Nick Curtin's tasting menu at the couple month old restaurant Compose. I was instantly intrigued when I first read about the new establishment, but was not able to secure a reservation until last week. This was due in no small part to the fact that for the tasting menu, only ten diners a night are served at the intimate restaurant, although they do offer cocktail and a bar menu in dozen or so additional seats in the small venue. I opted for the wine pairings to accompany my meal, which were well chosen by the affable Eamon Rockey, erstwhile captain at Eleven Madison Park, but after seeing some of the cocktails being crafted I'll be back erelong in one of the other seats to try the cocktails. Chef Curtain recently staged at Noma in Copenhagen, and is making great use of inspiration from there in his new menu for Compose.
Next up was a bite of "Kir Royale" - Champagne Gelee and Cassis Aspic with galangal petal, which had a surprising carbonation effect captured in the gelee, which I suspect were pop rocks of some sort. In any case is was a nice amuse.
Following the Kir Royale we received a Mini baked potato Crème fraiche, American hackleback caviar, and chive.
The last amuse was perhaps the highlight of the night for me, and with an excellent drink pairing to boot. We were served there "Ocean Sphere" - spherified oyster emulsion with pickled shallots and seaweed dust, which we were instructed to shoot like and oyster, which was mild but briny and quite aptly named. This amuse was beautifully paired with a junmai sake, both had very clean flavors and some umami that played off each other well. This is a relatively new dish to the restaurant I believe; previously they were serving a warm sphere of mozzarella. Here's a review from a dinner a month or so before mine.
The main menu began with an earthy plate of roasted baby beets with charred onions and a beet vinaigrette. It was a simple preparation which allowed the ingredients to express themselves.
The second course was new to the menu, and a welcome addition. The supremely fresh and clean tasting Crudo of Fluke was given an additional textural component by virtue of the puffed wild rice hidden in the rolls of fish, and a hint of sweetness from the smoked grapes nicely offset the herbal notes from the fresh herbs, basil oil, and ethereal anise water. The fino sherry was again an excellently chosen foil for this dish.
The poached diver scallop was the one dish of the night that fell a bit flat for me. It's a shame, because the scallop itself was a thing of beauty, harvested the previous day from the waters of Maine, and scallops are one of my very favorite things. This one was carefully poached at 104° and served warm. I adore raw scallops. I can't get enough seared scallops. This middle ground just didn't do it for me. It was by no means bad, it was quite tasty in fact, but it was just a little disappointing. It lacked the caramelized crust and melting flesh of a nice seared scallop as well as missing the pure freshness and creamy mouthfeel of raw scallop. The taste was nice, I just felt like it was missing something. A contributing factor I'm sure was that I saw several of the same beautiful scallops go out as a seared version from the bar menu which I thought we'd get before discovering that I was destined for this version. Which I'm glad I tried, but perhaps next time I'll see if they can sneak me the seared one instead. But that's just my preference talking.
The next course was the poached egg, silky and barely poached and accented with a a heavily roasted cauliflower puree, oyster mushrooms, cocoa nibs, and some fried shaved artichoke for texture. This was a very earthy dish, more so than the more common light and herbaceous poached egg dishes usually found on menus, but tasty and appropriate for the cold winter's night.
sourced cuts of fresh Ibérico de Bellota, the fabled pork from the acorn fed Spanish 'pata negra', or black footed pigs. They have served different cuts at the restaurant, but on this night they offered Paleta, a cut from the shoulder. I've previously written about the wonderful secreto, and this cut measures right up. It's important to show restraint and not do to much to such a pristine ingredient, and Chef Curtin shows his deftness in this regard. On the side is some charred red cabbage and mint puree just to add a hint of sweetness and acidity to the rich meat if desired. This dish alone is worth the trip. (Despite menu indicating an Italian wine, I'm pretty sure they poured us a very good Rioja, which I thought was an excellent choice given the Ibérico. Don't want to overthink this one with such a simple classic.)
Compose started offering a 4 or 5 course dessert tasting you can book separately from dinner; were I a dessert guy I'd definitely try it out, however I have no idea if this dish is offered in that format. I enjoyed the wood and hay in this so much I'm actually tempted to find out.
Lastly, we were left with one last bite, Iced Honey-Lavender Crème Brulée. This one was sweet, but for just a bite it was an appropriate amount of sweetness to end on.
This is the aforementioned wax sealed envelope containing the menu for the night, which was an excellent ending touch capping off an entire night of excellent and thoughtful service.