I have friend who has had some bad seafood experiences as a child and has stayed clear of it since. Unfortunate, but over the past few months, Ive made dispelling this prejudice my personal crusade. I started her off in Chinatown and eased her in with pan-fried flounder and fried fish fillets with pork and sugar peas at Funky Broom--dishes that didnt have that fishy taste which turned the poor misguided girl away in the first place. She loved them and even craves them from time to time. Just two weeks ago, I convinced her to try raw Dutch Isle oysters at Esca--which she said was bearable. Obviously, I had more work ahead of me. When she agreed to go to Gramercy Tavern for lunch recently, I decided that I would use the occasion to try and forward my cause some more.
Appetizers: Shrimp Ravioli with Swiss Chard and Proscuitto and Poached Tuna with Yellow Wax Beans.
Before we get to the food, I must comment on the wonderful service. The waiter came back to announce that the tuna was actually bluefin tuna and not albacore tuna as was printed on the menu. He said it probably didnt matter, but he just wanted to me to know. The tuna was excellent so the kind of tuna, in fact, did not matter. But the fact that he took the time to clarify such a minor detail did. Incidentally, the tuna was so good (nothing special, but good as fresh tuna always is) that even my friend liked it. You just ate raw fish, I told her. Oh, she said. It wasnt too bad. I tried to suppress a grin-knowing that I had now set the stage for a future sushi introduction. Anyways, the shrimp ravioli with swiss chard that she ordered was okay. The most remarkable part of the dish actually, was the swiss chard which tasted so fresh and so pure that it seemed to take center stage.
Entrees: Guinea Hen with Cucumber and Pickled Watermelon and Roasted Halibut with Pancetta and Manilla Clams.
Again, I was hoping that the halibut would help change my friends unjustified aversion to fish. And it did. After eating half of our respective dishes, we switched. She was swept off her feet by the perfect crust on the halibut and the welcoming moist, smooth center. In the end, she sheepishly admitted that she loved the halibut and would think twice now before writing off seafood in the future. That evening, I went to bed happyknowing that I had done my good deed for the day. Oh, I almost forgot. The guinea hen was good: crispy skin, moist center. Good, but not extraordinary. The pickled watermelon was sour and tasted more like pickles than watermelon.
Dessert: Panna Cotta with Fresh Strawberries and Strawberry Sorbet, Trio of Sorbet Tasting, and Trio of Ice Cream Tasting.
Here is yet another example of the fine service. My friend was having trouble deciding between the sorbets and the ice creams so he simply brought her both. The sorbets consisted of passion fruit, strawberry, and peach sorbets. The passion fruit was intense, the strawberry was the essence of sweet strawberries, but the peach sorbet, being the runt of the three in terms of flavor, did not make a strong showing. The ice creams were mint, butterscotch, and chocolate--all wonderful. Subtle and not the least bit cloying (as butterscotch can be at times). The panna cotta was also excellent and very refreshing when paired with the fresh berries and sorbet.