This week, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells gives two stars to East Village’s Contra, where the outside of the restaurant “makes no grand statements,” but the inside is filled with “expressive cooking” by two chefs who want to “create a style of cooking that New York can call its own.”
“What Mr. Stone and Mr. von Hauske have is a personal, understated, modern approach to deeply seasonal cooking,” Wells says. “Mr. von Hauske makes the desserts and the bread, which costs an extra $3 and is worth it for the supremely creamy butter alone. Mr. Stone does the rest, but their styles are compatible.”
Impressed by the monkfish, which was “cooked with faultless timing, roasted slowly, with the kind of tender pink center you’d find inside a seared scallop,” topped with “leaves of charred kale, a marmalade of caramelized onions and a fish-sauce foam,” and sauced with “a complex and milky froth made of monkfish bones and smoked trout,” Wells says the dish “explor[es] shades of flavor more watercolor than acrylic” and calls it “very, very good.”
While he notes that you often “get the luck of the draw” at restaurants that only offer tasting menus, Wells compliments Contra’s ability to do so, saying “the format suits Contra’s food unusually well.”
“The flavors are subtle, and on first encounter it’s a bit like walking out of the daylight and into a candlelit room: you need to adjust,” he says.
For Wells' full review, click here.