Contra

138 Orchard St. New York, NY 10002 • (212) 466-4633contranyc.com

amnymemo03

Well, Contra definitely lived up to its name, because it was the total opposite of what I was expecting. Unfortunately, I was expecting greatness the likes of Momofuku Ko. Or at least spots of brilliance the likes of The Musket Room. Well, no dice on either account.

The disappointments started early, first by making us wait over 30 minutes for our table, with a reservation. A duration I haven’t had to endure at restaurants far more popular and worthwhile. But while we waited, naturally I perused the menu to see what exciting dishes lied ahead, and that was the first sign of trouble. Not a single course sounded interesting. So much so that we were certain to pay the extra money for the bread, because at least that looked promising, by comparison to the plates passing us by. And it was. Definitely worth ordering. That said, don’t listen to your servers who will tell you that one order only serves two people. Sure, if that’s ALL they were eating for the night. For normal human beings one order will serve four people quite nicely.

Which brings me to my second gripe, the service. No one was technically rude in the normal sense, but the fact that I must’ve been bumped into by a dozen staff members throughout my dinner and didn’t receive a single apology or “excuse me” shows what kind of mettle they are made from. They did, however, show lots of concern as to why we weren’t finishing our courses- but perhaps those questions should’ve been redirected to the kitchen before serving such a pathetic string of losers.

It started with carrots and uni served over a bed of almond milk sauce and while it was interesting, it most certainly wasn’t amazing. And as tepid I may sound right now, this is actually one of the highlights of the meal.

Next up came the fluke. A relatively bland fish by all accounts, which usually allows chefs to wow you with their preparation of it. Well, no wows were to be found. The preparation was as bland as the fish, which wasn’t even cooked that well. For some of us it was overcooked, for others, undercooked, and no one had the Goldilocks version (just right).

Following the fluke came the biggest loser of the night, the chicken with “ham” and “chickpeas.” The reason the other two ingredients are in quotes is because they are nowhere to be found in this dish. Not by sight, nor taste. They say it is in the jus beneath the chicken, but if you buy that, I have a time machine toaster oven I’d like to sell you. On the plus side, I’d call this dish a win only for the fact that none of us wound up with salmonella poisoning, because the chicken was way pink.

After that came the two dessert courses, the first of which being strawberries and cream and to put it bluntly, you’d do better with a basket of strawberries and a tub of Cool Whip from Stop & Shop. Dead serious.

Fortunately, the last dish of the night showed some semblance of culinary skill but it was too little too late. And while I’d like to tell you about it, I don’t even recall what it was, because by that point I had lost so much interest I no longer cared. I just wanted to go home, call it a loss and lick my wounds, which by the way, were tastier than most of those courses. On the plus side, I hear Contra changes the menu often. Hopefully by tomorrow.

2 teeth

The Musket Room

265 Elizabeth St. New York, NY 10012(212) 219-0764 musketroom.com

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On our way to dinner at Pearl & Ash, we stumbled upon this seemingly new place and made a mental note for the future. We were immediately impressed by the décor as well as the menu. But looks can be deceiving, right?

Wrong! Well, sometimes right, but in this case wrong. Musket Room lives up to its looks and might even exceed them. Although that’s quite a statement, because every detail in this place is thoughtfully considered. The water glasses are sleek and unusually beautiful. As is the silverware and the table they all rest on. The exposed brick and natural, old world elements almost make you feel as if you have stepped back into time, that or into a contemporary Nordic haunt, for a bite to eat.

The service was also excellent. Solid recommendations, attentive, knowledgeable and best of all, friendly. Not a snooty bone in the place. Even though they have every right to be, because this isn’t a casual nibble. This is fine dining in every sense of the word. From the chef’s tastings to the platings to the choreographed delivery of courses.

But let’s get to the food since that’s all you really care about. To start with, the bread is marvelous. Fresh baked rolls with a hard, buttery, golden brown exterior and soft fluffy insides that spring to life with their REAL homemade, green salted butter. Such a rare treat in the States to have real butter. Most everything else outside of France tastes like nothing.

For appetizers the salmon with mandarin oranges was very good, but the real gem was the waiter’s recommendation, the cold-smoked scallops. Brought to the table under a metal dome, it is revealed in a magical puff of frost. A beautiful crescent of scallops, pickled cucumbers, black garlic, sea beans and pear. Such a wonderful mix of flavors between the smokiness of the scallops and the refreshing sweetness of the pear and cukes. Best thing of the night.

For entrees, here was the only misstep. Both were just okay. The cod being the weaker of the two. A touch bland and not particularly memorable.

The steak entrée, on the other hand, while good, was nothing compared to the apps the preceded it. Nowhere near as inventive and the “cheese pie” just didn’t translate from ear to mouth very well.

But redemption soon followed with two winners for dessert. The chocolate torte was rich and dreamy and while I could go on more about it, I actually thought it was quite handily upstaged by the strawberry and Camembert mousse with pineapple sorbet, rhubarb and granola. Friggin’ yum!

So, welcome Musket Room. You’ve done New Zealand proud. Not to mention Soho.

4 teeth