April 26, 2008
As regular readers of this blog know, I really like good Asian fusion cuisine. I had wanted to try Asiate, which describes its menu as an “artistic and modern approach to Asian-inspired cuisine.” The 2008 Zagats says:
“Plan to be blown away by the “breathtaking views” “high above Central Park” – as well as “beautiful” decor rated No. 1 in NYC – as you savor “exciting” Japanese-French “fusion at its best” and enjoy “impeccable” service at chef Noriyuki Sugie’s “posh” dining room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; if the “sky-high” setting doesn’t induce vertigo, the towering tab may – though the $24 lunch prix fixe is a “bargain”.”
The opportunity presented itself on April 24, 2008, as Linda and I were going to an early evening Metropolitan Opera Guild interview at nearby Lincoln Center with Juan Diego Florez and Nathalie Dessay. There is an elevator from the 60th Street entrance of the north tower of the Time-Warner Center on Columbus Circle to the 35th floor lobby of the hotel; the hotel rooms are above. The lobby is dominated by a spectacular Dale Chihuly sculpture; Asiate is off to the left looking out over Central Park, but we were seated at a second row table.
We ordered a Long Island sparkling wine and an Italian rosé sparkler as aperitifs. A plate of gougères was brought; that did not seem very Asian, although they were spicier than what would be served in Burgundy. After considering the tasting menu at $125 (+$75 for the optional wine pairings), we chose the regular three course selection at $85. We ordered a bottle of 2005 Roessler “Savoy” (Anderson Valley) Pinot Noir, which we enjoyed.
An amuse-gueule arrived: a little glass of tuna sashimi. We were told that it had “black truffle soy sauce,” but I could not taste it. There was some chopped cucumber and something grainy on top which was good.
Linda’s first course was the Prawn Pan-Seared Prawns, Dashi-Infused Glass Noodles en Papillote, Grated Parmesan. The combination of Asian flavors with the slippery noodles and prawns was particularly good.
My first course was the Etuvée Scallop, Shrimp, Little Neck Clams, Hearts of Palm, Coconut Herb Broth. This was really excellent. The flavors of the various seafood and their juices blended beautifully into the coconut milk. My only disappointment was that the dish was not larger, but I suppose this was what one should expect for a starter.
Linda’s main course was the Duck Roasted Breast, Five Spiced Miso Glaze, Quinoa Fried Rice, Red Curry Duck Jus. The duck was nicely cooked. The sauce was like a peanut satay sauce. The quinoa went well.
My main course was Boar Crispy Suckling Pig, Croquette, Tenderloin, Braised Nettles, Black Truffle . The various pieces of tender pork offered varieties on the same theme. The differences were in texture and crispiness, but that did not provide the variety of flavors which this dish needed to be really interesting.
My dessert was the Souflée Passion Mango Souflée, Sticky Rice Ice Cream, Passion Fruit Sauce. Here you can see the waiter pouring some of the sticky rice ice cream into the hot souflée. He then added some of the passion fruit sauce. I added more as I went through the souflée. I really enjoyed it.
There was a nice little plate of mignardises served with two enormous strawberries coated with white chocolate.
The meal was very good, although the two main courses were uninspiring, which is often the case at good restaurants. But it is hard to judge the restaurant as a whole. It certainly has lost its way from its mission as an “artistic and modern approach to Asian-inspired cuisine.” We deliberately ordered Asian style dishes, but one could have lamb with English peas (and that was the meat course on the tasting menu) which sounds more Shropshire than Shanghai. Both my dishes had heart of palm, which is Brazilian. Linda’s duck was with quinoa: Peruvian.