The purest expression of chef Gary Menes' vision comes early in a meal at Le Comptoir, the new, permanent iteration of what had been his transient pop-up restaurant. Following a small amuse, perhaps a blistered shishito pepper over a tablespoon or so of crispy rice, and after a silky soup of early heirloom tomatoes poured over a Japanese sweet-potato velouté with creme fraiche and fried bread, comes the “vegetable and fruit plate,” a gorgeous and artful arrangement of the day's bounty. The description of this might read “potato, broccoli, corn, cauliflower marrow, beet, celery, celtuce, calamansi, pickled onion, persimmon, carrot, tangerine, cucumber, peas, broccoli, grape and more.” There are quite a few places in town that offer a vegetarian version of their tasting menu, but sitting through those can feel as if you've paid for all the creativity and luxury and yet received dishes that are afterthoughts. At Le Comptoir, the opposite is true: While there are meat dishes you can sub in for certain courses, the base menu is vegetarian, and as a result you can be sure Menes has conceived every dish carefully, with elegance and flavor in mind. When you're looking for vegetables to be the star of the show, this is your place.
Credit: Anne Fishbein