Apology: This post was written in May 2014 & for some reason was never posted. Betony has since received 1 Michelin star in the two prevailing guides for New York.
Betony was our final meal in New York, it had been an intense five days in the city that truly never sleeps, and had been a bag full of mixed experiences concerning dining out. After not being able to get a table at either of the two prized 3Michelin starred restaurants, I decided to do the next best thing. Kitchens in the calibre of Per Se & Eleven Madison Park (EMP) are always having people leave, so this was the idea, track down a relative recent alumni who had opened up. Betony fitted the bill, both front and back of house had left EMP less than twelve months previously; and they’re getting a steady stream of recent reviews & award nominations; amongst them, one from the James Beard Foundation.
Taking our seats in the vaulted bar area, on the banquette seating; the main dining has a mezzanine level, where there is an even more formal approach (lack of a pressed table cloth for instance, in bar area). We were presented with cocktail menus & wine lists, before then perusing the dining menu. Our server (waiter), Andrew, was a pleasant enough chap although appeared slightly apprehensive when serving us initially. Possibly the give away sight of a blogger’s Nikon, sat on the edge of the table may have caused this. He needn’t have worried; once we’d all relaxed the proceedings got into their stride.
A few have commented on the layout of the menu, mostly comparing it to the proprietor’s former employer. But having seen a similar style at Paul Liebrandt’s, The Elm‘, it could possibly be the future for a less structured alternative to traditional fine dining.
The idea is that you pick as many as courses as you want, we were advised that maybe 1 from each column would possibly be the way forward.
As we waited for our first course to arrive, some crispbread turned up. Bearing in mind we’d eaten at WD~50 the previous night, a decent benchmark had been set. These were thick and more substantial, good but different. The sea salt straws were the finest I’ve ever seen & were great for nibbling on with our cocktails.
During the course of the ordering procedure the subject came up about our reason for being in New York. Obviously replying that it was our honeymoon, the waiter looked overjoyed by this, and said that he would sort something out for us. So despite only ordering two of the above appetisers, four arrived.
The prices for the first round of dishes varies from $12 (the chickpea panisse) to $18 (the foie gras bonbon), so I guess if you wanted a leisurely grazing dinner, it is easy to miss out the dearer main courses & just have a tasting menu of smaller dishes. This really is giving the customer what they want.
The lobster rolls were exquisite; delicate in the extreme filled with juicy pieces of lobster meat, and capped at each end with crème fraïche. The scallops were served on a crisp, but non-descriptive puff; thankfully this didn’t detract from the sweet meat, further being enhanced by the lightest of acidic tickles of lemon & sorrel.
The extra dishes of the chickpea panisse & chicken liver mousse were both excellent. The chickpeas weren’t dissimilar to chips, crisp on the outside & fluffy on the inside, which looked like they’d already been pre-dipped for us. The topping of broccoli purée & cured ham brought a nice refined topping to the party. The chicken liver mousse was served on a piece of crisped skin and sweet jam concoction. This made a refreshing change from the usual accompaniments, and whilst onions took the form of micro herbs, which made them so much more subtle and palatable.
Gnudi (pronouced nude-y, apparently) wasn’t quite the soft pillowy cheesiness that you’d expect, more of a gnocchi texture. The flavour combinations were good.
The Pig’s head terrine was a joy of refinement, coupled with an element of rustic presentation. The salsa verde was hand chopped & had the addition of finely diced radish, just to spice it up. Again classic flavour combinations, treating food with respect & restraint.
As is always a recurring theme when we eat out, that I get jipped on at least one course. Whilst my wife’s roast chicken came with the conventional pairings of peas, carrots & mushrooms, and a great sauce. I opted for the poached lobster with asparagus in various forms. Both plates were sauced at the table adding an element of theater, and although normally that is great with sauces with a thicker viscosity, the almond milk broth with my lobster was too thin for any great effect. In fact, the broth addition to the lobster dish was a bit of wash out, it lacked any depth of flavour and added little to the dish itself.
The choice of five desserts all rock in at $14 each, hard choices were to be made.
Whilst desserts at Betony all tasted great, they just some how felt like as a somewhat of an after thought. They seen to lack the technical agility & finesse of previous courses, which made the end of the meal feel slightly disjointed.
Petit fours dragged the meal back on to the aesthetically pleasing plane we’d come to know & love. All excellent flavours & good technical ability was shown.
Conclusion – The nuts & bolts of it
Betony was a great stop on our tour of New York, even despite sitting in the bar area, it showed how a decent Michelin starred restaurant could function as a bar & as a restaurant at the same time.
- 1 Ellison
- 1 Coco Chanel
- 1 Hendricks Negroni
- 1 Lobster roll
- 1 Scallop
- 1 Gnudi
- 1 Terrine
- 1 Chicken
- 1 Lobster
- 1 Wind Gap reisling
- 2 Desserts
- 1 Petit four & coffee
Total (including tax): $322.27
In the grand scheme of things & comparing starred restaurants on either side of the Atlantic, Betony was on the touch expensive side for a 1star. As a meal & an experience it was great, yes the desserts could do with being pulled into line with the rest of the meal, but taste & flavour was paramount in everything. Would we go again, absolutely, the idea of devising your own grazing menu with the plethora of starter dishes is a great one, especially at this level.
Big Thanks to Endoedibles.com for use of the header image