Gilt doesn't work. I had dinner there recently on a Thursday night with four people and I came away dazzled by the inability of a restaurant with a good kitchen and a gorgeous space to completely fail to pull it together. I think the first sign of trouble was the igloo. The bar is in a rococo room where the gilt is gilded and there are foo-foos and curlicues on top of the curlicues and foo-foos. It's gorgeous in an overwhelming way and then there's the igloo. Over on the side of the room there's a half-constructed, geodesic igloo that looks like something off a convention floor, all ready for a power point presentation to be projected on it. It really doesn't work in the room and the fact that no one has ordered such an obvious eyesore removed makes me feel like either the designer has no taste or it's a very expensive misstep that the owner is reluctant to throw out.
I ordered a gin and tonic, which wasn't very good, although one of their cocktails off the house list was really great. Everyone arrived, we sat down, and the bafflement began.
The food is terrific. The goat cheese tart they brought out as an amuse' had a strong, clean goat cheese taste that made my mouth sing, and the breads were more flavorful than they had to be - especially the chestnut bread. I had the green pea veloute' which was crisp and clean tasting and my lobster was done perfectly but it was no different than a lobster entree at Jean Georges. There was absolutely nothing to complain about in the food department however there was nothing experimental about it after the amuse' came out. And there were so many small things wrong with the meal that I wound up somewhat offended by Gilt. How can they charge such high prices and give such an impeccable presentation and then fall apart on so many basic levels?
We had called ahead to let them know there was a hideous vegetarian in our party and were assured that there was no problem with that. At the table we asked our waiter about it and he said it was no problem. They said they were aware of the request and would do something "Great". The first course? A pile of mixed greens. A salad. With nothing in it but four baby vegetables hiding at the bottom of the pile. Bleh. Then they brought the person's main course which was a little pile of mushrooms the size of a golfball with some truffles shaved on top. You can't go wrong with truffles and it was good, but the vegetarian person felt left out and lousy. Everyone else had multiple plates for each of their courses and all they had was a plate of greens and a plate of mushrooms. Worse than that, they were charged $92 for their two plates. I don't mind a restaurant saying they can't accomodate a vegetarian - no one has to do that. But for a place this supposedly experimental and forward thinking to provide something so dismal to a vegetarian request they've agreed to honor is a failure of imagination on their part.
The service was a mess. Each dish has so many little plates with it that every time the next course came the table was a maze of guys crawling all over each other to put down the plates and then they'd vanish and we'd wait for a bit until our server came over to tell us what was what. The bread was good, but most of it had a side, end, or bit that was hard and stale. The chestnut bread was delicious, but only after you broke off either end of it which was rock hard. I chalk this up to the fact it seems to be kept under a heat lamp or something to keep it artificially warmed and so it gets dry and crusty too fast.
And the last thing that bummed me out was the emphasis on sweet. I know everyone likes sweets, but the flavors of the dishes focused far more on sweet than savory or spicy or salty and the deserts, while good, got a little overwhelming with chocolates and cookies and all kinds of things coming at you, all of them sweet, sweet, sweet. Even the spicy chocolate plate was pretty subdued - I felt like a kid getting a lollipop after visiting the doctor.
Add to that the fact that on a Thursday night I felt like we were eating at a place catering to the living dead. The whole room was empty when we arrived and there were four tables that had stayed empty when we left. And the people eating there looked like they had barely made it up the stairs. I've got nothing against old people eating - they need nutrition, too - but it gave the distinct feeling of dining in the house of wax rather than in a bustling, elegant restaurant. This was experimental cuisine for the ladies who lunch set, ie not experimental at all, and I came away really disappointed.