Gramercy Tavern – The Gramercy – 42 East 20th St.

By Melissa Limberg

Any restaurant piloted by 2012’s “Best Chef in NYC” is bound to be a good choice.  An expensive choice, but a good choice.  Here’s a disclaimer: if you plan on having dinner here, you should be expecting a bill of $300 or more depending on your order.  If this is OK with you, keep reading.  If you’re looking for something a little lighter on the wallet, this isn’t your scene.

The Gramercy Tavern brings classic American eating to a refined and upscale tavern setting.  Walls adorned with beautiful murals wrap you in comfortable warmth.  My date and I checked in for our reservation and sat at the bar to enjoy a cocktail before our table was ready.  There is a formal dining room and a tavern dining room.  Formal dining room takes reservations, tavern dining is first come first serve.  Each area has its own menu, the formal dining room being the more expensive of the two.  Even the formal dining room has more than one menu to choose from – a dinner menu and a set of tasting menus.  It was recommended to us that we both choose the same tasting menu so that we could enjoy it together.
We both took the seasonal tasting menu which was $116 a person.  Before they bring on your meal, you’re given a palate cleanser, only I’ve forgotten completely what it was.  I have not forgotten, however, that I liked it 🙂  The menu was served in this order:
-Red Snapper with Kohlrabi, Shiitake Mushrooms and Smoked Jalapeño

-Soft Shell Crab with Corn, Red Leaf Lettuce and Pickled Green Tomato

-Halibut with Zucchini, Black Olives and Lobster Sauce

-Squab with Barley, Sungold Tomatoes and Artichokes

-Veal Loin & Deckle Peppers, Nectarines and Polenta

-Dessert of your choice… Again, memory fails me when I try to imagine what I had for dessert, but it does not fail to remind me that I loved it.

They time this extremely well, with a waiter always keeping his eyes peeled for the moment you finish to appear with your next dish.  This is definitely meant for a long dinner sitting and not just for a quick in and out.  Our reservation was at 9:30pm and we didn’t leave until around 1:00am.  Each plate was crafted extremely skillfully and preparation was (for lack of any other term) exquisite.
This menu definitely capitalizes on the idea that less is more.  Uncomplicated by too many sauces or ingredients, each dish is a few carefully chosen flavors that marry beautifully in your mouth.  My only disdain was with the squab.  I dislike pigeons in general, so eating them is a double dislike.  The flavor reminds me of duck, and I am not a fan of that either.  My date loved the squab, so this is clearly a personal preference and not a reflection of the chef.
When the reservation was made they asked my date if it was for a special event and he informed them that it was an anniversary and we were given a complimentary bottle of Proseco.  A fabulous choice that worked well in conjunction with our tasting menu.  As I mentioned, it was a long dinner but there was no point that I felt rushed.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I felt comfortable to stay and sip as long as I wanted.  We definitely had more than one bottle of the Proseco.  The couple next to us arrived before us and left after us.  To me, this represents a well oiled machine of reservations and tables, and I am impressed with this.  I would expect nothing less from an establishment with such a sterling reputation.
I loved the atmosphere, I loved the food, and I love the location.  If you’re celebrating a special event, or just love fancy dinner – I suggest you reserve your spot at the Gramercy Tavern.  Fine dining is a luxury in which New Yorker’s are able to enjoy to the fullest. If you’re able to eat at NYC’s best chef’s restaurant, you should truly take the great opportunity to do so.

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