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 Ultimate Mustard (packaged)

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Of all the condiments out there, no other add-on completes me like mustard. I mean, first of all, just think about how diverse it is by comparison to other condiments. You’ve got your spicy, your deli, your yellow, your Asian, your textured, your sweet, your alcoholic- It’s enough to give ketchup and mayonnaise a complex. But perhaps my favorite thing about mustard is that it’s one of the only things in the edible universe that I sincerely love, and isn’t highly caloric and fattening. In short, mustard is the Ultimate condiment. And within that Ultimate, here are a few Ultimates:

Cape Cod Cranberry Mustard

South of New England, this mustard can be a little hard to find. But it’s not like you need to go to any fancy store to buy it. Stop & Shops seem to be the best bet (perhaps because they are a New England based chain). If there’s no Stop & Shop close to you, it’s worth the road trip (or odering online). I say buy a half dozen jars because you will be plowing through them like Walking Dead plows through zombie extras. It’s spicy and sweet and tart all at the same time, turning every sandwich it touches into an event.

Maille

If you’re a texture lover like me- preferring crunchy peanut butter over smooth and lots of pulp OJ over no pulp than Maille is your mustard. A 260 year old seeded mustard, born in the old country (France), and packed with so much flavor it can do just about everything apart from folding the laundry. It’s awesome for grilling. For baked fish, for salad dressing, for making dips, on sandwiches, on burgers, on Donner and Blitzin! In fact, the only mustard that’s even close to as versatile as Maille, is Grey Poupon, which brings me to mustard number 3.

Grey Poupon

Pardon me, but if you don’t have any Grey Poupon you should take a glove and slap yourself across the face. It’s so easy to come by and so friggin’ good you almost wonder why any other mustard exists. And like Maille it’s incredibly versatile. Maybe even more so. If a mustard could win the Noble Peace Prize I feel like Grey Poupon would have a very strong case. But just one caveat, there is the smooth original and a seeded version more like Maille. Both are excellent, but head to head on the seeded side, I go Maille, whereas Maille also makes a smooth kind and head to head with Grey Poupon, I give it to the Grey.

Moutarde De Meaux, Pommery

This last one is MUCH harder to come by unless you live in France or New England where mustard is basically a substitute for religion. Fortunately you can always order it online from Amazon.com for those not favorably in geographic proximity. Double fortunately, Maille is VERY similar and much easier to find if you don’t feel like ordering online, booking a flight or driving to the Northeast. The only difference for me is that Pommery is a touch stronger and the seeds are a teeny bit smaller, making the texture slightly smoother. The packaging is also the best of the bunch, served in an old fashioned earthenware crock with a red wax seal (apparently unchanged, as is the recipe, since 1632).