Gramercy Tavern is one of those restaurants you have heard about but have never visited. Highly decorated along with its flagship sibling, Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern is known for its New American cuisine and as one of the pioneers of farm-to-table philosophies. Famed restaurateur, Danny Meyer, opened the restaurant in 1994, but you may know him more for his flourishing Shake Shack empire.
Danny Meyer’s establishments are known for their excellent customer service, and I had the fortune of experiencing it firsthand. Greeted by the scent of fragrant, golden-yellow bouquets, I was led to the packed bar by the hostess with a smile.
I greeted my friend Ruchi who I haven't seen in forever. She is a great dining companion who is always willing to try new places with me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted one of my food idols, David Chang, eating with his assistant, so I took a quick snap.
Some people don’t like tasting menus because they aren't comfortable with sacrificing input and control. I disagree - the thought of having the chef, an expert in his field, decide for me is liberating and exciting.
From my experience, there are always 2 or 3 things on the tasting menu that make your mouth water, and a few things that you’re indifferent about. But in this case, the tasting menu had everything I liked: scallops, lobster, halibut, sweet potato, duck breast, and butter pecan ice cream. This was like the greatest hits menu and I was psyched.
The amuse bouche was a pastry with goat cheese and tarragon topped with fleur de sel flakes. The cheese was not overpowering and the touch of salt from the flakes tingled on the tongue.
Both the scallops and the lobster were delicious - perfectly tender, juicy, and slightly sweet. The cilantro broth and the carrot glaze were great accompaniments to the main stars, the seafood.
The halibut course was my favorite, hands down. The flesh parted easily to the gentle touch of my fork. The expression, “it melted like butter in my mouth”, never rang truer. I’m pretty sure it was prepared sous-vide, but didn’t confirm. The scoop of caviar slowly dissolved, leaving a faint trace of salinity.
The al dente agnolotti contained a creamy sweet potato filling that coated the inside of the mouth The subtle flavor and crunch of the toasted pine nuts along with the salty Parmesan-Reggiano shavings provided balance and texture.
As the duck course was served, I couldn't help but notice the woody smell of the lentils and quinoa. An image of a log cabin in Jackson Hole Wyoming appeared in my mind even though I’ve never been to Wyoming. The skin of the duck was perfectly crisp and the meat was a perfect medium-rare. I may or may not have licked the hazelnut sauce clean from my plate.
Both the vanilla bean panna cotta with passion fruit mousse and the chocolate coconut cake with butter pecan ice cream couldn’t have been more different from each other: the panna cotta, airy and fruity contrasted by the heavier, sweeter, dark chocolate punctuated by the crunchy pecans lodged in the ice cream.
The end of the meal was signaled by the petits fours and their signature cinnamon sugar muffin (which I promptly inhaled for breakfast the next morning). The server knew we were interested in taking a tour of the kitchen but at the end of our long meal, the kitchen was in the midst of cleaning and shutting down. The GM came by to offer apologies and promises for a kitchen tour on our next visit.
While we experienced great service throughout the meal, the guests at the table next to us were getting the VIP treatment. Not one but 2 sous chefs came out throughout the night to not only check on them but to stand there and chat for 10 minutes during the height of service. Conversations ran the gamut from the inspiration behind the dishes, the ingredients and technique that were used, as well as a sneak peek on upcoming tasting menus.
To hear the chefs talk so passionately about their craft was a treat. From the delicious food, tasteful decor, and passionate chefs, Gramercy Tavern delivers on all cylinders and is well-deserving of its Michelin star.