Earlier this summer, I had lunch at Gramercy Tavern, a one-Michelin-starred restaurant in, well, the Gramercy neighborhood. If you want great vegetarian food in New York, Gramercy Tavern is probably on your short list: their dinner tasting menu features a vegetarian alternative, and many of the same options are available for lunch or a la carte. I’ve had many great experiences at Gramercy Tavern (including some fun interactions on twitter, but this was just good, not great.
One thing I love about Gramercy Tavern is the ambiance. It’s almost like a more casual, higher-energy Bouley. The bar area (which you walk through to get to the main dining room) is always bustling, but never too noisy or crowded. The area is very bright and colorful, with flowers and vegetables giving a seasonal touch.
The reason we’re here, though, is for lunch. There were two types of bread on offer when I was there, a sourdough (foreground) which was pretty good, and a chive bread (background) that was, according to my notes, “meh.” (Side note: here’s an article on the history of the word “meh.”)
To start, I had a green soup. It was described as a “gazpacho,” and made with peas, asparagus, and green beans. The soup was creamy, which I wasn’t expecting — it’s not what comes to mind when I think “gazpacho”–but it was good, not too rich. It was flavored with dill which gave it a nice kick.
The soup also had some red quinoa on the bottom. Did that make it healthy? I tell myself that it did, at least.
Next up was my main course, which disappointed.
The dish wasn’t actually a bad preparation. It was described as grilled carrots, with honey, pistachios, and cheese. The problem was that this was better suited as a first course than a main course. It was very light and not particularly filling. I also thought it was too sweet: just plain carrots roasted will caramelize and add natural sweetness, so the honey was probably unnecessary. The pistachios were a nice touch but, without more, couldn’t add enough depth for carrots to take center stage. (By contrast, The NoMad did a great job with carrots as a first course last year.)
Dessert was really good–an apple tart with butter pecan ice cream. The ice cream had lots of pieces of pecan, which I really liked. And as you know, I love apple desserts, and this one was no exception.
Finally, par for the course at a restaurant of this caliber, some petit fours. The macarons were nice but nothing else really jumped out at me. I had a glass of vintage port with dessert, though, which went really nicely (Broadbent 1994, if you care).
All in all, lunch started out great and ended great. But the middle left a lot to be desired. I’m not always looking for a hefty main course, but if you put an entree in the spotlight it can’t wilt under pressure. The carrots just weren’t up to the task. I left the meal thinking that the main part of the meal was just unsatisfactory: not because it was bad, but just because it wasn’t filling. You certainly don’t want to leave a meal feeling overstuffed, but you also want to be satiated, and this time around, Gramercy Tavern fell short. Three stars.
@GramercyTavern in 140: Good start (pea soup) & finish (apple tart). Carrot entree insubstantial. Service unremarkable. Better next time? 3*
— Without Bacon (@WithoutBacon) June 9, 2013