Although it’s very different from its sister establishments Estela and Cafe Altro Paradiso, Pete Wells enjoys all of his meals at Thomas Carter and Ignacio Mattos’s newest restaurant, Flora Bar. The Times critic notes: “I’m on the verge of giving up trying to explain why Ignacio Mattos’s food is so good.”
Wells is a big fan of the plates — both small and not-so-small, round and not-so-round— that are coming out of the kitchen, helmed by executive chef Jake Nemmers. A few favorites:
A simple red disc on a white plate, Flora Bar’s tuna tartare isn’t like any I’ve had before; it pops with toasted flax seeds and crunches with fried shallots, neither of which hides the clean, cold taste of chopped yellowfin tuna. Flora Bar does not quite reinvent tuna tartare the way Estela reinvents beef tartare, but it comes closer than you’d think was possible.
Steak comes with béarnaise and beet hunks. The beets look a little wrinkled, like prunes, and have an uncannily focused flavor. The béarnaise is silky and light on the herbs. The steak looks like steak, sliced. It is tender, and the flavor goes on and on as you chew, yet it doesn’t have the meat-locker stink of dry-aged beef. Something must have happened to make it so extraordinary, but the answer is not visible.
Wells notes that Natasha Pickowicz’s desserts are daring, but he takes issue with some dull savory dishes like stracciatella with lemon peel, and halibut with wild mushrooms. Wells gives the restaurant two stars.