A frisson of pleasure ran through me as we stepped into the Asiate restaurant on the 35th floor of the New York Mandarin Oriental hotel with its sweeping views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline from 16-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows. Waiting to be seated my eyes travelled to a dramatic ‘wall of wine’ at the entrance with wine bottles displayed in glass cabinets that house over 1,300 bottles of the restaurant’s wine collection. Despite these eye-catching features and designer Tony Chi’s glittering sculpture of tree branches in winter in the middle of the ceiling, the 90-seat restaurant is striking in its elegance and simplicity. Left: Restaurant Asiate’s Wine Wall
Private booths, some with full-length windows, accommodate four people, and a separate dining area can seat up to 10 guests, with splendid views as a backdrop to delectable cuisine. The cuisine is predominantly contemporary with the inspired Asian influences you can expect from Chef de Cuisine, Brandon Kida and his Asian-American background.
Difficult though it is to single out individual items from his imaginative and ever-new offerings, seafood lovers will be delighted with the ‘étuvée’ of Bay Scallops, Langoustine, Little Neck Clams and Hearts of Palm with a Coconut Herb Broth. Also worthy of mention is the Butter Poached Lobster with White Polenta, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms and Kaffir Emulsion. The Wagyu Beef Tenderloin, Smoked Potato Purée, Braised Short Rib, Yuzu Koshou, is perfectly pitched for diners who enjoy a good steak.
Chef Kida’s menu changes with the seasons as he uses the freshest local ingredients with a balance and harmony that I usually expect from my wine. If you feel a little overwhelmed by the award-winning wine list with its impressive selection of vintages from around the globe, Annie Turso, Asiate’s sommelier is there to offer friendly advice. She made some superb selections for us beyond what was on our tasting menu.
Having worked at New York’s Vong and Sugie, Turso has a very good idea of what wines match French-based Asian cuisine: aromatic whites like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Grüner Veltliner, as well as reds like Pinot Noir and Rhône wines – all based on natural fruit, not on oak, she points out. Turso also believes in stocking wines that are ready to drink, which are softer wines, including Merlot-based Bordeaux and older vintages.
Asiate’s 350-bottle list, divided by varietal, is notable not only for its well-chosen selections of Bordeaux, Burgundy and California wines, but also for its lesser-known offerings, like artisan-brewed sake, artisanal Champagne and Riesling from all over the world.
– Reva K. Singh