Gramercy Tavern, New York

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42 East 20th Street
New York, New York
Sharing is caring, by Guest Reviewer Jacqueline Malafiej
Today I feel like a bona fide New Yorker. After 9 days here, I’ve resumed my love affair with Manhattan, reacquainted with the subway and some Americans have even asked me for directions, which I easily give. I was determined my last meal in NYC, for this visit at least, was going to be a real hum dinger.  Whilst most visitors scramble to soak up the last bits of NYC, shopping, & sight seeing, not me. I eat.

Gramercy Tavern had been on my list of must-try’s, but then, the next dilemma. Do I dine in the tavern or do I hit up the dining room? Given this was lunch and no other real foodie dining companion, I opted for the tavern. When fine dining, one needs a supper group. To diagnose, dissect and discuss. Much like a biology class I imagine (if I had ever attended one).

Walking into the restaurant, the first thing that strikes me is that there is a very real sense of homely sophistication. Rustic is far too crude a way to describe the welcoming Gramercy Tavern.  The warmth and charring timber embers of the wood fire oven waft around the autumnal colours; the decorative pumpkins and art high above, captures a simple celebration of the vegetable.

I was settled in very quickly with a drink – a Jalisco pear cocktail. Yes tequila at high noon. Arriba! A long haul flight toLas Vegas was my justification. A little somethun’somethun’; to put me in the mood. I did a thorough recon of the drinks list and can vouch for a wonderful wine list with great options at different price points – a good selection of wines by the glass, and a fairly decent beer list.

I start with Sweetbreads, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Bok Choy and Almonds: The sweetbreads were lovely with crisp caramelisation searing the outside, the inside tender, without being gelatinous. I was a little confused by the taste of this dish. The ingredients shout Asian, but the subtlety of the broth was a little too pale in flavour, and the scallions and chives don’t hold their own either.

Being a Sydney-sider, I’m a little spoilt for choice when it comes to balancing the striking flavours of Asian cooking with delicate flair. This dish needed just the slightest of lifts to help the flavours in the stock and I think it would take just that little tang of a lime squeeze to get it over the line.

There is one protein I enjoy celebrating and it is pork. The Pig is such a versatile beast and I have made it my mission on this trip to taste pork in each big city I visit (and the little towns too). So for my main, it was obvious… Smoked Pork Shoulder, Cornbread, Salsify & Bacon Broth. After spending a fair amount of time in the south where pork is revered, and I’m certain, classified as a confectionary item, in some areas, this pork shoulder was a welcome change in tune. Nothing BBQ or syrupy sweet about the way this pork has been cooked. A little slow roasting, a hint of wood fire; shards and shreds fill the bowl in the fashion of a Pho, but tasting nothing like it. This dish dazzled with porcine goodness. The meld is worth the trouble and I would encourage you to take your time with this dish. A little broth, a lotta pork and a bit of soaked cornbread in every mouthful really does the trick.

My dining neighbour, also alone, is delicately manoeuvring his fish dish and it epitomises the last days of summer on a plate. Flounder, Spaghetti Squash, Walnuts and Sherry Sauce house a perfectly cooked fillet of fish. Maybe it was me staring his meal down, or perhaps it was the soul’s recognition of a fellow foodie. We did the unspeakable…We exchanged bites from our plates! What was I thinking, swapping solids with a NY stranger?

Finite stomach space restricted me from ordering more, so I was prepared to take the risk. And do you know what? It was sooo good. Whilst we did swap food, we didn’t swap numbers. It was a one bite wonder.  It was great while it lasted and I can see why he left no prisoners behind on his plate by mopping up the remains of the day with his side plate bread. I spy the other diners tilting their plates to scoop up the last bits of goodness on theirs, which leads me to think that there is probably no bad dish here.

In total food bliss, this whole meal was the perfect end to my New York stint. So good in fact, that I’m at risk of missing my plane because I’ve decided to take time I don’t have, to take tea here and soak up the ambiance a little more…

Did You Know?
  • Gramercy Tavern was voted most popular overall restaurant for the sixth time in ten years according to the  2011 Zagat Survey.
  • The bricks used in the wood fire oven at the Gramercy Tavern originate from the last existing foundry in the USA to cut bricks by hand.

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