Taken place on July 17, 2009.
In case you all didn’t know, New York City’s Restaurant Week (or “weeks” should be the correct nomenclature) started last week (July 12th). The somewhat strange thing with the Danny Meyer owned restaurants, namely Eleven Madison Park, Union Square Cafe, and Gramercy Tavern that they are doing their own version of RW – broke down into one restaurant per week for City Harvest. During that week, Gramercy Tavern was doing RW; this time, I went with Helen.
Since this was the beginning of lunch service, the dining room isn’t as packed as it would be. It was relatively calm and not too loud.
The bread served were the usual suspects – the country bread slices or the olive roll. Both Helen and I chose the olive roll. Probably because I was starving and didn’t eat breakfast, I kept eating the entire thing, knowing that I shouldn’t stuff my stomach with a ton of bread. In any case, it was good. Slightly crusty on the outside and chewy in the inside (a little too chewy for me). The olives weren’t overtly salty and briny, just a touch.
When our appetizers came in, our waitress surprised us with a comped dish, carrot and barley risotto. This was delicious. A hot bowl of steaming, creamy barley, sweetened with the carrot purée and the salty bites (a tad too salty on its own) from the shiitake mushrooms. Overall, we enjoyed it but its quite hearty for a summer dish.
My sugar snap peas, shrimp, cucumber appetizer was refreshing. Crisp, sugary sweet snap peas, with the meaty, sweet shrimp, and refreshingly cool cucumber. I wish I could eat this almost every day during the summer.
Helen’s smoked trout with cippollini purée and pickled onion vinaigrette was very good as well. The trout was fork tender, it falls apart once it’s been touched by the tines of the fork. The onion purée was sweet and the pickled onions were mildy onion-y and sweet as well. Helen was surprised that she likes this dish because there’s so much onion when read on paper. But since I eat here on several occasions, I know GT doesn’t go too crazy or off balance with the flavor combination.
Moving to our entrées, Helen ordered the sea bass with marinated cucumbers and yogurt. If you’re long time readers, you know that Helen is “allergic to cucumbers” but surprisingly enough, she ate all of the cucumbers! (Here’s photo evidence.) She said the cucumbers didn’t have that earthy, watery taste. It’s muted a bit because of the light marinade and the slightly tart yogurt. The sea bass was cooked to perfection, by the way.
My summer flounder with sugar snap peas, wild rice and lobster vinaigrette was a heartier choice of the fish dishes on the menu. The wild rice reminded me vaguely of the texture of risotto, creamy and hearty and the lobster vinaigrette, played on the delicate sweetness of the flounder, and the sugar snap peas added the sweet crunchiness to the dish.
When we were handed the dessert menu, Helen was craving something with strawberries. Initially she said she wanted the strawberry cheesecake. I told her I don’t think you want something that creamy or heavy. I gave her the suggestion of picking the rhubarb brown butter cake with strawberry rhubarb sorbet.
By the time our server bestowed us our desserts, Helen was oooh-ing right before she’s about to take a bite. This dessert was delicious. The brown butter cake was moist with dense crumb and a small layer of finely chopped rhubarb at the center-bottom of the cake. Helen did like the intense strawberry rhubarb sorbet. It’s her first time trying this flavor combination, that shocked her when she tasted something this tart (as in the rhubarb). The sorbet was smooth, initially sweet from the strawberries then it builds up to a sharp tartness. Very refreshing.
I had the blueberry peach streusel tart with roasted almond ice cream since I love peaches at the peak of its season. I loved the crisp, buttery tart shell but the peaches weren’t as sweet as I remembered from last year’s peach cobbler for two. The almond ice cream was quite divine.
What astonished me was the fact that they’re still giving out gift certificates. I’ve been reading food forums the entire week and I don’t recall anyone mentioning about that. I’ll be visiting again soon enough.
42 East 20th Street (between Park Ave S & Broadway)
New York, NY 10003 (map)