Gramercy Tavern

by Susan on September 3, 2008

[Food:4.5/5]

My summer ended in a weekend of free desserts.

On Friday night at Aqua Grill, management “tri”aged five of us with three sweets to compensate for three over-cooked fish dishes. Yes, three out of five of our dishes were incorrectly prepared. But more on that next week; I’d rather leave summer behind with more idyllic memories.

On Saturday night my husband and I dined at Gramercy Tavern where any lingering thoughts of the previous night’s follies were erased by perfectly cooked entrees.

We’ve dined at Gramercy a few times over the years; always in the dining room. Each time, as I approach the host’s stand, I begin to pine for the hubbub of the Tavern. The gorgeous murals that decorate the ceiling above the bar are a bold and fitting overlay to the lively atmosphere. But each time, I dutifully follow the host to the back dining room where the din is also casual, yet sublimely romantic. When I settle into my table for the evening, the wooden beamed ceilings arching above my head, any regrets disappear.

Gramercy Tavern is renowned for its service. It prides itself on providing friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive service that is not suffocating or overly formal. It’s the kind of place where your water glass is always full, but you don’t remember anyone coming by to fill it. True to form, our water glasses were kept full and dishes were delivered and cleared cheerfully and expeditiously. We did, however, feel as though we were given a little too much space. We were ready to order a good ten minutes before our server even came by to walk us through the menu. No one asked if we were enjoying our starters or entrees. No one came to offer us a second piece of bread. I don’t like being suffocated, but for an $82 prix fixe, I do want a certain level of attention.

At Gramercy Tavern diners choose between a three-course menu and two five-course tasting menus. Savory dishes can be pulled, mixed, and matched from any of the menus and sized as smaller or larger portions. We relished the flexibility.

Both starters were elegant in appearance and light and balanced in taste. Paper-thin slices of Summer Squash and Cured Pork Loin were folded like origami paper and arranged in a colorful line of yellow, green, and pink. The pork, though not overpowering, stood out against the vegetables and a drizzle of Husk Cherry Vinaigrette.

Citrus Cured Arctic Char was similarly refined. Delicate, pinkish-orange pieces of char were laid atop a tartare version of the same fish. There wasn’t a dollop of cream, nor a cracker in sight. This one was all about the fish.

It was when our entrees of lamb and duck arrived that the fireworks started. Both meats were extraordinary in quality and both were prepared flawlessly.

Earthy Rack of Lamb, served without the bone, melted in your mouth. Beneath the two tournedos, smears of broccoli puree glowed emerald.

I’ve spent the last few days trying to recall a better duck entree. I can’t. There wasn’t a hint of gaminess in the Glazed Duck Breast & Leg Confit. There wasn’t a single chewy bite. The glaze brushed atop its crispy skin was sweet and decadent, but not overbearing. On the side, a simply roasted, half-bulb of fennel was unadulterated and delicious.

I would be remiss not to mention that the Swiss Chard that accompanied the duck and the Quarter’s Lettuce that adorned the lamb were very over-salted. But we were so happy to direct all our taste buds’ attention towards the meats, we hardly cared.

When the dessert menu arrived we narrowed it down to three choices and asked our server for advice. Tableside, he chose the Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding and the Grand Marnier Mascarpone Cheesecake. But, when they were delivered to our table so was the Chocolate Macaroon; our other choice. The Chocolate Macaroon (which would have made Pierre Herme proud), was filled with the most scrumptious of Peanut Butter Semifreddos and ended up stealing the show. The cheesecake followed the “elegant and light” theme, but when I order cheesecake I’m looking for creamy decadence. The Bread Pudding had a bit of an identity crisis, caught somewhere between brioche and lava cake.

We also indulged in the extensive wine by-the-glass list, which offers all glasses in three and five ounce pours.

Add it all up (and don’t forget the pork sausage amuse bouche, the petit fours, and the parting gift of breakfast cake) and it’s clear that Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern remains at the head of the pack.

Our summer ended on a very sweet note.

Gramercy Tavern
www.gramercytavern.com
42 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.477.0777

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