A Perfect Meal

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
July 30, 2007

The Tasting Room [CLOSED]
264 Elizabeth St
(Houston & Spring Sts)
New York, NY 10012

These days, all I crave is clean, fresh, homestyle meals. I just want to taste the terroir of the produce (and the accompanying wines, of course). The other day at The Tasting Room, a light dinner at the bar prompted me to share with you a “wow” experience. Chef-owner Colin Alevras’s menu changes daily though, so this is just to give you a sense of the style of his cuisine: I started with a refreshing salad of tomatoes from Eckerton Farm, complemented by shishito peppers, fresh cranberry beans, and a spicy mayonnaise. The surprise for me was the lightness of the dish. On the menu, the mayo sounded like it could overshadow the tangy tomatoes; instead it imparted just enough spice and seasoning without weighing down the summery vegetable. A bright acidity shone through the dish, making it a perfect opener to my meal. Taste portion ($12).

The salad was followed by a slim cut of wild striped bass with green onions, parsley, red potatoes, and Japanese eggplant purée. I’m so used to very flavorful ways of preparing fish in Chinese cuisine that I’m often disappointed with fish courses in other cuisines. Here though I was taken with the texture of the crusty skin next to the tender meat. This was no bland fish dish. With every bite, I forked up skin, meat, potato, herbs and eggplant to get the full effect. Every ingredient stood out on its own, yet also merged seamlessly to form a tasty combination. Taste portion ($19)

With my meal, I lingered over a glass of a 2005 Verdejo by the Scholium Project. The challenge of this practically all-American wine list created by Carolyn DeFir is filling it with a wide range of grape varietals, not just the usual CCM (Chard-Cab-Merlot). So, a Spanish Verdejo from Napa rightly fit the bill but wildly exceeded my expectations in both depth and quality. ($14)

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