A Break from the Blah.

I hate to say it, but I haven’t had much of an appetite lately.

I’m not sure whether to blame the weather change, the tiresome feeling that I’m stuck in a rut, foodwise, or an overall sense of ennui, but regardless of the cause, the result is that I’ve been subsisting on some fairly uninspired fare: the spoils of a Sahadi’s shopping trip (on any given day, that means hummus, taramosalata, olives, and/or cheese and crackers) and neighborhood takeout (crappy Chinese, mediocre Indian, decent pizza) at home, and visiting the same old spots for the odd meal out.

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I managed to pull myself out of that depressing cycle just long enough to revisit a place that, due to a slightly higher price point, isn’t part of my every-day rotation: Alta Restaurant.

I’ll admit that my motivation was primarily martini-based—it’s a rare but undeniable craving, not one to be taken lightly. In evaluating my options, though, I realized that most of my go-to restaurants don’t have full liquor licenses, and I definitely needed to have a bite or two with that drink. (Martinis on an empty stomach, never a good idea.) I was by myself, and I wasn’t in the mood to fight my way through a crowded room for a seat at the bar, which eliminated a few more alternatives. And I wasn’t very hungry, so small plates seemed like the best bet.

Burned out on the usual favorites, I finally settled on Alta: Though the format—tapas—is a familiar one, its dishes are more creative than traditional in their composition. Take, for instance, this new-style yellowtail sashimi ($9).

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An exercise in synchronization, the passion fruit lebne and almond vinaigrette were a tangy counterpoint to the meltingly fatty fish; a sprinkling of guindilla pepper and thin slice of radish offered a bit of bite, and a miniscule sprig of mint cooled things down. And it looked pretty, to boot.

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I followed my martini with a gin ricardo ($11), the liquor muddled with mint and lime, then finished off with a splash of soda water, and ordered the white truffle and porcini deviled eggs ($7.50) to go with it. Though conceptually vibrant, I found this dish to be slightly less successful than its predecessor, disappointing in both the consistency of the yolk (too runny) and the decided lack of either porcini or truffle flavor. On one point, however, I was pleasantly surprised: The accompanying celery- root crisps (just barely visible under the mixed field greens in the photo above) were good enough to eat on their own. I saved one for last, with a bit of yolk for dipping, and contentedly finished my meal.

A most-welcome reprieve from my recent dining habits.

Alta Restaurant
64 W 10th Street
New York, NY
212.505.7777

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