photo by Nathan Rawlinson
Looking for a way to recuperate after the closure of the short-lived Compose, Jodi Richard recruited Matthew Lightner from Portland, Oregon, to rebuild the restaurant from scratch. Lightner created an urban oasis, equal parts rustic and cosmopolitan, a vine-strewn industrial paean to foraging. On paper, Atera sounded almost satirical, with its dedicated herb chef and elemental ethos. But Lightner’s cooking is positively mystifying, his menu a succession of 20-plus edible marvels, many of which incorporate illusions using modernist techniques. See Lightner’s Jerusalem artichoke cannoli, which are dead ringers for the beloved Italian confection until you take a bite and realize the cannoli shells are sunchoke chips, the filling is a sunchoke cream, and that powdered sugar? Sunchoke powder — you know, the kind Mom used to dehydrate. Chefs from other cities generally have a tough go of things in this town, but after two Michelin stars and a slew of similar accolades, it’s clear Lightner was just the sorcerer Richard needed, and exactly what the progressive diners of New York City wanted. If you’d rather not plunk down the $195 required to participate in the tasting menu, head downstairs to Atera’s lounge, where the inventive cocktails take a seasonal approach and the chef’s much-lauded burger holds sway.