It was a misty September evening in Manhattan as I sat in the plush back seat of a town car, lulled by the sounds of the windshield wipers moving steadily like a metronome. I exited the car and ducked into Betony, narrowly escaping the rain.
I was the first one to arrive, nearly 20 minutes early. After checking in with the hostess, I sat at the bar and took a look at my surroundings. Ornate carvings adorned the walls, motifs stretched across the vast ceiling.
Jack, the jovial bartender with an Australian accent, nudged me and asked if "gin and I got along".
I was intrigued. “Why?” I asked.
“Well there was a mix-up with another order and we have an extra Negroni...” he winked.
The Negroni washed down delicious bar snacks. Thin, crispy Cabot cheddar crackers and salted bread crumbs.
I felt a tap on my shoulder as Sharon was the next to arrive. After ordering a delicious Palma Fizz (vodka, ginger, lime, rosewater ), we were led to our table upstairs and given the menu.
The menu begins with appetizers on the left, small plates in the middle and then larger entrees on the right.
Frank arrived and the three of us decided to order the following appetizers: foie gras bonbons, fried pickles, and chickpea panisse.
Michelle was the last to arrive, as a shutdown of the E train caused a 1.5 hr delay. Since we couldn’t get a hold of her via phone, text, email for over an hour, we had no idea what happened to her. The atmosphere prickled with nervous anxiety, the fear of the unknown palpable. After a quick prayer, a deluge of Michelle’s texts flooded our phones to our relief. To their credit, Betony’s servers were patient and periodically checked up on us to make sure everything was ok.
With our party seated at 11pm for the 9pm resi, we hungrily devoured the foie gras bonbons which were flashed with liquid nitrogen and covered in candied cashews and crusted with black pepper. Fantastic.
The fried pickles with peppers packed a little heat which cooled off with the yogurt.
Our server, Daniel, who used to be a sommelier at The NoMad, presented a dish, compliments of the kitchen. He knew that we were worried sick about Michelle and wanted us to enjoy our dinner.
Heirloom tomato gazpacho (zebra tomatoes are green even when ripe) with frozen goat cheese sorbet showcased familiar flavors with unconventional preparation.
The chickpea panisse tasted like a crispy spring roll with a puree of chickpea inside. The savory ham went well with the creamy chickpea.
When we split the bread apart, billowing wisps of steam gave us a mini-facial. I almost dropped the bread on the floor because it burned my fingers. We immediately spread the butter on the bread and watched it melt into a small puddle.
Great crust and a burst of anise-licorice essence from the caraway seeds.
The seared foie gras dish is a must-order. Sour collard greens, crispy kale, smooth foie with ham hock and ham consommé. Tip: With your leftover bread, sop up the last drop.
The plates of short ribs deserve all the hype bestowed by the food industry. The application of beef fat throughout the process has yielded the best short rib I have ever tasted. The fried sweetbreads provided crunch and the charred romaine helped cut through the fat.
I almost forgot about the second entree that I ordered, a glistening chicken roasted with chanterelles and Tokyo turnips. The perfectly crisped skin served as a protective shield for the chunk of meat as its drippings naturally mixed with the fragrant pool of chanterelles.
I let the hostess know ahead of time to prepare something special for Frank and Michelle to celebrate their recent engagement.
Champagne foam with strawberry sorbet and pannacotta with lemon “caviar” (comprised of an agar and lemon reduction). The hot mixture gets plunged into a cold bath which forms small sacs that look like caviar.
We clinked our glasses of delicious complimentary rose, which paired well with the dessert, and toasted the couple.
Out of the three desserts we ordered, my favorite was the third one: a dark chocolate crémeux with notes of cardamom and coffee.
As we waited for the bill, we commented on the individual stool for the purse. Nice touch.
"Hope you had a wonderful experience with us. Would you like us to split the bill among you all?
“Oh no it’s ok, we can try to figure out who got what."
"Oh, we do have a computer and we did serve you...we know what you ordered."
Our curiosity piqued, we were very surprised when we saw the bill as it was itemized and split automatically among us four. No more calculating the shared costs of the various appetizers. Why can’t all restaurants do this?!?
With our expectations met and stomachs full, we made our way outside. The rain had stopped and there were various puddles to dodge. We walked east for a block and then said our goodbyes. I reversed direction to walk toward the E train when, I saw two men chatting right outside Betony. As I walked by, I did a quick double-take to confirm my suspicion. Yes. One of them was Michael White, a chef that I have adored for many years. Osteria Morini was one of my favorite restaurants and I had to get a picture with the man himself.
I stopped in my tracks and steeled my nerves. My head was still floating from the negroni that I nursed for 4 hours. I turned around and marched deliberately towards Michael and interrupted his conversation to introduce myself. Beaming with a huge smile and a bone-crushing handshake, Michael introduced himself and Ahmass Fakahany, his business partner of the Altamarea Group. Emboldened by my liquid courage, I handed my camera to Ahmass.
“Would you mind taking a picture?” I blurted.
“Sure, no problem,” he said.
“Great, and can we get a vertical?” I asked.
“How’s this?” asked Ahmass.
“Hm….kind of blurry, can you try again?”
Michael was very gracious and took the time to say hello to a fan. Class act.
And if Betony is good enough for him, it’s good enough for you.