In which Jonathan Gold visits Gary Menes' temporary food installation, Le Comptoir, or "the counter," a restaurant within a restaurant at the actual counter of downtown's Tiara Cafe. It's a brief incarnation of a restaurant that will continue, Menes said a few days ago, until February. Lucky us.
You are handed handwritten menus -- a formality, because you will be served what the kitchen has prepared -- and within a few seconds a glass of white Bordeaux is put down in front of you, then a plate of compressed melon, almost the texture of tuna sashimi, served like a ceviche with lime juice, a little olive oil and a spray of cilantro. The bread is sliced from big, blackened rustic loaves, a bit wet on the inside, which Menes has made using a starter he has nurtured for years. So far, so good.