Victoria Blamey Distinguishes Herself at Mena

In 2007, the chef Victoria Blamey was supplied a job at the tip of her stage (as a kitchen internship is understood) at Mugaritz, a restaurant close to San Sebastian, Spain, that’s thought-about to be among the many finest on the earth. “She distinguished herself at the fish station,” her Web website mentions, quite modestly. “I’ll bet she did,” I believed to myself as I learn that line the opposite day. At her new restaurant, Mena, in a semi-hidden nook of an unassuming Tribeca lodge, she is serving some of the very best seafood I’ve ever encountered.

If gulping down the freshest uncooked shellfish evokes the expertise of plunging right into a bracing ocean wave, Blamey’s iteration, one current night, managed to double down on that sensation. She topped a trio of plump, creamy Crowes Pasture oysters, from Massachusetts, with seaweed gremolata—together with shiso, fermented white peppercorns, and cochayuyo, a kind of bull kelp harvested in her native Chile—that in some way intensified the oysters’ brininess, pushing them deeper, colder, cleaner. On a go to this previous month, I discovered it arduous to imagine {that a} meaty, sparkly-skinned sardine, filleted and draped over a mound of mayo-dressed boiled potato, had been flown in from Tokyo; it tasted prefer it had swum.

Blamey, who was born in Chile, has a specific method with seafood.

Blamey is not any stranger to the meat station: in New York, she distinguished herself at Chumley’s, an historic West Village tavern that she revived with beef tartare, foie-gras terrine, and a bone-marrow burger with beef-fat fries. There was a rib eye for 2 on the menu at Gotham Bar and Grill, the place she ended up subsequent. But the final time I ate at Mena just one dish would have been off limits for a pescatarian: a loamy morcilla, or blood sausage, served over sourdough fried in pheasant fats and beneath a foam of Upstate Abundance potato—a creamy, nutty varietal bred by the haute-seed firm Row 7—all topped with three concave, al-dente cipollini-onion petals that acted as tiny bowls for a darkish jus-based sauce au poivre, like soup for a trio of fairies.

Meanwhile, a slab of Boston mackerel, adorned with a tassel of grilled ramps and garlic-chive flowers, was crackly-skinned and deliciously fatty in a method that evoked pork. Fruits of the ocean have been hiding in a cross-sectioned head of Baby Gem lettuce, shock pops of whitefish roe hitting my style buds as I crunched by means of the crisp greens, and, unlikelier nonetheless, in a dessert: kelp-infused cream went right into a wealthy however ethereal chocolate ganache, which got here with kelp butter and Chilean hazelnuts and was capped in a milk-and-sugar foam.

Her model of a standard Andean stew known as locro may characteristic razor clams and snow crab.

High-quality seafood doesn’t come low cost. 100-and-twenty-five-dollar prix fixe will get you three small programs (with a number of choices for every), plus dessert; should you order à la carte, you may pay fifty-one {dollars} for a bowl of locro, a standard Andean stew, that includes snow crab and razor clam. That stated, an undercurrent of humility runs by means of the place. Blamey, carrying a T-shirt and an apron, performs expediter at the kitchen move, garnishing each dish herself. On my first go to to the restaurant, servers introduced what regarded like overflowing bowls of potato chips to virtually each desk: crunchy fried king-trumpet mushrooms, really, dusted within the French-Indian curry mix vadouvan and piled on Spanish lentils that had been cooked in a Donko-shiitake ragout. That its simplicity was misleading made it no much less right down to earth.

On the drinks menu, beneath the cocktails (together with a seasonal pisco with yuzu and keenness fruit) and non-alcoholic choices (resembling a rousingly perfumed fermented jasmine-green tea, from Unified Ferments), is the single-entry class “Something Mena.” In Chile, the normal Latin American beverage chicha is often fermented, alcoholic, and undistilled, made out of fruit, corn, grain, or some mixture of the three. Blamey’s model—developed with Arielle Johnson, a food-science Ph.D. who has labored at Noma—is derived from quince and wild rose hips. Sweet on the nostril and woodsy on the palate, with an intense, virtually gasoline-like bitterness, it grew on me. It tasted like attending to the core of one thing. (Prix fixe $125. À-la-carte dishes $18-$51.) ♦


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