Summer Restaurant Week ’08 – Gramercy Tavern, The Best RW Experience I’ve Had
When it comes to Restaurant Week, I have learned, after participating nearly four years or so, not to have high expectations whenever I eat out at a RW restaurant. If I did, then I would be disappointed and felt robbed. But Gramery Tavern was the exception when I went there yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon with Giulia.
When we arrived there five minutes prior to our reservation, there were a lot of older matrons who surrounded the front door. Strangely, the doors were locked and it seemed like they’re not ready yet. Eventually around 12 PM, we we all lined up and go in to get seated.
Gramercy Tavern: Menu & Table Settings, Interior shots
As we got seated in the back, which is the dining room, it’s relatively dim with a rustic yet refined decor. It’s not the first time I’ve eaten here but that was years before Chef Michael Anthony cooked here. Anyway, Giulia and I were pretty excited with the food because of Chef Anthony’s reputation and his cooking philosophy of using local, seasonal ingredients with straightforward cooking.
Eventually we ordered and we’re served with the usual bread and butter. The olive roll was one of the three options offered. The others were sliced sourdough and a crusty white roll.
Since I have to go back to work, I ordered a non-alcoholic drink that sounded interesting – the Ginger Swizzle, made of crushed ice, ginger beer, mint, and lime. It’s refreshing and most importantly – cold. Giulia had the root beer from Abita. I didn’t taste it, but she enjoyed it.
My appetizer was the lamb pappardelle. The earthy flavors of the lamb melded so well with the wide, eggy ribbons of pasta. The olives provided bursts of briny-saltiness and the lemon confit and beet greens added more depth as well as highlight the lamb. I loved it.
Giulia’s calamari and carrot salad felt like it’s missing a sharp element. The calamari was finely chopped, making it a bit tender. The carrots adds sweetness and crunchiness and the toasted pignoli nuts mixed in there also adds a buttery crunch factor. But the preserved lemon vinaigrette didn’t really shine much here. It’s more of a muted flavor more so than brightening the salad.
As we rolled along to the main courses, Giulia’s grilled sirloin with beef ravioli, snap peas, and eggplant was very good. The sirloin had a wonderful crisp, salty crust emphasizing the beefy flavors. The beef ravioli was buttery and creamy in both texture and flavor. But I loved the vegetables the most out of her entire dish. The snap peas were my obsession from her plate. OMG, they were very crisp and crunchy on the outside and it tasted like the pure essence of peas with sugar injected in it. Ok, the latter is not true but it was very sweet that my mind was going nuts for it.
Then I went for the lamb overload route that day since I don’t want both of us having the same dish when we were ordering. The braised shoulder of lamb with broccoli and bok choy was succulent. The way the meat just breaks off so easily with a fork like it’s been braised lovingly for hours (see the photo below). Oh…my palate was crying with joy. The vegetables were fresh and cooked well, but it didn’t swoon me as much as those snap peas that Giulia had.
Eventually, we got to dessert. Giulia’s peach pie with lemon verbena ice cream was very good. The sweet, buttery, crisp pâte sucre crust worked with the soft, juicy peach filling. The ice cream added an herbal-lemony tang to the sweet peach.
My blackberry sterusel cake with blackberry lime sherbert was simple yet so delicious. The cake was moist, densely dotted with whole sweet-tart blackberries, the streusel added a crunchy dimension, and the sherbert added a touch of creamy-tartness.
After we paid our check, we were presented with a $24.07 gift certificate for a future lunch. This particular Restaurant Week experience is one of the best ones I’ve encountered out of the many years of eating. Service was gracious, the food was excellent, and this unexpected addition of this certificate. I have every intention of eating here again.
42 E 20th Street
New York, NY 10003