Connecting At Contra…

Strawberry and Corn
Strawberry and Corn

Avant-garde culinary experiences always seem to be had on the lower east side.

Recently, I spur of the moment booked Contra, a one year-old downtown restaurant. Contra changes up  their ambitious fixed-price menu daily, featuring local and seasonal ingredients.

The food was as interesting as the world-renown Mugaritz Restaurant located just outside St. Sebastian, Spain. We dined there last November and were impressed with the service and twenty four unbelievably gorgeous and delicious courses.

Contra  phto:eater.com
Contra phto:eater.com

Contra is spare and contemporary, with wood tables and benches lining a narrow alley that ends in an open kitchen…bare bones but chic like many of the exciting new eating establishments in Paris.

Jeremiah Stone, a former sous-chef in Paris who also opened Isa in New York and his partner in the kitchen, Fabian von Hauske, who worked in the pastry kitchen of Jean Georges, have created a must try restaurant.

Chase and Anthony
Chase and Anthony

Serve is unobtrusive. There are lengthy intervals between courses. In the beginning it was fine because we were engaged with two interesting, diverse groups on either side. One group was embarking on a culinary tour of NYC ramen restaurants as they had plans to open a noodle place in Kansas City. Chase and Anthony both worked at top shelf NYC restaurants.

We began the food fest with a wonderful fruit forward (cherry, strawberry) rose from Cheverny…Phillippe Tessier 2014 ($12).

The Contra menu, consisting of seven courses, now costs $67 up from the opening price of $55. It is still a bargain.

Homemade Bread & Butter
Homemade Bread & Butter

One must cast carbs to the wind and order the homemade bread and sweet, creamy butter ($3).

Jicama and Cashew
Jicama and Cashew

We started with jicama and cashew, a lovely opening gambit.

Chickpeas, Fresh Cheese, Herbs
Chickpeas, Fresh Cheese, Herbs

This was followed by a beautiful fresh chickpea, cheese and herb salad.

Squid, Asparagus, Walnut
Squid, Asparagus, Walnut

The squid, asparagus and walnut course was fabulous…unique and tasty.

Skate, Chamomile, Morels
Skate, Chamomile, Morels

I adored the skate which you literally scraped off the bone with divine morels and chamomile. The flavors were amazing.

Beef, Sorrel, sea Beans
Beef, Sorrel, sea Beans

I had the beef, sorrel and sea beans dish which arrived very rare. Our charming waiter turned into the menopausal devil when I asked for it to be fired a bit more. The steak was bleeding on my plate.

Well, it is as if I spit on him and then was lectured that chef would have to create a new plate which by the way was missing ingredients when it returned to the table…my request was not that obscene. It ended up being delicious and the sauce divine.

Beef Substitute, Potatoes, Veggies
Beef Substitute, Potatoes, Veggies

They substituted small potatoes and vegetables for the meat course to accommodate David’s food preferences…weird but delicious.

Rhubarb and Honey
Rhubarb and Honey

On to the to desserts. Rhubarb and honey sorbet (the sorbet was beyond delicious) which was fab.

Strawberry and Corn
Strawberry and Corn

The strawberry and corn was tantalizing as well as unusual. The crunch factor alone made it very appealing.

Contra also offers an abbreviated three course menu for $52. The servings are perfectly proportioned and you leave satiated not stuffed.

I really enjoyed the eclectic ambiance and unique food. Contrary to many restaurants, I would definitely revisit Contra.

Contra Restaurant 138 Orchard Street Lower East Side, NYC. Open Tuesday-Thursday 6-11pm, Friday and Saturday 6pm-Midnight.

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