As the night begins, I ponder where I should go for dinner. Every night is the same thing. How far do I want to travel? What’s my mood? This process is becoming too much of a ritual.
I think about going someplace I haven’t been in awhile. Then it hits me, Gotham Bar and Grill. Now, as many may know, Gotham isn’t a place you just stop in and grab a table, although you can eat at the bar. No, Gotham is an experience. It is a place you would go with someone special, or with a few friends that enjoy food and wine just as much as you. I’m not sure if I could name many NYC restaurants that have been around as long as Gotham, and can still be considered one of the best that the city has to offer.
C O N T I N U E D . . .
Chef Alfred Portale has been turning out outstanding food since 1984. I make a few calls, and before long I arrive and join my friends at the bar. A lovely, polite bartender named Heather asks if I would like something before dinner. For some reason, maybe it’s the atmosphere, I decide to order a Gibson made with Hendricks gin, straight up. My friends look at me oddly, since I am usually a bourbon, vodka or wine drinker. I’m a little surprised myself because gin is never my first choice. Why tonight? Gotham’s vibe must be having an effect on me. Heather returns with my cocktail and to my relief its perfection.
We casually finish our drinks and are escorted to our table, which is near the back, in a very nice corner. As we settle in, I begin to look over the wine list and as usual, my friend Ben attempts to wrestle it away from me. Our server arrives moments before a fight ensues and introduces herself as Fiona. She guides us through both the menu and wine list.
Chef Portale’s menu has different three course options, which makes it a bit challenging for me to choose the entire meal for the table. So, we decide to get our own starters and then share both the mid course and entrées. With that accomplished, I turn my attention to the wine list to match a wine with our first course of oysters, tuna tartar and sashimi. Micheal Greenley, wine director, has put together a list to be reckoned with, and I find a great ’04 Pinson Chablis that I really like.
The plates arrive and the tartar reminds me that Gotham is famous for its vertical presentations. In what feels like the blink of an eye, Fiona is asking if we would like another bottle. The wine is gone already? Lushes. Again, Ben and I grab for the wine list, and I reluctantly let him order the next bottle. Being that our next course is heavier and richer (sweet shrimp risotto, foie gras, duck terrine and truffle pasta), Ben selects a Martinelli Pinot Noir.
With the arrival of the second course, and wine in hand, it quickly becomes my favorite course of the meal. I sample each item, one after the other, and I am constantly thinking about how the flavors roll around in my mouth. Of course, the foie gras is my favorite, but the risotto definitely holds its own. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is left on any of our plates. Fiona must be thinking we haven’t eaten in months the way we devoured the mid course.
Now comes the hour of big and bold. I selected a Chatueaunuf-du-pape ’03 to go along with a rack of lamb, pork chops, NY steak, and a duck breast. Everyone is passing around plate after plate, tasting every morsel of each dish with sips of wine to balance the palate. Watching the scene of constant arms in motion, and food being shoveled into eager mouths, it takes me back to being around the table of my large Italian family. Then, like today, it’s all about the food and wine.
We finish the meal, and the argument begins which entrée was better (bragging rights to whom ordered what), which no one will win. One would think that the night is done, but not with this group.
Desserts, port and Mosacto d’asti still need to be consumed. The tiramisu, chocolate cake and s’more of Deborah Racicot, pastry chef, finished off a spectacular dinner.
Paying the bill, we thank Fiona for her expertise and for putting up with such gluttony. On our way out, I wonder; ‘what’s taken me so long to return to such a wonderful restaurant that always delivers the New York experience.’
Gotham Bar and Grill
12 E 12th street
212 620 4020