Gramercy Tavern, NYC
July 29, 2006
The Gramercy Tavern has long been our favorite restaurant in New York. We have been going several times a year for many years, both at lunch, which is quieter, and in the evening. We like the combination of French cooking techniques, American ingredients and efficient service without too much fuss. Last year we had a party for 22 in the private dining room for my 65th birthday. The excellent multi-course meal was beautifully served with eleven waiters emerging for each course change and then going back to their regular tables until the next summons. So, on July 27th, 2006, we went back for my 66th this year with just four of us. We all had the seven-course Summer Tasting Menu at $98@. It was quite similar to last year’s. There is also a $76 three-course prix-fixe menu with eight choices for each course. These are very reasonable prices for a top New York restaurant; they are even lower at lunch.
The evening started with a bottle of Larmandier Champagne Rosé which Linda had wisely ordered in advance and was served right away. With this was a small amuse-gueule of white bean purée and salsa verde. The first course was a small disk of foie gras cooked “en torchon” with pistachios, cherries and a small salad. I thought it was unusually bland. Next came a single langostino in a tomatoey, foamy, slightly spicy broth. This was followed by a slice of turbot with a delicious crispy skin served with a béarnaise sauce, bitter greens and slices of summer truffles. The turbot was really excellent; its substantial classic style contrasted with the trendiness of the first two plates. We finished our bottle of Stony Hill Chardonnay and moved on to the delicious 2002 Yamhill Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir. We then had a glazed cube of meaty bacon, served with a citrus-rind chutney with mustard seed. It had a lovely flavor and didn’t seem heavy or fatty. A big lean, rare lamb chop with chanterelles and a mushroom purée followed. The pre-dessert was coconut tapioca with passion fruit sorbet. We were offered a choice of desserts: one with three chocolate creations and one with three fruit and nut based creations. They all looked and tasted delicious. (My plate had “Happy Birthday, Michael” written in chocolate on it.) Finally there were two plates of chocolate and other friandises and a blueberry muffin in cellophane for each of us to take home for breakfast.
The service was very efficient and friendly with one waiter supervising everything, but many serving, clearing and announcing the courses. This isn’t as good as it used to be when one waiter did everything for a table. There are sauce spoons with most courses, which I find nice. The clientele is quite varied. The front or “Tavern” room, which is a bistro that does not take reservations, has a raucous young crowd (and great murals of vegetables.) We had asked to be in the back room (of three in the main restaurant) on the theory that it would be quieter, but it was very noisy when we arrived at 8:00. It became calmer as the evening progressed and the diners who had come directly from the office were replaced with a more formal, but relaxed, crowd. All in all it was not our best meal at The Gramercy Tavern, but it was very nice.