Anthony Goncalves, the chef-owner at 42 in White Plains, is self-taught, and loves to keep learning. He’s always pushing to see what new flavors and textures he can come up with, and is fascinated with molecular gastronomy, while still remaining true to his Portuguese roots. To channel that creative energy, he’s presenting a new menu.
Once a week, on Wednesdays, he’s offering what he’s calling Kitchen Fun, or, in Portuguese: “Divertimento da Cozinha.” It’s a tasting menu with 12 or so courses, and he serves it for three Wednesdays in a row before changing the dishes to match the seasons and his whimsy. The menu is only available to the first 20 guests who order it.
To concentrate on this tasting menu, he’s streamlined his regular menu during the week, pairing it down to one page instead of several. It used to contain many options and tasting menus and a “greatest hits” from his previous restaurant, Trotters. That food is very good indeed: clear, bold flavors prepared and presented with superior skill. But now, if you want to see the envelope-pushing side of chef Anthony’s cuisine —
— you’ve got to go to 42 on Wednesdays. I got a chance to sample the first menu on its last Wednesday, so I’ll watch — and you can, too, on the Facebook page of 42 as the menus progress through the summer.
In the bar, waiting for the table, we had cocktails. A raspberry mojito and a cocktail called “Tospy Turvy,” which is made with Crop Organic Tomato Vodka, Tarragon Syrup and Lemon.
They were both terrific, but the Tospy Turvy really took the prize for best new summer drink. Tomato-y without tasting at all like a bloody mary. It was more like a crispy tomato salad, with a little sweetness.
Into the dining room:
The view from the 42nd floor:
We started with Edible Bloody Mary, made with Tomato Vodka Gel, Citrus, Celery Sea Salt, Worcestershire, Horseradish, Sriracha:
It was like just like eating the cocktail! The Worcestershire gave the dish a meaty overtone, but the tomato and spices balanced that to make it bright and spicy.
Next came the White Asparagus:
Chamomile-Black Olive Jello, Toasted Couscous, Bacon-Infused Roe, Lime-Olive Zabaglione.
The asparagus was the essence of spring. But the fun part about this dish was the yin and yang of flavors and textures: the pop, smoke and salt of the roe, the creamy texture and briny, citrus flavor of the sauce, the crunch of the couscous. Super.
The Bacalhau Santa Cruz, with Panca Pepper, Peruvian Corn, Sweet Potato Espuma:
The salt cod was lovely and I enjoyed the flavor of the corn — like a corn nugget, almost. But the espuma was more like a puree, so it was very filling, and the dish was actually pretty hard to eat because the bowl is so deep. Nice, but not the highlight of the meal.
Spicy Guatemalan Gazpacho: Shrimp, Avocado, Peppers:
This brought back memories of the Bloody Mary, but it was a much more substantial dish. The shrimp and avocado along with the thickness of the sauce made this more of a ceviche rather than a soup. You could taste the Central American inspiration through the dried and pulverized masa alongside the plate.
Soda: Freeze Dried Banana:
I think this course is meant to be a fun little diversion between the first and second movements of the meal. I like the concept: You put the freeze-dried banana in your mouth and let it erupt like pop rocks and then melt before you swallow it. The portion size was a little too big for that, though, so the bite ended up being too much in your mouth all at once, and I felt a bit like I was eating dust. Once it did melt, though, the flavor was really banana-y.
The next course absolutely blew me away.
Ashes: Lubina, Ginger Marinade, Roasted Ramps
To make the ashes, Goncalves roasted ramps, the dried and pulverized them to make a coating for the fish (lubina is another name for sea bass).
The fish was so moist and tender, and the ginger in the marinade and the onion-flavored ramps complemented it so wonderfully. It was a real winner.
After that, Pork Belly: Clams, Vinegar Pepper Relish, Oyster Essence:
An upscale take on the Portuguese dish of pork and clams. And after the richness of the fish from the course before, the bite of the vinegar was welcome indeed. Not that the pork belly wan’t rich, too. Oh, it was.
The refresher course — fennel salad, carrot sorbet, jalapeno dust, chilies, pollen and citrus olive oil — was certainly no afterthought.
Don’t you love how it looks like a carrot? It was cold and light and just what you needed after the pork belly (and the lubina and the rest of the courses!).
The final savory course was Surf ‘n’ Turf: Greg Normal Wagyu, Shrimp Mosaic, Peach Kimchi, Fiddlehead Ferns and Lemon:
The shrimp was made into a shrimp cake, which I didn’t love. The texture ended up being more homogenous than I cared for, and I missed the firmness and pop of a really great shrimp. The beef was incredibly tender and flavorful. I was quite full by now, so I only had a few morsels, though.
For dessert, we had two courses. The first, banana sorbet, brown sugar bubbles, coconut rum:
It was like a fun, light version of bananas foster, and I adored it. I love nothing more than burnt sugar and cream, so this was right in my wheelhouse.
The second dessert was Jelly Roll: Blueberries, Bitters, Mascarpone, Pistachio, Currants.
Very molecular gastronomy, for sure. The flavors mentioned above were there, but you really needed to taste them all together to make the dish work. It looks really cool — and in the end, it does taste great, but I think I was suffering from tasting menu fatigue by the end of the meal, and didn’t fawn over it as I did the banana sorbet. (Which is up there among my favorite ever desserts!)
The highlights of the meal, other than the banana sorbet, were the asparagus and the lubina, and the other courses — especially the pork belly and the bloody mary — weren’t too far behind.
I can’t wait to see what else develops as chef Anthony keeps playing around with his “kitchen fun.”
The 411 on 42: A modern, spare high-in-sky restaurant atop the Ritz-Carlton in White Plains, where the food is far from typical hotel fare. Self-taught chef Anthony Goncalves pushes the molecular gastronomy envelope, but takes inspiration from his Portuguese roots. 1 Renaissance Plaza, White Plains. 914-761-4242. 42therestaurant.com.