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Gotham Bar & Grill

12 East 12th Street, New York NY 10003; map); 212-620-4020; gothambarandgrill.com
Service: Excellent
Setting: A spacious well-lit room makes you forget you are downtown
Cost: 3 Courses, $31

Imagine a kitchen with Tom Valenti, David Walzog, Bill Telepan, Wylie Dufresne, and Tom Colicchio. Putting aside the notion of too many chefs ruining the broth it sounds like a culinary dream team. They haven't actually all worked together at once—but at one time or another, they have all passed through the Gotham Bar & Grill under executive chef Alfred Portale.

Portale has been at the helm of Gotham for a quarter century. While many of the celebrated young chefs of today were barely out of diapers, he was foraging the stalls in the Greenmarket, which, after all, lies only a few blocks to the north of Gotham Bar & Grill. He has had an undeniable impact on the current locavore and seasonally driven food trends, although he is perhaps not given enough credit for his influence.

These days, the chef de cuisine is Jason Hall, and the Greenmarket still figures prominently on the menu. At lunch there is a regular three-course $31 prix fixe, and a $27 two-course Greenmarket menu. (You can add a dessert for $4, but it won't be from the Greenmarket.) In retrospect, I should have probably gone for the latter—but instead, I was swayed by the allure of a hanger steak and opted for the regular, non locavore-approved option.

Things started off well with a wild striped bass ceviche.

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Meaty chunks of bass were perfectly pickled and came with kirby cucumber, a puree of avocado, and wisps of Delfino cilantro in a tangy cantaloupe-habanero broth. The dish was well balanced between tartness and sweetness and the fish had a perfect texture—flaky and firm in all the right places.

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But I was not happy with my hanger steak—which, despite some excellent crispy fingerling potatoes and a red wine Bordelaise sauce that would be the envy of most any steakhouse, was rather overcooked. I am generally a big fan of hanger steak, but this one left me cold; it was too hot, with a mushy texture, almost like liver. The onion piperade clashed with the Bordelaise sauce—ike a border skirmish on the Pyrenees.

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A sour cream "mousse" with mixed berries turned out to be a deconstructed cheesecake of sorts. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it was a delicious and sort of made me forget about the steak. Not a bad way to close the meal at all.

I should note that the service was excellent and that the room is beautifully lit during the day, with large picture windows allowing the sun's rays to flood in. Had the steak been of better quality, and excusing the onions, I think that the $31 would have been a more than fair price—but as it was, I was a little disappointed.

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