American Restaurant in New York, United States: Gramercy Tavern Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Gramercy Tavern HeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
New York
Open: Lunch Mon - Fri, dinner daily
Price: Moderate

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +1 212 477 0777
Address: 42 East 20th Street
New York, New York, 10003
Country: United States
Food Style: American

The more we visit New York the less we like going to large restaurants. Only exceptional places can preserve some sense of identity and soul when they seat large numbers of diners.
Gramercy Tavern is an exception. Although they serve a lot of people in the bar and the restaurant the place has character and the staff seem to care about the customers. The place has soul. The food is cooked with skill, imagination and a cleverness that belies its simplicity.
The bar at the front serves slightly simpler food and, joy of joys, you don't have to book. But we had secured a reservation for the restaurant so were shown through to the large space at the back.
Our meal started with a complimentary selection of small tastes including spicy eggplant caponata, ricotta with walnut paste, fig with liver mouse and seared tuna on roasted tomato. Each of these was designed to wake the palate up and get you interested in what was to come. It certainly worked. We knew that the kitchen understood flavour and understood restraint.
A basket of good bread came to the table while we perused the menu and the very interesting wine list. We were particularly impressed with the selection of wines. It was a wine list that opened new vistas in a country where there is an almost fanatical devotion to the wines of California and Bordeaux to the exclusion of most others. Well, here you could order white wine from Emilia Romagna by the glass. There were wines from many Italian regions as well as lesser understood regions of France. There were even some Australian wines.
Our first courses confirmed that we were in a special restaurant. A celery root soup with crème fraiche, white truffles and Parmesan croutons was stunning. Served in a deep white bowl, tiny cubes of celeriac lurked in the bottom, while floating on the frothy surface were the croutons with the crème fraiche and truffle. The flavour was wonderful, the texture contrasts perfect and the aroma divine!
This was a great soup by any standards.
Tuna tartare was served with cucumber and sea urchin vinaigrette and a tiny salad. The vinaigrette was poured over at the table. This forgotten vegetable is perfect for adding texture and flavour contrast in dishes such as this. Cucumber cubes were also studded through the tartare itself.
Our main courses followed the example set by the starters, particularly the chicken. Roast chicken with chanterelles and roasted vegetables was almost like a family roast - but taken to new heights. This was 'real' food done very well. The chicken was beautifully moist and the vegetables had been seriously roasted adding lovely rich caramel flavours to the dish.
The other dish was a roasted sirloin of beef with braised beef cheeks. This dish didn't work quite as well as the chicken because the accompanying foie gras and bone marrow were cold - and marrow when cold tends to be cloying. The meat, however, was very good. Very strong sirloin teamed will meltingly tender beef cheeks, swimming in a light consommé.
Both of these dishes enhanced a Domaine Dujac Clos Saint Denis.
We ordered dessert, and while they were being prepared we were presented with a tiny pannacotta accompanied by a lemon jelly.
A coconut tapioca was served in a medium depth round bowl. Large-grained tapioca was ringed by a drizzle of cilantro syrup and accompanied by four tiny sorbets. A lovely dessert.
A fig Napoleon with hazelnut parfait was also made with precision and harmony.
We left feeling very satisfied with the meal. It is a place that we would not hesitate to revisit.
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