I was so looking forward to dinner at Gramercy Tavern last night. For one, one Michelin star. Zagat claims it's harder to get into than Harvard, and OpenTable's diners are currently voting it #4 in their list of "Best Overall" in the Tri-State Area.
In preparation, I'd read and heard nothing but great things about Michael Anthony's food, and the superior service -- including a review by the NY Times' Frank Bruni, who asked, "Is there a restaurant in this city more beloved than Gramercy Tavern?" and went on to proclaim: "...like a solid marriage rather than a heady love affair, it has stood the test of time, righting itself when it starts to go wrong, knowing what's at stake are a great many warm memories, some yet to be made." How appropriate, I thought, since it was my parents' anniversary and we were headed to Gramercy Tavern to celebrate the greatest marriage of all-time.
Turns out -- at least on this particular night -- owner Danny Meyer and chef Michael Anthony have nothing on Joanne and Eddie. There were things we really enjoyed: the ample space between tables, the champagne Uncle Robby chose (sorry folks, I didn't get the name), and certain dishes that tasted as beautiful as they looked. On the other hand, the service I'd heard raves about was unremarkable in my opinion. It seemed to take forever for each course to arrive, and when it did, it was tepid.
We started out with an amuse bouche of sweet corn soup and quail egg. Yum. Great start.
For my app, I had the Black Tagliatelle with Lobster, Mussels and Chorizo. It had an incredibly flavorful lobster-infused broth that I held in my mouth with my eyes closed. I love when food makes me do that.
LeBro James also let me sample his Kampachi with Grapefruit and Coriander. The fish was perfectly textured, just the right temperature, and the grapefruit complemented it both texture- and flavor-wise.
For my main, I had -- you guessed it -- the pork. Rack of Pork & Braised Belly, Baby Beets and Fingerling Potatoes, to be exact. It was good, but I'd take Oliveto's Porchetta over it any day of the week.
I did like it best of any of the mains at our table, though, which also included beef, duck and two kinds of fish. (My family has grown accustomed to me sampling and photographing their food, too.) Pictured left to right, top to bottom are: Sirloin & Braised Flatiron with Flat Beans and Fairytale Eggplant; Braised Duck Breast & Leg Confit with Braised Fennel and Swiss Chard; Striped Bass with String Beans, Mussels and Lemon-Mustard Sauce; and Halibut with Vegetable Minestrone.
Next was a strawberry-tomato puree palate cleanser in a sugar-rimmed glass. Sounds good, in theory. In practice the two flavors didn't complement each other so well.
So after that, I needed to cleanse my cleansed palate with some dessert. Game over when I saw Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cacao Nib Ice Cream on the menu, since bread pudding is among my favorite desserts, period. But there's a spectrum, you know. Some bread puddings are more bread-y; you can see the cubes of bread, and ideally taste the toasted edges on your tongue. That's my kind of bread pudding. Unfortunately Gramercy Tavern's Nancy Olson makes the other kind, more pudding-y and mushy. Uncle Robby's Selection of Sorbets sure did look lovely, though.
We ended this relationship on a sweet note -- with peanut butter truffles to cap the evening, and raspberry coffee cakes to take with us for breakfast in the morning.
I certainly didn't go to bed mad.