The Gramercy Tavern is a stunning-looking establishment and a very popular one too. On East 20th Street, just a few blocks up from Union Square, the bar and restaurant are both absolutely pumping as a post-work hotspot early in the week. It’s dark, moody and a great spot.

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband had secured reservations in the restaurant, a fine-dining enclave abutting the bar. Arriving at 6.30pm is usually a pretty early hour to eat dinner in NYC but the restaurant was already busy. Our delightful waiter Ana took us through the selections and was particularly helpful in selecting a red wine to accompany our choices; Greedy Girl being largely clueless about American wines, we took her word that a Kistler pinot noir from Sonoma would work well with the food. She was right.

After a little hiccup about our booking, we were treated to a complimentary glass of prosecco on arrival. It was very enjoyable – a little sweeter to our champagne-trained tastebuds but had a lovely dry finish. Our custom of having a bottle of champagne to accompany the rest of our meal went out the window though; Greedy Girl couldn’t countenance continuing with bubbles.

We decided to order the standard three courses for US$98 instead of the tasting menu which, admittedly, was very fairly priced at US$120. By ordering different dishes (which we then shared) we figured it was very close to being a tasting menu anyway.

First up was the amuse bouche – a house made carrot juice with orange foam. It was a nice combination, quite refreshing and down the hatch it went.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Carrot juice with orange foam

We then moved on to our appetisers. Greedy Girl had a decadent pork bolognese. This was served with tagliatelle (cooked perfectly), fennel and grana padano cheese. It was rich, soft and delightful. The counterpoint provided by the fennel was a brilliant touch and the sauce was eminently moppable with a delicious chive bun. Diners have been known to think of grana padano as a variation of parmigiano reggiano – it’s not. Grana padano is a noted cheese in its own right and a bit less salty and intense than parmigiano.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Pork bolognese

Gluttonous husband chose the beef tartare. This was served with pine nuts, pickled mushrooms and capers. It was a very pretty plate but gluttonous husband was frowning. The first piece of beef was fished out of his mouth and left on the side of the plate. The second forkful was tender, soft and melting, as a tartare should be. The third was back to being a chewy mess. We called our friendly waiter and alerted her to the problem. It was immediately whisked away. Gluttonous husband was asked if he’d like a substitute dish. He had been tossing up between the beef and a cold mushroom flan (custard) with sunchokes (Jerusalem artichoke) and trout roe – pictured at the top of this post.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Beef tartare

The mushroom flan arrived at the table along with another serving of the tartare, again with the restaurant’s compliments. This time, the tartare was perfectly soft, not a trace of sinew or gristle. The pickled mushrooms and pine nuts were an inspired addition, giving a lovely crunch. It was stunning. Greedy Girl almost texted her Australian friend Pucci Girl, a lover of tartare (minus egg). She thinks even Pucci Girl would have enjoyed the mushrooms. The mushroom flan was delightful. It was an unexpected dish (in many ways!) but worked amazingly well, particularly when one got a lovely salty pop from the roe. Delish.

It was then on to main courses. Greedy Girl chose pasture-raised chicken and sausage, with polenta, salsify, raddichio and cranberries. The sausage was particularly delicious but all elements of this dish went together really well. The cranberries were certainly an unusual counterpoint and the bitterness of the radicchio set them off nicely. Greedy Girl ate half and prepared to hand over to gluttonous husband.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Chicken and sausage, with polenta, salsify, raddichio and cranberries

He had the lamb dish. This featured lamb prepared three ways – roasted lamb loin (the lovely pink flesh centre stage in the picture above), braised shoulder meat and an utterly delicious Merguez sausage. It was served with sunchokes, ‘Hen of the Woods’ mushrooms (also known by their Japanese name, maitake) and Tatsoi, an Asian green. Gluttonous husband raved over this dish. Greedy Girl was becoming concerned her ‘half’ wouldn’t be forthcoming.

It was more like a third that eventually got passed over and Greedy Girl concurred. She isn’t often a fan of braised meats but this was soft perfection. The sausage was amazing and she immediately asked the wait staff (we had a couple of new people looking after us, we learned later that the delightful Ana had gone home with an injured back) for a dozen ‘to go’. There was an initial look of alarm but they soon worked out Greedy Girl was joking. Or was she?

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Lamb prepared three ways

We headed towards the dessert, looking to finish the very drinkable pinot noir beforehand. We were shortly presented with a palate cleanser. This was a pink grapefruit and tarragon granita atop avocado mousse and a disc of meringue. What a combination!

Gramercy Tavern NYC

A wow of a palate cleanser

We asked the wait staff which of the desserts they’d recommend and in another serendipitous moment, they had no hesitation in urging us to try the chocolate and the lemon plates (exactly the two that we were contemplating). And here’s their paean to chocolate. This was chocolate devil’s food cake, with black cardamom, rum and banana ice-cream. It was the lightest, softest cake Greedy Girl has had in a while and the combination was sensational. She even enjoyed her taste of the ice-cream but, not being a fan of that particular item, she left most of it for gluttonous husband.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Chocolate devil’s food cake

He took the lemon dish. This was a Meyer lemon sabayon with poppy seed cake, vanilla ricotta and hazelnuts. The cake was absolutely as advertised – it tasted almost exclusively of poppy seeds and it was a nice variation from the sweetness of the other elements. Getting a hazelnut was a highlight. The texture and crunch were superb. Yum.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Meyer lemon sabayon with poppy seed cake

But we weren’t done. The kitchen surprised us with an additional dessert – which gluttonous husband revealed he’d also considered ordering. This was poached rhubarb with almond cake, mascarpone cream and brown sugar ice-cream. Gluttonous husband gobbled it down with glee, even though our bellies were both being stretched to the limit.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

Poached rhubarb with almond cake

Still battling jet lag, we didn’t need anything further to keep us awake, so passed on coffee or tea. Finally we were presented with the petits fours. From left to right, we had a bittersweet chocolate filled with caramel, cognac and passionfruit, a fruit and nut nougat and a fennel seed and lemon macaron. So good, so nearly tipped us over the edge of bursting. We paid our bill and headed out into the night, past a very long queue waiting at the entrance – and it was 9.30pm by this point.

Gramercy Tavern NYC

The petits fours selection

This was a spectacular experience. The chef, Michael Anthony has headed up the restaurant since 2006, according to the restaurant’s website, and honed his craft in Tokyo and France. In 2012, he won a James Beard award for best New York City chef. Greedy Girl doesn’t doubt it. Having a power of food and wanting to come back ASAP and try the tasting menu is fair indication this was a marvellous experience. If you’re in NYC, don’t miss this.

Gramercy Tavern

42 E 20th Street, New York

Gramercy Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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