On my recent trip to New York, one of the things I wanted to experience was some fine dining, American style. I wanted to try and grab a table at Corton, highly recommended by Simon Majumdar of Dos Hermanos, but it appears my two weeks advance notice was insufficient. I needed closer to 2 months. A quick perusal of the Michelin guide showed that New York has quite a wealth of Michelin stars. Although not always a good indicator of a good feed, it certainly helps to point you in the right direction. One choice stood out, the Gramercy Tavern. Close to where I was staying and it looked like it served highly seasonal, high end American cuisine. A few clicks later and a table was booked.
The Gramercy Tavern is a truly stunning space. The Autumnal colours of soft oranges and browns of the dining room matched the changing seasons outside it's front doors. With a bar and open space bistro at the front of the restaurant, we were led past their roaring wood fired oven (where they freshly bake their own bread amongst other things) to our table towards the rear of the restaurant in the heart of their fine dining section.
We were given a menu and the waiter went through the list one by one. Most of the dishes appeared to be "amazing" in his humble opinion. And indeed the menu did appear "amazing", I wanted to eat everything, this menu was going to take some negotiating.
Calamari and Carrot Salad - A seemingly straightforward dish but it was absolutely bursting with flavour. Thin strands of perfectly cooked squid interlaced with uniform julienne carrots. There was an intense smokiness from the squid, I assume that these were flash cooked on a char grill, and the toasted pine nuts added another level. The zingy confit lemon dressing, the perfect bedfellow for these deep flavours. A highly accomplished dish illustrating what you can achieve with a simple combination of good ingredients.
Lamb Pappardelle with olives, lemon confit and swiss chard - Originally on the menu as a starter, I couldn't resist but upgrade this starter to a main. I love lamb and I love pasta, win win. Or so I thought. The potential combination of flavours really had me quite excited. In conception, the ingredients lend to an almost Mediterranean feel and I am sure that this would have been delicious had the chef not decided to lump a handful of salt into it. All the delicate flavours of the lamb, lemon and swiss chard, totally obliterated. On a good point, the pasta was well made and well cooked.
Pork Croquette with potato puree and bitter greens - This was a much more accomplished dish. The massive pork croquette was formed from slow cooked pork shoulder and just fell apart as I poked my fork into it. The unctuous meat of the shoulder, with strands of fat holding the croquette together, was well seasoned and was complemented by a smooth and buttery mash (although a teensy tiny portion).
Blueberry Corn Sundae with toffee popcorn - Before I start, I think I should let you into a bit of background. I love sweetcorn. In every format. If I had to eat only one thing for the rest of my life, it may well be sweetcorn. When I saw this, I ordered it immediately and certainly didn't regret it. Mounds of silky sweetcorn ice cream sat atop a blueberry compote studded with sweetcorn. On top, a dribble of cream and scattering of toffee popcorn. Truly scrumptious.
This was the first proper meal I had on my eating Odyssey of New York and it certainly got the trip off to a bang. It's a beautiful restaurant, one of the nicest I have been in, with plenty going for it but even the extravagant dining space can't cover up some of its failings. Poor seasoning is a cardinal sin in any restaurant, let alone a Michelin starred one. The saltiness in my main was unforgivable and on reflection, I should have sent it back, something I have never done before in a restaurant. And before I could get really annoyed, that joyous dessert turned up.
If you're in New York, give it a go. But if they serve you over salted pasta, just don't be scared to send it back.
Gramercy Tavern (website) - 42 East 20th Street, New York NY 10003