Victoria Blamey stands out at the Mena

In 2007, chef Victoria Blamey was offered a graduation position (as a cooking internship is called) at Mugaritz, a restaurant near San Sebastian in Spain, considered one of the best in the world. . “She distinguished herself at the fishing station,” her website states, rather modestly. “I bet she did,” I thought as I read that line the other day. At her new restaurant, Mena, in a semi-hidden corner of an unassuming Tribeca hotel, she serves up some of the best seafood I’ve ever come across.

If swallowing the freshest raw shellfish evokes the experience of diving into an invigorating ocean wave, Blamey’s iteration on a recent evening managed to double that feeling. She topped a trio of plump and creamy Crowes Pasture Massachusetts oysters with seaweed gremolata, including shiso, fermented white peppercorns and cochayuyo, a type of kelp harvested in his native Chile, which somehow intensified the brine of the oysters, pushing them deeper, cooler and cleaner. On a visit last month, I found it hard to believe that a meaty, shiny-skinned sardine, filleted and draped over a mound of boiled potatoes in mayonnaise, had been flown in from Tokyo; it tasted like I had swum.

Blamey is no stranger to the meat station: in New York, she made a name for herself at Chumley’s, an old West Village tavern that she revived with beef tartare, foie gras terrine and a burger. marrow with beef fat fries. There was a rib eye for two on the menu at Gotham Bar and Grill, where she ended up next. But the last time I ate at Mena, only one dish would have been forbidden to a pescatarian: a silty black puddingor blood sausage, served on sourdough fried in pheasant fat and under an Upstate Abundance potato mousse – a creamy hazelnut varietal bred by the Row 7 high seed company – all topped off with three cipollini onion petals concaves and al-dente which served as small bowls for a pepper sauce made with black juice, like a soup for a trio of fairies.

Meanwhile, a slice of Boston mackerel, adorned with an acorn of grilled ramps and garlic chive blossoms, was cracked-skinned and deliciously oily in a way reminiscent of pork. Seafood was hiding in a cross-section of Baby Gem lettuce, surprise bursts of whitefish roe hitting my taste buds as I crunched through the crunchy greens, and, even more unlikely, in a dessert: the Kelp-infused cream came in a rich yet airy chocolate ganache, accompanied by kelp butter and Chilean hazelnuts and topped with a milk and sugar froth.

High quality seafood doesn’t come cheap. A fixed price of one hundred and twenty-five dollars gets you three small dishes (with several options for each), plus a dessert; if you order a la carte, you could pay fifty-one dollars for a bowl of Loco, a traditional Andean stew, made with snow crab and razor clams. That said, an undercurrent of humility runs through the place. Blamey, dressed in a T-shirt and an apron, plays the kitchen pass sender, garnishing each dish herself. On my first visit to the restaurant, waiters brought what looked like overflowing bowls of chips to almost every table: crisp fried royal trumpet mushrooms, in fact, sprinkled in the French-Indian vadouvan curry mix and piled over Spanish lentils that had been cooked in a donko-shiitake stew. That her simplicity was deceptive didn’t make her any less down to earth.

On the drinks menu, beneath cocktails (including a seasonal yuzu and passion fruit pisco) and non-alcoholic options (such as an enchantingly fragrant fermented jasmine green tea, from Unified Ferments), is the category to single entry “Something Mena.” In Chile, chicha, a traditional drink from Latin America, is usually fermented, alcoholic and undistilled, made from fruit, corn, grains or a combination of the three.Blamey’s version – developed with Arielle Johnson, holder of a doctorate in food science. who worked at Noma – is derived from quince and wild rose hips. Sweet on the nose and woody on the palate, with an intense bitterness, almost gasoline, it pushed me. was like going to the heart of something. (Fixed price $125. A-la-carte dishes $18-$51.)

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