Gotham Bar & Grill: New York’s Past, Present, and Future (hopefully)
Gotham Bar & Grill is how New York dining used to be and, potentially, how it should be. The cavernous dining room is so elegant it hurts. Beautiful chandeliers are swathed in draped fabric, casting a muted white light over the crowd; a huge dark wood curved bar with a dapper bartender and groups of well-heeled professionals sipping Old Fashioneds and white wine dominates one side of the room; modern art and photography focused on the city of New York enhances the nostalgia for a grander age. Tables with white table clothes and daintily folded napkins and bow-tied waitstaff practiced in the art of being discreet enhance the general air of refinement.
Despite my own professed penchant for street eats and worn-down cozy spots, Gotham Bar & Grill made me yearn for a time when fine dining was what people did when they went out. The subtle sophistication not only of the dining room but also of the table service and the food itself is a rare and endangered species in New York.
Before I discuss Chef Alfred Portale’s truly elegant nouveau American cuisine, it is worth briefly noting the extremely high quality of the service. No serving hiccups here. The staff is trained properly. Not once did they interrupt the conversation; they let me keep the wine list for as long as I wanted; food was delivered promptly; our waitress was knowledgeable of the menu and understanding of my party’s desire to split appetizers (she divided each dish in two and delivered them on separate plates!). This is what gold star service is like, and boy was it refreshing.
The food is simply wonderful. Chef Portale brings restraint and originality to classical American cuisine, incorporating Asian and Mediterranean flavors with traditional French and Italian technique and (where possible) local American ingredients. Seafood Salad is dressed up with squid, Japanese octopus, and avocado lemon vinaigrette; mushroom fricassee and almond vermouth sauce accompany Atlantic Halibut; a Roasted Rack of Berkshire Pork dances with wild boar crepinette, sweet potato, and a pear cider reduction. The extensive menu is filled with such tantalizing blends of flavors and aromas.
My boyfriend and I split two appetizers, the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and the Winter Squash Risotto. The tartare was stacked tall with fresh fish, Japanese cucumber, and sweet miso. It was immensely refreshing, especially when compared to the risotto. The risotto was decadent, rich, and hefty – perfect for a cold night. In keeping with my craving for fish, I ordered the Miso-Marinated Black Cod as a main. Incredibly well-prepared, the thick filet of black cod melted in my mouth and the soy lemongrass ginger sauce added satisfying zing to the plate. My date ordered the Curry-Spiced Muscovy Duck Breast, an aromatic Asian-French interpretation of duck. Beautifully cooked, the duck itself burst with flavor. And for an extra kick, a little nugget of seared foie gras was hidden in the center.
There’s no way to get around it: Gotham Bar & Grill is the complete package. It’s warm and welcoming yet utterly oozing class. The food wows with stunning presentation, perfect execution, and strong flavors yet is still accessible. The service is fit for royalty, without any pretention. All in all, Gotham is a place to find New York and New Yorkers; it encapsulates the fine dining tradition at the heart of the New York culinary scene. Come here to impress or for something special: a celebration, dinner with extended family, an anniversary, a big date with your current flame. Just don’t forget the plastic, Gotham’s unique experience comes with quite the price tag.