Opened in 1994, Gramercy Tavern is a renewal of the classic American Tavern offering refined, contemporary American cuisine, warm hospitality and unparalleled service in an historic landmark building.
I was lucky enough to be brought along with V's family for an amazing dinner at Gramercy Tavern. I was more than impressed by my dining experience: the food was spectacular with service to match. We were lucky enough to get a dining room reservation at the last minute due to someone else's cancellation. Before we arrived I didn't realize the "Tavern" is separate from the "Dining Room" each offering a different menu. The Tavern menu is more typical with several appetizers and entree options, where the dining room offers a three course prix fixe and several tasting menus. We chose from the fixed price menu.
Even before the first courses were served we enjoyed an amuse bouche (tiny bite-sized morsels served before the hors d'œuvre or first course of a meal), which I believe had onion and perhaps some kind of seafood, scallops perhaps. It was a nice light start to the meal. We were also served rolls, one of which was a unique olive bread with chunks of olives baked in.
I ordered the Open Crab Ravioli with Razor Clams and Nettles, and when it arrived it looked amazing. The openness of the ravioli was interesting...it was more like a little seafood and pasta sandwich. But, I was also tempted by the Tuna & Beet Tartare with Radish and Hazelnuts, which V's brother J ordered. He typically doesn't share at dinner, but I managed to negotiate a swap. I think we both ended up happy. The tuna was mixed with beets, something I generally don't like. The beets weren't too crunchy but the combination of the textures was well balanced. From what J said, the ravioli was very good too. The nettles, a fresh herb, added a nice flavor.
The second course was even better. I ordered the Hanger Steak & Braised Short Rib with Snap Peas, Runner Beans and Puffed Potatoes. The steak was cooked perfectly, and the short rib was flavorful and tender, easy to eat with only a fork. The puffed potatoes were a bit of a surprise, they were lightly fried balls of mashed potato, that actually were a very light addition to the meal which contrasted nicely with the heavier steak and ribs. Thinking of steak and potatoes...the portions were just right, not huge, but very satisfying in the scheme of the entire meal.
V had the Monkfish with Spring Onion, Swiss Chard and Mussel Broth, something new for her, and I think she was satisfied. I tried a bite and found the texture a little grainy or stringy, not flaky like most fish. But it was tender and light, not too rich or buttery, which was nice for a summer meal.
Before talking about desserts, I want to mention the decor. I liked the Tavern area a little better than the dining room, in terms of decor, but then again the dining room really is about the food. The dining room had an authentic home-style feel to it with weathered walls, light stained wood paneling, curtains and exposed beams. There were quilts and paintings on the walls and beautiful flower bouquets all around the dining room. My first impression though was of something more like a "Country Kitchen" restaurant from back in Minnesota. But what Gramercy did was to really evoke that home feel and bring it up to a very classy level. I'm sure the bouquets were real flowers and the space, though large, was well divided to provide some intimacy. Additionally the service was amazing. Every detail was accounted for: from having the right fork for my appetizer, to the way they cleared the table after each course quietly and discreetly - I don't think we ever heard a clink of dishes, in fact we noticed that each piece of dinner wear was picked up individually and neatly stacked so as not to disrupt our conversation.
Now for dessert. Which was preceded by another amuse (which was good, but I can't remember at the moment). I had Milk Chocolate Praline Mousse with Mocha-Grand Marnier Ice Cream. It was the coolest presentation I've seen in a long time. The mousse was served in almost a candy-bar form, a long bar shape, it was light but chocolatey, kind of like a mousse Kit-Kat. The ice cream was on the side with a candy sugar droplet made by the pastry chef. V had Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cacao Nib Ice Cream. I will admit that I was a little jealous of her dessert, which was rich and delicious. The warm bread pudding helped to melt the ice cream a bit, which is just they way I like it. I only got one bite!
Gramercy Tavern really shows a lot of respect for the food they serve and for the customers enjoying it. The service shows it, ans does the level of cuisine that comes out of the kitchen. I am really grateful that I got to experience such a great dinner! When another special occasion arises, I know I have a good place to go.