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Gramercy Tavern 2007


Fat Guy
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When was the "glory days" of GT? And didn't Michael Anthony come from another well-known restaurant? (Meaning, isn't he a good chef?)

I looked at the menu online and personally it seems a little tired and there's nothing jumping out that makes me want to go and eat there.

Is GT failing due to the concept? Or it is time to scrap the idea and start anew?

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It's not hard to believe that Richman found lapses in service and food at Gramercy Tavern. It's a restaurant in transition. But I couldn't disagree more with his overall conclusions.

It seems Richman fundamentally doesn't enjoy Gramercy Tavern's style of service, or somehow got turned against it. I like the fact that the servers are engaging and personable -- I don't find it intrusive. I also prefer the decentralized arrangement whereby every captain is knowledgeable and passionate about the wine list.

Foodwise, I think Mike Anthony is doing a great job. Certainly, the food is dramatically better than it was when I stopped bothering to go a couple of years ago. Is it as good as it was at its peak -- say, the five-year mark -- under Tom Colicchio? It's different. Anthony's food is, to me, more interesting and has the potential to be better. Right now, at this early stage of Anthony's tenure, no, of course Gramercy Tavern is not where it was at its peak. But it's evolving nicely and seems on track to meet and surpass the old standards.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Have not been yet. I tend to think that I would like Mike Anthony's food. However, the revieew is overall negative. Richman doesn't like GT's relaxed style of service. Bruni does not like formal service. But both don't like GT. So can't just pin it on their biases, I would think.

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He has never reviewed it, however he took a swipe at it in his review of Eleven Madison Park and the Bar Room at the Modern.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had dinner in the Tavern Room tonight, for the first time; I've only ever eaten in the Dining Room, and that was before Michael Anthony took over.

I had the grilled scallops to start, which were delicious and tender, and flavorful although the cream based sauce was a little heavy. I didn't really get much of any impact from the cabbage and wished that it had been a stronger foil for the other components of the dishes. I did enjoy a single piece of fried prosciutto (I wanted more), and the presentation was very elegant because the prosciutto looked kind of like a piece of very thin bacon. It was a very light appetizer, composed of the prosciutto and two scallops.

My date ordered the portobello tart to start, which turned to be a large potion and looking more of a three-layered cake. The goat cheese was presented in a ball on the side so you could proportion it out more efficiently. The pastry was delicate and flaky, and overall, it was a wonderful blending of hearty, earthy flavors. I usually don't like mushrooms, and even I liked this. The arugula portion was a simply dressed salad on the side that provided a counterpoint to the tart's richness. The portion was fairly large and looked to be filling.

My main was the stuffed meatball, which was presented already cut in half on the plate, on top of a bed of potato puree. The meat was crumbly and moist, and covered with strands of melted fontina. Hearty and comforting, and perfect for a brisk night. This dish was a big hit, and also a big portion, so I needed help finishing it. My only complaint is that eating a huge, loose meatloaf-like entree is a little monotonous after a while, so I made sure to drink lots of water and take breaks. I can definitely see myself craving this dish on a snowy evening.

I was quite full at this point, and opted for a simple pot de creme for dessert. It was well executed but not a standout.

My date's main was the pulled pork sandwich. Great bread, good, high quality, juicy pork. I've only had NC BBQ style pulled pork before so it's hard to compare this sandwich with other pulled pork experiences, but it was very delicious, just in a different way than I'm used to. My date polished it off in about ten minutes. Also, I loved the coleslaw on the side, which included savoy cabbage and apples. It wasn't excessively creamy and a good counterpoint to the sandwich.

For dessert, he ordered the chocolate peanut butter cake with frozen milk. The cake was tasty, as the combination of peanut butter and chocolate usually is, but it really shone in combination for the frozen milk. The frozen milk came in a tiny glass with a tiny straw and was very impressive. It was somehow whipped and fluffy, and sweet, but not icy or like ice cream or frozen yogurt or sorbet. It's a mystery to me exactly how they make it!

Overall, we spent about $45-50 per person, including tip and tax. We went early and were seated immediately by a window, and it was nice enjoying the natural light until the sun finished setting and the room got more crowded.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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We were at Gramercy Tavern this past Monday night, in the main dining room for dinner. They were kind enough to put together a tasting menu consisting of dishes from various parts of the menu.

The most memorable dish was a simple, lightly smoked piece of brook trout. I believe the chef said it was from Max Creek Hatchery in East Meredith, NY. They have a stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays, if I'm not mistaken. He stressed that he uses the brook trout, not one of the various other types of trout, because it has the "cleanest" taste. He also mentioned that, though these trout are hatched by man, they're raised in large, clean ponds and that this particular supplier is good about catching, cleaning, chilling and getting the fish to market quickly. An extraordinary product, demonstrating how good trout can be but rarely is.

Another terrific seafood dish was the calamari salad, which I believe comes from the lunch menu. The calamari is marinated and served in long, thin strips about the size of bean sprouts. It's dressed with Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Like the trout, an amazing product shown at its best with a minimally invasive but sophisticated preparation.

I won't list every dish we had, however I loved all but one (the sweetbreads). Having now been in front and back a couple of times each, I can't for the life of me comprehend Richman's aversion to the place. I think Gramercy Tavern, better than almost any other restaurant, captures the right balance of professionalism and informality in service that reflects the best of the New American service tradition. I have not found Mike Anthony's dishes to be strained or showy in any way -- he believes in great ingredients and in preparations that show those ingredients at their best. I love what he has done with the place, and Gramercy is now back up on my favorite-restaurants list.

I'd love to hear some more reports from folks who have tried it out. I think Gramercy lost a lot of its foodie street cred over the past few years, but right now I think it's one of the most exciting food destinations in town. Not showy, not avant garde, but exciting. At least to me it is.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I am a real fan of the direction Danny Meyer is taking in his restaurants--kudos to him for beefing them up and he's hit a home run with EMP and doing great with The Modern. That said, I went to GT a month or so ago and just didn't 'get it.' I thought it was a fine enough meal, but not really remarkable or memorable. It was fine; but so are a lot of other places in town. Also, where were the staff? The GM was gone, the wine director was gone, and the chef was out. How could all 3 key people be away on a Thursday evening, prime time? Anyway.....I had no complaints but it, to me, hit no real highs and the dishes were certainly simple and pure but I can do simple and pure at home. I really wanted to leave feeling excited and I just didn't.

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I won't list every dish we had, however I loved all but one (the sweetbreads).

My disclaimer: Mike Anthony can do (almost) no wrong, in my eyes. Great chef, teacher, human being, and fellow native Ohioan. :biggrin: I have not yet been to GT, but it's on my "now that life has calmed down some" list. It's been bumped up to the top now that this great report has been filed.

But FG, I wonder if you'd mind telling us if this was a comped dinner? I'm curious, not trying to start anything. Thank you!

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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But FG, I wonder if you'd mind telling us if this was a comped dinner?

I wish!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 3 weeks later...
My disclaimer:  Mike Anthony can do (almost) no wrong, in my eyes.  Great chef, teacher, human being, and fellow native Ohioan.  :biggrin:

FFB, just out of curiosity, on what basis do you say these things? Did you work closely with him at some point?

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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As usual, pics.

Friday night walk-in dinner in the Tavern room.

The receptionists were courteous and downright friendly despite me looking like a complete scrub.

The eats:

Calamari and carrot salad: We really enjoyed this dish. The addition of crunchy textures (carrots, flying fish roe, toasted pine nuts) made this dish very enjoyable. The calamari was tender, not overcooked.

Grilled sea scallops: Nicely seared and slightly raw inside. Really well-executed. The celery root puree (pleasantly sweet) and braised cabbage went well together. I saved the crispy prosciutto for last.

Bacon wrapped trout: Maybe this is the same trout that FG referenced earlier. Wonderful taste and texture. The bacon really helps make this dish. I liked the accompanying lentils and kale. It feels a bit like a fall dish.

Stuffed meatball

What a coincidence, my wife made something like this just a few days earlier. The fontina is wrapped in some "dark green leaf." Maybe it's kale, maybe it's spinach... I couldn't tell at the time (I didn't dissect the dish) and I can't remember anymore. It tastes like a mix of several different meats. Quite enjoyable and flavorful, I didn't think it was difficult to finish.

We skipped on dessert and went to Room4Dessert instead.

Here's where things went wrong:

Bread: Cold. Like "we just pulled it from the fridge" cold.

Plates: Also cold. This was most noticeable on the stuffed meatball, when the puree came cold to the touch. Was this amateur night?

Bacon wrapped trout: I wish there were more lentils. Lots more lentils. That's my personal preference, anyway.

Foie gras: What the... not a lick of foie gras on the menu?!

Service: Surprisingly sterile, though functional.

Edited by larrylee (log)
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I thought the old Gramercy Tavern was boring. I thought Blue Hill was boring.

Now: Michael Anthony At The Gramercy Tavern

Boring + Boring = ?

Not boring, but not wildly exciting, either? Something like that. Certainly much better, to my taste, than either of its predecessors, though.

Started with -- this was almost a week ago, and I don't take notes -- a raviolo with some kind of shellfish? Crab? In a broth? Sort of a tired dish, verging on the cliched. But certainly well executed.

Entree was very good. Venison, somehow cooked so there was a haunting aftertaste of cranberry. I've never seen that familiar combination pulled off so interestingly. This is exactly what Chef Anthony is best at: some simple familiar thing done with some kind of special technique that elevates it to the memorable. My problem with Blue Hill was that those effects were too subtle. This one registered.

This venison didn't shy away from the gamey, BTW. I was delighted -- although my date said something about "dogfoodiness."

I can't remember what I had for dessert. But I remember walking out of there feeling very grateful for Nancy Olson.

The new GT is, to me, sort of like Telepan. The food is wholly admirable, and very good. But there's not much to say about it.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Your description totally comports with my experience there. Perfectly fine dinner; well executed but I wouldn't rush back. In fact, I probably wouldn't go back given the competition in NYC unless there was some event or reason to go there out of the norm.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Review:

http://chefboysfoodandwineblog.blogspot.co...end-reborn.html

(for pictures)

It has come to my attention that many New Yorkers employ the Zagat guide as a food Bible of sorts. Unfortunately, it has become the sole deciding factor for many people on where to spend millions of hard earned dollars eating in Manhattan. Dare I say it - the numerical Zagat score a restaurant receives effects millions of dollars in revenue for that restaurant. This isn't right. But I can't help but remember that Chris Farley sketch on SNL in the 90's where Chris Farley plays a fat, bridge-and-tunnel housewife, clad in a floral print moo-moo, reading mini restaurant reviews from Zagat to her husband.

It just so happens that Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern have consistently held top spots for food and "popularity" in New York for some time now. I always took this with a grain of salt; in my opinion - assigning a restaurant a numerical score from 1-30 is about as ludicrous as assigning a wine a number score from 1-100.

The "Zagat Effect" is a peculiar phenomenon. Have you heard of this? Let me explain. I'm sure you have wondered - how does a restaurant get to be so highly rated in the Zagat guide? Good question. From votes from you, dear reader! The Zagat effect keeps certain restaurants at the top, namely, Gramercy Tavern, but prevents other restaurants from usurping those who reign year after year. You see, certain folks go to Gramercy knowing that it's got the top rating, they dine there, and they then believe that this must be the best of what New York has to offer. And when it's voting time every fall - all of you New Yorkers vote like sheep (well, not all of you). If you're reading my blog, you are most likely ahead of the curve. Cheers.

Nobody has a mind of their own anymore. That's why people need Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator to make up their mind for them on what to buy, drink, and cellar, and Zagat for where to eat. It's quite sad.

It is my belief that Zagat completely misses the point and the quality of certain restaurants, just like Wine Spectator and Parker miss the point of certain wines. I could go on and on and on about how silly Zagat food scores are. For example - restaurants like The Grocery and Sripraphai have a 27 for food, and Il Giglio, Di Fara (a pizza place for Christ's sake!), and Grimaldi's have a 26 for food in the latest Zagat 2007 guide, while Del Posto (2 Michelin stars, 3 NY Times stars) has merely a 24, and the Modern has only a 25.

I mean this sort of thing is ridiculous. Enough ranting, though.

But this blog entry is not about Zagat, Michelin, or the NY Times reviews and their inconsistencies. It is about a awe-inspiring *revival* of a New York standard. When Le Cirque and the Russian Tea Room reopened, they literally EMBARRASSED themselves in front of millions for all of New York to watch. To contrast, Danny Meyer has quietly been revitalizing two of his star restaurants - Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park.

And if I have any inkling - Union Square Cafe is next up for some rehab!

But let me just tell you right now with complete honesty- Gramercy Tavern is once again a superstar, thanks to Mike Anthony and Nancy Olsen, and Danny Meyer for hiring them.

Anthony has most recently been the Chef de Cuisine for Dan Barber upstate in Westchester at Blue Hill at Stone Barns (where I'm going to have my fabulous spring wedding someday). The Dan Barber way of life is local ingredients, in season, recently harvested, organic, artistically presented, using a lot of sous-vide, Bouley influenced. A mouthful? I know. I trailed at Blue Hill once, spent a good 14 hour day in the kitchen - and I'm not really sure how they maintain innovation, quality, consistency day after day for so many hours a day without getting burnt-out. I had one of the best meals in my life at Blue Hill upstate as well, but that, ladies and gentlemen, is another blog entry altogether.

The style of Anthony's cooking is honest, seasonal, minimalist, and focused. There aren't 15 different items in 3 inch diameter circle. The ingredients are bright and pure without being showy or flashy. This is my kind of cuisine.

First up was a marinated calamari salad with carrots and pine nuts. For a tasting menu in spring - and for a chef reared at Blue Hill - I expected something a bit...I dunno... greener? But this dish was classy. The calamari was fresh and tender, toothy and firm without being rubbery, the carrots were bright and crunchy, the meyer lemon vinaigrette provided a vibrancy well needed. To be fair, after a little sprinkling of some additional fleur de sel on top of the dish - it reached a higher level of balance. I like salt. But not so much that you can taste the salt - just...enough to give your food a punch. Someone should tell the garde-manger guy to taste his food before he sends it out. No matter, it was a great start to a great meal.

Next up was a dry diver sea scallop on a bright green sauce that was swimmingly salty and contained delicious circles of spring asparagus, scallion, and spice. Nicely seared, oceany and fresh, the scallop countered the green spring juice wonderfully. Contrary to Samantha from Sex and the City and Jeffrey Steingarten at Vogue - Scallops are NOT over. Scallops are fabulous.

I could have used two scallops, even. I'm a big boy. They did complement my 1er cru Chassagne Montrachet beautifully (an '01, a steal at $70)

Fish course number 3 was gently, subtly smoked trout. This was the most elegant of all the cuisine we enjoyed today. On one end of the plate rested bright red pickled onions which were countered by a red beet puree on the other end. Sour - meet sweet. Play nice. They did.

Also - trout is a bitch to bone out. Ladies and gentlemen - trout is full of pointy, microscopic, bitchy pin bones. As you can tell by this photo - the trout was superbly filleted. A bit of sliced chives and fleur de sel gave a little push forward for this elegant flesh of fish. This dish is a star. And the portion is surprisingly generous, following a lonely, albeit fabulous scallop.

Squab concluded the savory courses. There is a famous saying amongst cooks that people love "meat on a stick." The leg was perfectly bite size, tender, and convenient for nibbling as it was still resting on the bone while the breast was deboned and roasted to a perfect rare-medium rare. This meat was unctuous and full of flavor, tender and juicy. Textbook squab at its best. Actually, I couldn't help but think of some microsurgery. The fiddleheads were small, the squab was small. I wanted more. I guess that's the point of a tasting menu - Thomas Keller in his French Laundry cookbook says that he always wants to leave you wanting one more bite - then you're off to another course. Well, then.

The next course was cheese of course (knowing Jerry). There were 8 in all ( I think we got a bonus cheese because I am so damn charming). The honey was artisan, small batch, and surprisingly cloudy, but freaking delicious. The figs were jammy and sweet.

What I do like about this cheese is that the cheeses are kept on the marble at the tavern-kitchen. They certainly get up to room temperature. The cheeses were really great, but there were 8 of them, and I'm sure each one deserves its own paragraph.

And for the grand finale - a tasting of Nancy's desserts. Full disclosure: I worked with Nancy back at Dona when we opened it together. To clear our palettes first was a bright burst of passion fruit sorbet and cilantro puree. Success.

I'd like to say "the Nance" is a master of chocolate and hazelnuts, but she's damn good with seasonal fruits as well. She told me about these stunning local strawberries she just got in from the Greenmarket. You know what they say - when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. When life gives you local organic strawberries - you make strawberry sherbet, stewed strawberries with rhubarb crisps, and almond financiers. You've heard that one right?

Also - Nance does this freaking delicious warm chocolate bread pudding with cocoa nib ice cream. Chocolate bread pudding doesn't really sound that awesome - until you put it in your mouth. It is orgasmic.

Nancy is very talented - how else do you go from culinary school to Executive Pastry Chef at Gramercy Tavern in 5 years? Originally, quality, hard work, 16 hour days. Everything she does is delicious. It isn't molecular, it isn't totally seasonal, it is just simply brilliant, simple, and mind blowingly delicious in the most visceral sense. I am still tasting the emotional impact of her chocolate hours later. That's how good she is. I think she is the most talented pastry chef on this island of Manhattan. Maybe her and Johnny at Jean Georges.

Another aspect of this flawless lunch and restaurant that I must discuss is the lack of a Wine Director. I, for one, don't like it. On their website, Juliette Pope is the "Wine Director." But after a good talk with our very charming, talented, knowledgeable (and fellow CIA Grad) captain waiter, it turns out that there is no sommelier/wine director. Apparently, the managers (GM, Asst GM or otherwise) do the buying and managing of the list. Maybe that's why the list needs some help. There are some Burgundies on there that I have honestly never heard of (and I work at the Burgundy Wine Company). The quality of the list could certainly be improved to meet the level of cuisine. Also - the prices are ridiculous. There is a Dauvissat 1er cru on there for $115 which my store sells retail for $62. And we are an EXPENSIVE retailer. $115 for that wine is absurd. I expected $104. A $98 price would make restaurant guests feel that they are getting a good value (ask any banker - blow out that product at a price a little bit less than your competitors). There are some really obscure producers on that list, as well (and not obscure in a good way - obscure in a lazy way - as in...you bought the wine because you got a good deal from the distributor). The list really really needs improvement. See for yourself.

There's a much more interesting list at The Modern, EMP, or even Tabla.

Running a wine list at a restaurant like this requires a full time effort - 60 hours or so from a dedicated professional who lives, sleeps, drinks, and dreams wine. Managers have to worry about their front of house staff. Captains have to worry about service. There is a reason why every single 3 and 4 star restaurant in New York has a Wine Director - because it is necessary. There are gaps on this winelist and diners are missing out by not having a dedicated wine professional. Service is lacking in this regard.

I was a 3 star captain, and I knew my wine, but I sure as hell didn't have time to talk about wine with my guests because I had 6 other tables in my section to serve during a busy dinner service.

As well - there were two service managers or maybe even the General Manager working the room in stiff suits. I swear they were like walking skeletons full of dread. I was watching them but they sure as hell weren't watching me. I didn't see a smile once, not a hello, not a "How is your lunch?" I didn't see joy and passion, I saw misery. Our captain was talented, witty, and knowledgeable. But he was the only one. Well, I'm not being fair - the woman host/manager at the door was a natural, she could charm the pants off anyone.

But whatever happened to a host that worked the room? This is why Sirio and Donatella are famous - because they make you feel like part of the family, they make you feel like you are important. Greggory at Varietal deftly works the room ensuring that you are enjoying yourself in the same fashion. Someone needs to play this role at Gramercy.

And you know what? I'm tired of people saying "Danny Meyer is all about service." Please. I saw tons of service issues. Really. The food was the star.

I say the front of house formula at Gramercy Tavern is not a good one. Gramercy needs a sommelier. Gramercy needs managers who smile. I don't like to see stiff men in suits walking way too fast in such an elegant dining room. Gramercy Tavern needs food runners who know what is on the plate! (One runner totally didn't even know what he was placing before us when he placed the squab on the table, I had to remind him!! Oof!) Am I being picky? Maybe. But when lunch for 2 costs over $300 (and that's with a LOT of comped stuff because I am special)...everything had better be flawless. Too much here lies in the hands of the captains. Our captain handled the job flawlessly but something was lacking from the rest.

Still, Gramercy Tavern offers an experience matched by very very few in New York. It is a legendary restaurant still providing food and service in the top echelon. Go now and feast on fiddleheads and ramps and softshell crab. Eat Nancy's sublime desserts. You can be sure that the seasons will be celebrated if not worshipped. The dining room is flawless, the food sublime, and everything sparkles, but if I had one wish for the restaurant, it would be more warm and honest hospitality.

Gramercy Tavern

42 E. 20th Street

New York, New York 10003

212-477-0777

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  • 2 months later...

Just a few words to express how satisfied I was last week when I dined at GT. It had been a long time since I had been there, and my first time with the new Chef.

The meal was very good. We had the tasting menu with matching wines (a great selection, from a Llopart Cava and on the selection was flawless).

The food was excellent. Not one faux pas. I usually hate quail, but this time I enjoyed it very much. The cod and the Trout were superb.

The service was impeccable even though the place was packed.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Does anyone remember/know what formerly occupied the space that is now Gramercy Tavern? Was it a restaurant before?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I believe it was a print shop or some other sort of Flatiron-neighborhood industrial space. The New York Magazine preview story from back in the day said something about it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 1 month later...

As I had expected, I had a fine meal at Gramercy Tavern not too long ago.

See all the pictures here.

The evening started off strong and on a good note. The chef offered to cook for us, which on a weekend night, I found to be quite gracious and generous. What I hadn't realized when we accepted the offer is that in Chef Anthony/Gramercy Tavern parlance, this meant that everyone of us at the table would receive something different for each course. I was most appreciative and grateful for the gesture, but as in meals past when each guest gets something different, I find that my attention inevitably gets diverted to some other person's dish... and what I call "course envy" sets in. There's a lot of sharing and fumbling with plates and tasting and forks-across-tables... it usually leaves my head spinning after the meal - sensory overload; the meal ends up being a confusion of fragments the morning after...

The restaurant was especially busy, and my only disappointment for the evening was that service suffered. We were serviced, but not always by our server, whom we found missing or hurrying about in our section. I think the restaurant was particularly busy because the room seemed unusually crowded with (extra?) tables (Although I've never been in the dining room before, I have seen pictures - but I'm not sure they're an accurate gauge either). Our poor server was clearly over-loaded and I did feel sorry for him... but it was a little annoying to have to flag someone down to find him a few times. Silverware was not always replaced, and coffee nor after-dinner drinks were ever offered.

The back waitstaff was efficient, but the language skills were a little lacking. I could hardly understand half of what was said that evening, and had to beg for repeats.

Disclaimer: a significant portion of our bill was mysteriously discounted. I didn't ask what for/why.

As far as food goes, every single dish was impeccably composed and executed. Plating was uniformly beautiful and elegant.

Here was our progression:

Amuse Bouche (a triptych)

Salad

Fish and Shellfish

Fish

Pasta

Meat

Cheese (we opted to supplemented - and were not disappointed, despite warnings from another eGullet member not to, for fear of stomach failure).

Pre-Dessert (the *best* pre-dessert I've ever tasted in my entire life)

Desserts

Petite Fours

I can't say that there was one course that failed - not even close. However, I can't name one dish that absolutely sang, either. They were all very very good. Some I preferred over others, but those instances were strictly a matter of personal taste.

The ingredients were fresh, seasonal, and well-cared for. The preparations were excellent, as stated. Fish were moist and flaky, meats were red, juicy, and flavorful - not over or undercooked. Sauces were rich, some preparations were even heavy at times - but in a reserved and appropriate manner.

Combinations and concepts, for the most part (savories) were pretty straightforward. No outlandish combinations; classic, elegant, and "simple. Now, having been to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, whence Chef Anthony came, I can definitely see the farm-to-table approach in the cooking at Gramercy Tavern now. No plate came with more than perhaps five different elements, and each one could be appreciated on its own, or in concert with the others.

Stand-out dishes: all of the pastas, particularly the House-made Papardelle with Beef Ragu (it was the scallions that did it for me). In fact, if I had to pick a favorite dish of the evening, that would be it. Also, I truly enjoyed (what little I tasted) of my friend's Smoked Trout with pickled onion vinaigrette and celery root puree. An heirloom tomato salad at the a beginning was also a successful first volley for the night (I apparently forgot to upload the picture - will do it tonight).

Not to be outdone or overlooked, Pastry Chef Olson is my new diva of sweets. :wub:

Many of you know that I don't have much of a sweet-tooth, but Olsen had me at the pre-dessert: "Coconut Tapioca". A quenelle of bright passion fruit sorbet sat upon a tuile raft floating atop a small pool of passion fruit caramel surrounded by creamy and cold coconut cream studded with perfectly-cooked tapioca pearls. The entire composition was encircled by a thin ring of cilantro syrup. The colours alone were magnificent. There was silence at the table.

All of our desserts were *wonderful.* Sweet? Yes. But, wonderful. I can't say that I had a favorite. The most interesting dessert, I think, was a Chocolate-Coconut Tart. Here's the description of the from my flickr (getting lazy at this point - and you're probably getting tired of reading):

Never have I had a dessert so rich and thick, yet so endlessly thrilling. The chocolate tart shell contains a thick gooey pavement of coconut cream chocked full of shredded coconut flakes.  The coconut is then layered over with a generous dark chocolate ganache and topped with two candied almonds.  It's like a millionaire's Almond Joy.

The ice cream is a vanilla base with chocolate, chopped almonds and coconut - basically, an ice-cream version of the tart.  The almonds in the ice cream is what actually contributed the almond crunch and flavor to the dessert, as there were none in the tart - only the two "showcase" candied ones on top.

Again, overall, the food at Gramercy Tavern isn't sending off any sparks or putting on any showy pyrotechnics. It's just damn fine food. The cooking is truly solid right now. The service issues, I hope, were just an anomaly, and I was able to overlook them for the most part. Wine parings were across the board pretty solid and on par with my tastes and sensibilities. (I will note that I had stressed to the sommelier that I would only be able to handle maybe two half pours and a beer at the most... he gave us generous full pours and it ended up being a beer and three full pours before I had to pull the plug. However, I don't think we were charged extra, which means they were probably just trying to be very generous with our party.)

This was my first visit to Gramercy Tavern, and I'm sure, based on this meal and Chef Anthony's and Pastry Chef Olson's performance, it will hopefully not be my last.

Edited: Correction on the spelling of Ms. Olson's name.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Many of you know that I don't have much of a sweet-tooth, but Olsen had me at the pre-dessert: "Coconut Tapioca".  A quenelle of bright passion fruit sorbet sat upon a tuile raft floating atop a small pool of passion fruit caramel surrounded by creamy and cold coconut cream studded with perfeclty-cooked tapioca pearls.  The entire composition was encircled by a thin ring of cilantro syrup.  The colours alone were magnificent. There was silence at the table.

Coconut tapioca soup with cilantro syrup and passion-fruit sorbet has been a signature Gramercy Tavern dessert for many years. You can find the recipe on Page 109 of Claudia Fleming's 2001 book, "The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern," and I have notes from a meal at Gramercy Tavern in July of 1998 indicating that the dessert was a signature at that time. I mention this because, while I agree this is one of the best pastry items in town, thus far I have been overall disappointed with the new desserts at Gramercy Tavern under the Anthony-Olson regime.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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