It's not just farm to table, it's farm in the table," I overheard a waitress tell a nearby party midway through my visit to Temporis. She was referring to the small raft of nine-day-old microgreens, grown hydroponically in the restaurant's basement garden, that was placed inside a special compartment in the middle of each table at the beginning of the meal. Diners contemplate the centerpiece during the first half of the 11-course tasting menu ($110 per person) until, finally, a rabbit dish arrives and a server snips off bits of the young plants to use as a garnish.
After all that buildup, I'd expected something a little more dramatic. But Temporis, the new West Town restaurant from Les Nomades vets Evan Fullerton and Sam Plotnick, is nothing if not restrained. The tiny space—20 seats in all—is composed almost entirely of right angles in neutral tones, resembling a contemporary art museum as much as a restaurant. Custom LED lighting is set to gradually dim at sunset so that diners won't even notice the change. Every detail is considered so carefully that nothing stands out; a striking mosaic in the bathroom made up of rectangular pieces of mirror is probably the flashiest design element in the whole place.
The museumlike quality extends to dish presentation. The first course, silky Dungeness crab accented by briny trout roe and creamy yet sharp parsnip puree, perches on the end of a graceful oblong porcelain piece that doubles as a spoon—and, viewed from the right angle, is as suggestive as a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. It's followed by a volcano-shaped charcoal-gray platter with a tiny fish course nestled in the center. Tart yuzu "snow" cuts through the oiliness of hamachi tartare and rich, nutty dehydrated hazelnut oil, but the ginger sugar-cookie crumble is an odd addition. It was one of the few dishes of the night that didn't leave me wanting more.
Sunflower in Five Forms—vegetal and light, with beautifully contrasting textures and complementary flavors—doubled as a botany lesson. We learned from the server that each element (glazed sunchoke, sunflower seeds and sprouts, salsify, sunchoke and salsify chips, watercress puree, endive salad with grapefruit dressing, and chamomile gelee) is part of the sunflower family.
We accompanied the first several courses with a couple of cocktails from the brief menu of classics, having opted against the wine pairings (five glasses for $95). The Corpse Reviver No. 2 delivers a hit of orange aroma to the nose that somehow manages not to overwhelm the flavor of the gin and Lillet Blanc, while in the Last Word, mezcal takes the place of gin to create a savory, slightly smoky drink. A knowledgeable waiter then helped us identify a versatile white wine—Eladio Piñeiro Frore de Carme Albariño—that would take us through the umami bomb of wild mushroom consomme with port-glazed black trumpet mushrooms, pickled onions, shaved black truffle, and micro scallions, and on to the fifth course, rich rabbit rillettes on a socca chip balanced by the fruitiness of a pear gelee topping.
Then finally, halfway through the meal, we were allowed to try the radish, mustard, and kogane (aka Chinese cabbage) microgreens we'd been staring at for the last hour. After delivering little roasting pans containing rabbit prepared three ways, our server cut short the young lives of a few of the greens and sprinkled them on top, explaining that their flavor would be especially intense. She was right, and the same seemed to apply to other elements of the dish: carrot puree was extra carroty, and a paper-thin strip of celery tasted like the essence of the vegetable. With the exception of a somewhat dry boneless leg, the meat—tandoori loin and roasted rack with the tiniest ribs I've ever seen—was perfectly cooked, accented by a small pile of cranberry bean ragu over cooked mustard greens. Equally well prepared were the venison shank braised in milk stout and the roasted loin, their deep flavor highlighted by a thick, sweet pomegranate reduction artistically drizzled on the plate and a nutty sprinkle of granola.
The arrival of a blood-orange granita with candied ginger—a palate cleanser—signaled the start of the dessert courses. Still hungry, I was dismayed that the meal was nearing its end, but it turned out that the last three courses were, as a whole, the best of the evening. A warm rooibos custard was topped with candied blood-orange peel and kumquat along with blood-orange puree and lavender honey. The citrus peel's bitterness offset the sweetness of the honey and custard, and between the aromatics of the honey and the blood orange you could practically float away on the dessert.
The real showstopper, though, is the cheese course, served under a dome filled with applewood smoke that slowly dissipates after the cover is lifted. A seven-year-old cave-aged white cheddar is accompanied by a single roasted grape, a candied walnut, miniscule cubes of quince paste, and a gastrique made from Vander Mill cider in one of the loveliest sweet-savory contrasts I've had in a while. There's also a tiny, perfect gougere made with Iberico cheese; I could have eaten another dozen or so.
Last is foie gras ice cream, rich and savory with no hint of liveriness. Port-poached cherries and frozen huckleberries add muchneeded tartness, black sesame tuile contributes crunch, and a passion-fruit sauternes reduction and a mini cannele bring everything together. I also ordered a beautifully balanced old-fashioned that turned out to be one of the best I've ever had. As we sipped our drinks and reflected on the meal, my friend and I agreed that almost all the food had been memorably excellent. The service was impeccable. But we were both still hungry.
I found myself wistfully eyeing the food arriving at other tables. Those diners might not be willing to give up any of their tiny bites of rabbit, but surely they could spare a few microgreens. It didn't seem like the type of thing one could ask, though. Instead, we went to a bar a few miles away for a nightcap of potato chips and pork rinds. v