Danny Meyer is to food what Donald Trump is to real estate: a tycoon. I know that this comparison is far fetched, but it expresses my admiration for a Chef who knew how to redefine dining in New York, whether it is for fine or casual dining. Who does not know Shake Shack today? A success story for sure in the expanding world of the burger joints. There is also Blue Smoke that I recently tried, or Union Square Cafe. But, one of my latest discoveries is Gramercy Tavern. I knew the name, but never tasted the food! Until now!!! In fact, preparing this blog, I learned that one of the co-founders, back in 1994, was Tom Colicchio, who left the adventure few years later, the restaurant having ups and downs.
It was tough to get a reservation there and we booked it a month before, at 6:30pm on a weekday. Early dinner, but would it be worth it? And as if the elements tried to convince me to abandon what would be a culinary adventure, it was pouring and the trains were delayed. But it was not enough to stop me from going there!
The place was packed when I arrived, full of people without a reservation. We got seated pretty fast, in a dining room where tables were not too close to the others, but enough to do some eavesdropping. The clientele was quite heterogeneous: business people, some of them recognizable by their name tag (is the company that treated her employees at Gramercy Tavern hiring???), people in jeans and polo shirts or other fully dressed up (not to mention the hybrids: women in evening dresses and men in jeans)! Well, although the name has tavern in it, this is an elegant place!
We decided to go for the tasting menu. They had two menus created around seasonable ingredients. For Jodi, they were kind enough to serve a vegetarian menu, mainly inspired by the vegetable menu, but without any meat or seafood.
I was surprised in fact not to see straight away a vegetarian menu considering that it would cater to lots of people in New York.
They started with bringing us an amuse bouche:
It was a puff pastry filled with herbed ricotta, shallots and tarragon. It was very delicate and pre figured a fantastic dinner!
When the first dish came, they announced the fact that this dinner would be unforgettable: the presentation of each and every dish was spectacular, as if Chef Michael Anthony was using the plate as a canvas. The first dish for me was the marinated scallops, served with asparagus, almonds and American caviar.
I admit that I had no idea that there was such thing as American caviar! And I loved it as not bitter as a sevruga would be! Overall, the dish was light, fresh, with a nice balance of flavors.
Jodi got a salad with squash, peas, micro greens and nuts:
The colors looked wonderful and it was a nice start for the vegetarian menu, the nuts giving a little crunch to it.
Then, came the warm lobster salad:
It was served with carrots, watercress and fingerling potatoes. The lobster, that was perfectly cooked, was delish!
Jodi got the warm vegetarian salad with farro.
It was her favorite dish of the evening, and she particularly liked the farro and its crunchy texture. For having tried that dish, I admit that it was pretty good, but not my favorite vegetarian dish, that came next! It was grilled carrots with honey, pistachio, olives and a Camembert sauce.
I did not care about the Camembert sauce that I thought was not needed on the plate. However, the carrots were fantastic: mixed with the honey and pistachio, there was this delicious sweetness and crunchiness that made this dish a killer one!
On my side, I got halibut with a beet dashi, radish and Swiss chard.
The contrast between the white color of the fish and the bright red of the beet dashi was eye catching. The fish was flaky, moist and melting in my mouth. However, I did not like the sauce that was not as tasty as I would have preferred.
Then, Jodi got roasted asparagus and ricotta.
Interesting combination, wonderful and appetizing presentation with the ricotta buried under the veggies.
I got at that point some ricotta tortellini, morel mushrooms and fava beans.
That was a great dish: one of my favorites and Jodi probably regretted that it was not on the vegetarian menu! The tortellini were soft and perfectly complemented by the mushrooms.
Then came the last entrees: Jodi got roasted beets.
They were served with some homemade yogurt, pickled plum, basmati rice and chips. Believe it or not, but Jodi who does not like beets, ate that dish! That was interesting because I do like beets and was not that fond of that dish...
My last dish was roasted duck breast.
It was served with lentils, celery root, mushroom and hazelnut. The duck was perfectly cooked medium rare (they asked me if that temperature was ok) and came with a bit of fat that was delicious. The hazelnut added some crunch and nuttiness to a dish that was perfectly balanced, delicate and flavorful. It was my favorite dish for sure!
Then came dessert. Oh wait! Not dessert: pre-dessert!!! Yes, a restaurant serving a pre-dessert is for sure my type of place! It was a strawberry yogurt panacotta with mascarpone and meringue.
Great way to start dessert: refreshing and not too sweet. We inhaled it literally!
Then came the chocolate pecan coconut cake served with butter pecan ice cream!
I loved it, especially the ice cream that was incredibly good: creamy, buttery and full of pecan! Bring me a gallon please!!! The coconut cake was good too, very chocolaty with layers of coconut, enough to balance the bitterness of the chocolate.
At the time we were thinking it was time to walk several miles to help diggest, they brought us some chocolates (caramel on the left, mint on the right):
As well as cookies:
I do not know how Jodi resisted to eat them: I could not...
Then, with the bill, they brought us some delicious coffee cakes that we ate for breakfast.
I can tell you that we were full after this feast at Gramercy Tavern! The food was delicious and the presentation spectacular. I would like also to mention the service we got from Jahir: he made us feel welcome and looked after, checking with us between each dishes if it was to our liking or if we needed anything. Not to mention his sense of humor! It is what makes the difference between service and hospitality.
For fine dining, Gramercy Tavern is definitely on the top of my list! It was a dinner we are not ready to forget! And the best proof that being vegetarian does not mean that you have to eat mushy and bland food!
Enjoy (we surely did)!
42 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!