touch, and absolutely delicious.
Pan-Roasted Venison Tenderloin,
Braised Shoulder Meatball,
Spaghetti Squash Salad, Butternut Squash,
Bitter Chocolate Beggars Purse, Civet Sauce
Robert Craig “Affinity” 2001, Napa Valley
This meat course had two cubes of venison that unfortunately had both the look and the consistency of marshmallows. The spaghetti squash salad and bitter chocolate beggars purse were rather more successful. After a string of perfectly chosen wines, the Robert Craig “Affinity” was an unremarkable cabernet-merlot blend that was not up to the elegance of the menu.
Sakelees Goat Chees Bavarois,
Beetroot Plum Granite
Roasted Pear Soup, Spiced Cake, Hazelnut Ice Cream
Gosset Brut Grand Rosé, Ay
At this point, we were ready to be wheeled out of the restaurant, after this much food and drink. On top of all this, we were served a birthday cake that was so good it should be added to the menu as a regular dessert.
Our server was highly attentive, friendly, helpful, and professional. We were made to feel as if this was our special evening, as we had wanted it to be.
Asiate is one of the most romantic spots in the city. If Chef Sugie’s concoctions aren’t always hits, certainly enough of them are, and he has my support for serving some of the most creative cuisine in the city. I look forward to returning. And shame on you, Amanda Hesser!
Asiate (80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel)