Under Matthew Lightner’s watch, Atera, the tiny, luxe tasting room in Tribeca, earned two Michelin stars and became one of the most high-profile fine-dining destinations in New York. It came as something of a surprise when Lightner departed, and owner Jodi Richard decided to close the restaurant for a few months to make way for a new chef, Ronny Emborg — formerly of Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred Marchal, as well as El Bulli and Mugaritz.
Last week, Atera quietly reopened with the chef’s brand-new menu. “The restaurant is the same, but the food has changed,” Emborg says. “I actually used to work with Matt at Mugaritz, but I’m a different chef.” Emborg’s dishes are highly technical, but he says his main desire is to maintain the integrity of his ingredients. “I always cook the products as little as possible to keep the flavors intense,” he says. While the restaurant has been closed, Emborg has spent time visiting farmers, sourcing ingredients, and refining his dishes. “I aim to bring the best out in each product,” he says. “I can be playful, but the most important thing in whatever I do is the flavors. That’s something that we work on every day.” He has roots in Copenhagen, of course, but he says this kind of cooking is never something he did back home.
The transition to New York can be tough for any out-of-town chef, but Emborg will be particularly on display thanks to Atera’s unique setup: Diners are seated at the counter and interact directly with the kitchen staff. “I’ve always had an open kitchen, but not like this,” the chef explains. “You can’t hide anything. But that’s also the beauty of it: seeing people work together.” Here’s a look at a few of his creations — as well as a recent menu:
Atera, 77 Worth St., 212-226-1444