Romera: Looking Back at the Brief Life of New York's Neurogastronomy Restaurant
Lauren Shockey Course 1 at Romera: Alpha -- Tomato and cured black olive marmalades with mixed roasted nuts, crispy potatoes, red and green olives, emulsified with extra-virgin olive oil
Over the weekend, Romera, the "neurogastronomy" restaurant located in the basement of the Dream Hotel, shuttered after only six months in business. For those who had eaten at the restaurant recently, the news didn't come as any big surprise. Although the chef, Dr. Miguel Sanchez Romera, had modified his original concept, eliminating some of the flavored waters and adding lower-priced menu options, it was to no avail. As a visit to the restaurant this past month can attest, when only three diners patronize your spot on a Friday night, you're bound for trouble.
Lauren Shockey Course 2: Unda -- Ossetra caviar, sweet and sour vinaigrette with extra-virgin olive oil, chives, carrots, ginger, and housemade cinnamon rose vinegar over smoked potato puree with rosemary butter, giant clam, oysters, razor clams, and wakame seaweed
The restaurant's official statement reads:
It is with great sadness that we announce the closing of Romera. We are so very proud that we have been able to present the cuisine of Dr. Miguel Sanchez Romera to New York and we thank those who have shared our vision. Over the last six months we have been able to expose many people to the food and philosophy of Dr. Romera, and it certainly captured the attention of New Yorkers.
Dr. Romera himself has often said that New York is the backbone of many cultures and his cuisine celebrates the diversity of the New York palate. He is grateful that he had the chance to explore what New York has to offer and to touch so many people. Dr. Romera does not close the door on New York, he still believes it is the culinary capital of the world, and he will continue on his path to educate and expose diners to neuro-gastronomy and his collection of flavors.
Hampshire Hotels and Dream Hotels are committed to Dr. Romera's vision and believe that there is a future iteration of his concepts that will find a place in coming developments.
Lauren Shockey Course 3: Concordia -- Coconut, garlic and ginger cream, black truffled poached quail egg
Dr. Romera declined to be interviewed for this story, yet his basic concept of neurogastronomy examines the nutritive and sense properties of food that can be used to naturally enhance the emotional, cognitive, and rational functions of the mind. "I am a doctor who cooks, not a cook who is a doctor," Romera has proclaimed. Diners at his eponymous restaurant, meanwhile, weren't just paying customers, but patients who fell under his medical responsibility.
Yet dinner at Romera was more than just a meal. It was a performance. Over each table a flat, circular light fixture hung overhead with single spotlights shining down onto each diner's place setting, clearly emphasizing that the food takes center stage. Display cases were filled with souvenirs from Romera's travels and medicinal bric-a-brac. The monochromatic space, while comfortable, was oddly isolating.
Lauren Shockey Course 4: Pulchrum -- Sake-glazed scallop with razor clams, white chocolate and leek cream, a pumpkin saffron puree, spinach seaweed puree, and beet mandarin orange confit
Although many critics decried Romera's food -- Pete Wells of The New York Times famously wrote, "To eat at Romera New York is to be told repeatedly that you are in the presence of greatness, while the evidence of your senses tells you that you are in the presence of, at best, okayness" -- my meal earlier this month was objectively pretty good. But was it $245 (or, rather, $300 after tip and tax) good? To that, I'd say no.