How is it possible to have so many brilliant meals in such a short span of time? I thought about that as I ate at one Sister, a small private supper club run by brilliant up and comer Iliana Regan. A couple across the table mused that it might be because in NYC people have to spend so much on rent that they don't have the money for food this luxurious and labor-intensive. Either way, this meal was certainly the rival of my meal at Next. It reminded me a bit of Manresa in California in the use of innovative local seasonal ingredients, but I felt the dishes here were more complex. It had Next elBulli beaten on pacing and overall coherence too. I found the "sweet world" desserts of Next elBulli to be cloying and jarring, whereas here, the desserts blend quite seamlessly and blur the lines between sweet and savory across the menu. I didn't take photos, probably because I saw that the professional photographer had done such a fantastic job that it would be kind of pointless for me to try.
The dish with butternut squash, lobster, anise, and cashew milk was one of my favorites. In a way it was a little like the carrot-coconut foam at Next, but far more subtle and complex. While I would never hope to replicate the dish perfectly, I will definitely consider the use of cashew milk in savory dishes in the future. There was also a beautiful little liver mousse with a perfect dusting of fennel pollen, a tiny food-jewel that melted in my mouth. I adored the amaranth with smoked duck sausage and brussel sprouts. Amaranth, a pseudo-grain, has been stuck in the vegetarian ghetto in America for too long, it was nice to see what seemed to be a broth-related umami did to it, which made it into almost a silky savory custard.
Also, who knew that local deer could work so well with cherries and homemade ricotta? What a fantastic little "dessert," particularly with the molecular gastronomy touch of the smoke in the jar that wisped out as you ate the treat.
Iliana does her own dry-aging of meat in her small urban kitchen, which is quite impressive. Even in the winter she is also growing a variety of small fresh sprouts to add color and freshness to her dishes.
Take a look at the "steak" dish- dry aged ribeye, succulent colorful green broccoli, and an incredible buttermilk savory custard with bonito flakes. Why am I not making more savory custards? I would say they are better than sweet custards anyway.
But my favorite dish was probably the smoked oysters, served in a beautiful bounty of foraged wild things and eaten alongside a spicy marshmallow with unctuous marshmallows and flavors of juniper. It was a dish that was eminently sexy and primal. A lot of the food here reminded me of some of the experiments I did when I lived on the edges of the woodland in Sweden.
I loved all the uses of broths/dashis too, there were so many kinds, which highlighted the fact that besides being healthy, they are a major foundation for tasty cuisine.
For me, this style of cuisine uses so many ingredients in small amounts that I didn't worry about intolerances, but there was a guest at the table that didn't eat seafood and Iliana adapted the menu for him.
If you have some cash + time, this is a menu well worth checking out. I saw on her FB page that she has some last-minute openings for the spring menu.