Wild Molecular in Tribeca
As far as chef’s credentials go, having a stint at Noma on your CV certainly doesn’t hurt, nor does having Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz as a mentor. So when Matthew Lightener announced his plans to open a small ‘tasting kitchen’ to showcase his wild-man-meets-science-geek molecular cuisine, the hysteria induced in New York’s culinary circles understandably built to near fever pitch. And for good reason.
In October’s annually-released Michelin Guide, Atera bagged itself a coveted two-star rating, placing the eatelier firmly at the crest of the city’s fashionable new-wave, where intimacy and understated sophistication reign supreme. The tiny room, comprising just 13 counter seats and a table for 5, is the epitome of pared-back, with its ordinary-looking commercial building location and simple polished concrete and potted plant fitout. The focus unquestionably lies on the food. With names like ‘Crunchy’, ‘Rock’ and ‘Beet Ember’ featuring amongst the 22 seasonal courses, it’s obvious Lightener has been heavily influenced by his foraging forebear René Redzepi. Sunflower toffee appears as a peach pit, a baguette coloured with squid-ink resembles a razor-clam, and raw scallops are interwoven with green tomato ice to suggest a forest foliage pile. Such a deft and elemental experience does not come cheap, with a $150 price tag per head before tax or tip. A reasonable wine-list softens the blow, but even with the pricier pairing option, this is one meal serious foodies can ill-afford to skip.