Friday, September 18, 2015

Gramercy Tavern, With Mom

Mom came to town a few weeks back. It was the run-up to our fantabulous week in Norway over Labor Day. But to break up the trip and visit New York (and her favorite son) she decided to visit for a few days.

Ever since she retired, she’s come to NYC annually. I always try to show her a good time, take her cool places. This time around, I thought about it far enough in advance that I got a reservation at Gramercy Tavern. We met up with my friend M. for a truly great meal.

What can you say about Gramercy?  For me it’s the most consistently wonderful restaurant in a city full of them. It’s got the razzle-dazzle, the name recognition, the decor, the history, and even after all these years the food still consistently knocks it out of the park. There’s more decadent, definitely more fancy, more adventuresome for sure, and in other ways better places along some axis or another. But in terms of the total package, classic New York restaurant, I have to think it’s the best.

I love just walking into Gramercy.  The theater of it.  Per se is like walking into a temple; Gramercy is like walking into a very sophisticated party. The exterior is so very much this city, and you hit dark wood and tons of flowers and the hubbub of the barroom…atmosphere to spare. But then you walk through to the dining room and it’s like magic the noise level drops (how DO they do that?) and you’re in this fancy and yet comfortable and intimate space.

Mom and I relaxed with a cocktail while waiting for M. to arrive, and then we got down to the serious business of considering the menu. I talked us down from the tasting menu, which seemed extreme.  We got the 3-course instead.  More than sufficient.

The playlist went like this:

Amuse was a spoonful of what was basically a bean salad, finely chopped, slightly spicy, with some seeds and such.

For my starter I got the corn and grain salad, with tomatoes, almonds, and Pecorino. Light and summery.

My main was sea bass with shiitake mushrooms, a cucumber based dressing, and black garlic.  I love the fish-and-mushroom combo, the umami makes the fish seem a lot more like a land animal.  It’s a neat trick.

Then came a palate cleanser, which had a little coconut and yuzu and mint going on.  Well, actually I don’t remember what it had going on, but that seems plausible enough.

And then came dessert.  There was actually quite a conversation about dessert.  We got it down to four things and Allan, the wonderful guy taking care of us was like, “don’t worry, I’ll solve this problem.”  And sure enough he shortly thereafter reappears (with associates) bringing all 4 of our finalist desserts.

Chocolate, Black Currant Jam, Milk Crisp and Cocoa Nibs; Huckleberry, Vanilla Cheesecake Tart; Mango Pavlova with Raspberries, Brown Sugar Jam and Coconut Ice Cream; and Raspberry Panna Cotta.

They were so good I needed to take “after” pictures of them, so here those are.

The huckleberry thing was the surprise for me.  It was incredibly good.  I think I reacted the same way the last time I had a huckleberry, like “holy mackerel these are fantastic!” But I forgot.  The chocolate was pretty sensational too.  But really, not a weak dessert in the bunch.

And inevitably there were some petit fours after, too.  Because that's how they roll at Gramercy Tavern.

I don’t go to there very often.  I really should. But I’m always exceedingly happy when I do. Utterly wonderful meal.  I’m sure one mom will remember for a long, long time.