As you might know, I don't go out to to eat often because I cook so much at home. Usually I can't justify spending $200 for something I could probably recreate for $45.
I've been to Gramercy Tavern before, and had an ok time. But I felt like, $86 for this? Probably $36 is for service and $50 for actual food, was what I thought last time I was there.
Not this time.
Executive Chef Michael Anthony is speaking at Japan Society in February, and when I had a meeting with him a couple weeks ago he said, "Come to restaurant anytime, and I will treat you right!" I know it was lip service, but I took him up on it, and called the reservation line. When I called, they were like, "Sorry we don't have any spots for Thursday at 7pm". Thursday 7pm is one of the most prime time slots for restaurants, and the only time they had was 5:30.
That's when I used the connection cards I had. I contacted his marketing person, and asked, "Hi, I don't want to impose on you, but I am trying 'desperately' to get a reservation on Thursday at 7pm, and I wonder if you could squeeze me in".
Five minutes later, she responded, "Hi, your reservation is all set."
Power of who you know. Seriously, this whole reservation system at expensive restaurants are crazy, which is another reason I don't ever go.
Anyhow, the day finally came, and due to our excitement, we arrived 15 minutes early. We were going to have a drink at the bar, but the receptionists said, "Would you like to sit down? We have your table ready." So we followed and were seated on the far end corner booth. These areas are usually saved for "important" guests right? We were like, hmm, this is kinda sorta nice.
We sat down, and immediately their wine director came to greet us, and she said "Chef Mike is very glad you guys are here this evening". I was like, holy crap, I feel like I am someone!
When I had a meeting wtih Mike, he said to let the people know when I go to the restaurant, but I wasn't sure how, since it's thursday night, and prime time. But I guess my contacting his people for reservation, and he knew I was coming.
Then the waiter came with wine menu, but not food menu. We were looking at the wine selection, and were like, "Do you remember their tasting menu? It was fish heavy, so maybe we should order white." Still no menu.
Then the waiter came back and said, "Chef Mike would love you to try his personal tasting menu". We were like, HELLS YES!
I was shocked. Totally felt good, surprised and felt big. Christine was like, "I knew this would happen", but I didn't expect this at all. This must be how celebrities are treated whenever they dine and wine. Damn them. No wonder they become such assholes. If I were treated like this everyday, I would for sure become one of the biggest divas.
Enough said, here are the dishes we had.
Amuse-bouche. From right: Carrot custard, so carroty, and almost like carrot chawanmushi. Marinated trout, and thin sliced vegetable on skewer. Perfect dishes to enhance your appetite.
Course #1 for Christine: Shrimp salad with carrots, sunchokes and watermelon relish.
Course #1 for me: Marinated sea scallops with pickled Aji dulce peppers and fresh grapes, kiwis. Champagne vinaigrette was just so right.
Course #2 for Christine: Beets in licorice sauce. Since I can't eat beets (I love the taste, but my body hates it), I only had a piece. A bit too licorice heavy for me.
Course #2 for me: Warm root vegetable salad on a bed of lentils. I don't cook vegetable dishes that often, and this was such an eye opening dish. Root vegetables, every piece was cooked to perfection, and flavor was so amazing.
Course #3 for Christine: Mike's signature smoked trout with cippollini puree and pickled onions. I had this before, and as usual, amazing and can't believe how fresh and tasty this dish is.
My Course #3: I am still salivating just thinking about this. Poached Spanish mackerel with foie gras, savoy cabbage, mussels and sesame seeds. This was the favorite dish for me. Spanish mackerel is usually a bit fishy side, but this was one of the freshest and tastiest I've ever had.
The only Spanish mackerel I know to make is to marinate it in sweet miso, and grill. But this was completely different and meaty, fresh, and the combination of crunchy vegetables, soft fish, and mussels plus a little bit of foie gras was absolutely HEAVENLY!
Course #4 for Christine: Sea bass with spaghetti squash, walnuts and sherry sauce. It had a flavor of pumpkin as well, and the whole thing tasted like how autumn should taste. I like how he combines soft fish and crunchy nuts together. Very genius.
My Course #4: Grilled sturgeon with leek and parsnips. Sturgeon is coated with buckwheat, and again, the combination of soft fish and crunch was very nice. For some reason, I liked fish, leek sauce, but not together.
We were getting full, and not knowing how many courses are coming, still we kinda thought this was it, but then they brought the steak knife...
Course #5 for Christine: Veal. It literally melted in my mouth. I don't even know how they cook it.
My Course #5: Lamb with kale and mushrooms. It was a bit too gamy for me, but cooked just right.
After five courses, our bellies were about to pop. Then here comes the pre-dessert.
Deconstructed apple pie. It tasted so comfortable. Very cute and smart idea. Biscuit was buttery apple was cinnamony, cream was heavenly.
I am not a big dessert person, but I couldn't resist to lick the plates. And here comes the main desserts...
Christine's dessert: Blueberry corn sundae. Apparently Martha's favorite. I love how it wasn't too sweet like regular sundae. caramel corn, very nice blueberry compote, and ice cream was to die for.
For the table, they gave us this mini pumpkin whoopie pie type cake with butter cream ice cream. So perfect in a cold autumn night.
Their signature warm chocolate bread pudding. Speechless. Absolutely speechless. Can't describe how awesome this was.
Then Mike comes to greet us at this point. All the other guests were like, "Who are these kids being greeted by the Executive Chef?!" He explained that he received a lot of local vegetable from Stone Barnes (where he used to work) and had to cook all-vegetable menu for some guests or something. I can't remember. Maybe it was alcohol, or maybe it was a food coma... Anyhow, I thanked him profusely, and crawled home completely full.
As Mike told me at the meeting we had a couple of weeks ago, the use of local ingredients, and so perfectly, yet so creatively, is absolute genius. Also when you eat fish at restaurants, it's either too bland or has way too much "creativity" going on, but at Gramercy it was all so amazing. Even if you don't eat fish, you want to eat their fish. It's that kind of awesomeness.
By far, this is definitely the BEST restaurant experience I've ever had in my entire life. The way they treated us, the food, the wine, the atmosphere, all of it was so amazing.
Also, I learned connection is everything in this town.
I am still daydreaming...
42 East 20th Street
New York, NY10003
*Yamahomo enjoys cooking and baking. He prefers staying in kitchen all weekend long rather than being outside.