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Jack Be Nimble

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Sometimes it’s Genovart who’s learning new tricks. Next door, the sushi masters at Jewel Bako brine and salt their mackerel, and he’s followed suit, finishing it on the grill; the toothsome result is plated with a russet swipe of chorizo-flavored sauce and matchstick apple salad. One night’s olive-oil-poached halibut matched the mackerel’s succulence; another evening, the fish wasn’t as supremely fresh.

That was an aberration, though. The pint-size kitchen is remarkably consistent, and the ingredients top-notch. Lamb loin is beautifully cooked, the slices arranged with maitake mushroom and a swirl of chlorophyll, the kitchen’s lyrical name for a spring-green parsley purée. The quail’s “Forum reduction” isn’t some Roman Empire allusion, but cooked down from a Spanish brand of Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, and the frisée salad that completes the plate is strewed with candied pistachios. (Don’t overlook the salads, by the way. Arugula, bedecked with serrano ribbons and Marcona almonds, is simple and spectacular.)

It might seem absurd to grill strawberries, but it works, the slight char contrasting with a palate-cleansing ginger granita and a eucalyptus-tea foam. Spanish cheeses, garnished with a Marcona-almond butter, were ripe and served at the perfect temperature—unlike the too-warm red wines. The list, in fact, with a single sherry, Spanish white, and Spanish red, feels inherited, and should be more tailored to Genovart’s food, which has already attracted a discerning fan club (twice, our visits coincided with the chef’s former Perry St. colleagues). The room itself has hardly changed from Degustation’s prior incarnations, but with his ambitious, elegant cooking, the talented Genovart has made the space his own.

Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar
Address: 239 E. 5th St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-979-1012
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Prices: Small plates, $4 to $16.
Ideal Meal: Spanish “tortilla,” roast-beef sandwich with foie gras mayo, Spanish mackerel.
Notes: For a delicious and uncommon aperitif, try a Black Velvet (four parts champagne to one part Guinness stout), served in a giant flute.


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