New NYC Restaurant, Contra on Orchard Street is a Food-Lovers Heaven

A beautifully plated with yellow flowers and on a black background is the Orchdard Brassica Ricotta ham dish from Contra Restaurant

Somewhat recently Chefs Fabian Von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone opened the doors to Contra, a narrow, unassuming-looking place on Orchard Street with only 44 seats, subtle signage, fairly high prices, and no real menu…. or, at least, no menu from which you can choose what you're going to eat.

You see, every day via Twitter Contra releases the five courses they'll be serving that night, and even then only in the most basic manner, by simply listing a few ingredients that go into each dish. To pick a couple a random recent entries: "Butternut squash, walnut, guanciale" and "Grape, chamomile, burnt verjus". You see how it goes.

Two women and a man talking and laughing at Contra Restaurant while they wait for their food

Appeals to NYC's Adventurous, Food-Loving Culture

So why is Contra, which confusingly seems to be both modest and ambitious at the same time (it feels like a casual neighborhood spot, but acts like a destination restaurant), one of the hottest tables in town? For one thing, Chefs Von Hauske and Stone's attention-getting resumes include kitchens at Jean-Georges, Isa during Ignacio Mattos's stint, Chateaubriand in Paris, and Copenhagen's legendary temple of "forager cuisine", Noma. For another, sommelier Linda Milagros Violago really knows her stuff. And for a third… well, if you've been living in NYC these past ten years, you know the food-loving subculture here is adventurous, fanatic, and willing to hop on the subway to wherever for something new and exciting. And on food quality, creativity, and overall deliciousness, Contra definitely delivers.  

Squid with Potato Rye dish on a white plate off the menu of Contra in NYC

A NYC Restaurant For a Special Occasion

I went to Contra on the restaurant's second night, plunking down my $55 (more like $80, with tax and tip) for five courses, and was rewarded with one my favorite meals of the year. The food at Contra is so hyper-seasonal, and Von Hauske and Stone clearly enjoy experimenting, so it's unlikely you'll encounter any of the dishes seen here, though that's "Brassica, ricotta, ham" up top; "Squid, potato, rye" above' and "Peach, chamomile, herbs" below. But the formula and philosophy will be the same: top-notch ingredients, artfully balanced tastes and textures, interesting combinations, all prepared with skill and love. And the plating's really pretty as well. For a special occasion, an "important" date, or just as a splurge with good friends and loved ones (no picky eaters allowed, though) put Contra on your list this season. 

Peach chamomile herbs a desert dish from Contra NYC

More Information: Contra Restaurant

Contra is located on Orchard Street between Rivington and Delancey, and starts serving dinner on Tuesday through Saturday at 6:00. To make reservations, visit the Contra website; to see some sample menus, check out the Contra Twitter feed. If you think you need a second opinion before you make your reservations, we love this write up by Immaculate Infatuation on Contra.

Man walking briskly past the entrance and front window of the dimly lit Contra in NYC

Posted in Downtown, NYC Dining | Tagged