Gramercy Bistro – New York State of Mind

Gramercy Bistro – here in Melbourne!!??!! .  iMac nearly freaked when I sent her the Broadsheet announcement.  She had been fortunate enough to eat at the amazing Gramercy Tavern in New York’s Flatiron district last year and told me – it’s the MUST EAT restaurant of the Big Apple.  Alas, when I visited a few months later – I hadn’t booked and it was a 2 ½ hour wait to get in.  We ended up giving up and going to one of the Momofuku restaurants instead – so had a great time anyway.  However, it is one of my regrets that we never got to eat there.

Thus, it seemed like fate when Gramercy Bistro opened up in Commercial Road Prahran.  It was our destiny to go.  So, we booked – grabbed the beautiful AT and one of her friends who was in town – and party frocks on – we headed down.   My friend AT had put one of her best skirts on – because when she was in NY, she didn’t meet the dress code for the Gramercy Tavern restaurant – so they had to eat at the bar (and it was still amazing).  She didn’t want to risk that again.

Now – before I go much further – you have to realise that Gramercy Tavern in New York is a beloved restaurant where the food is described as “incredible, exceptionally artistic and delicious…“  Where the ambience is “gorgeous, but subdued and tasteful” and where “high quality ingredients are translated into well balanced dishes that are fresh and light, delicious and sophisticated.”  

You know I’m leading up to something don’t you….  This Gramercy Bistro, even though seems to be a play on that beloved NY restaurant, has nothing to do with the Tavern of the same name in New York.  In fact… you can forget all the descriptors I’ve quoted above – because it’s just not that type of restaurant.  Let me show you the food and you can make up your own mind.

For starters we decided to order a few things – and maybe got a little bit carried away.

Chicken Ribs

Actually – these were the best entrée of the night – lovely moist chicken, fantastic crunchy spicy goodness on the outside.  Worthwhile trying.

Corn and Zucchini Fritters with whipped goat’s curd and herb salad

Soft Corn Tacos with Grilled Prawns

These were actually lovely – quite light.  Bit thin on the ground with the prawn though.

Wagyu Sliders

These were the killer starters – they were good, but they were sizeable enough.  We were full – and that was just starters!!  And then the mains came…

House made potato gnocchi with tomato sugo

Our vegetarian guest only had one option – the house made potato gnocchi with tomato sugo.  I make a pretty mean homemade potato gnocchi (if I say so myself) – so, unfortunately, it means I can be a bit of a harsh judge when it’s served in a restaurant.  I thought it was really quite heavy and doughy – and the sugo was nothing special.

250g eye fillet steaks two different ways

AT and iMac opted for steaks – especially since the grill seemed to be a bit of a feature of the menu.  They ordered their 250g eye fillets – one with béarnaise and one with red wine jus.  The steaks were OK – but again nothing special.  And there’s a lot of good steaks in this town – destination steaks if you know what I mean.  This was not one of them… or even two of them.

Sticky Tender Pork Ribs

I don’t know what I was thinking when I ordered the ribs.  I get very confused – you see, I love slow cooked short ribs – and I think I was thinking that that’s what I was getting.  But no… I got a side of pig.  This was definitely not the gorgeous slow French braise that I had in my imagination (which is usually beef anyway).  Again – I don’t know what I was thinking.

You’ll also see the homogenous looking coleslaw on the side of every grill dish.  I guess it was the only vegetable we got – but it just looked and tasted so bulk made and very formulaic.  But again, I keep forgetting where I am… NOT the Gramercy Tavern.

We did order sides – because who can resist a bit of macaroni cheese and potato gratin.  Plus we needed carbs to go with our meat to make it a truly Aussie meal!  Naturally – it was all too much – so while we made a dent, we didn’t manage to clear the plates – and the food was sticking to our ribs. Not exactly “fresh and light, delicious and sophisticated”.

As we were leaving – we ran into the owner and I asked him – why did you call it the Gramercy Bistro?  I explained that two of my companions had been to the Tavern in New York – and this was definitely not the same type of experience.   He went on to explain that he was trying to convey that this was a place where you can get New York type of food – good steaks, sliders, ribs, cheesecake. 

Now, the Gramercy Tavern does not have a trademark on the word “Gramercy” – which is essentially a neighborhood in New York’s lower east side.  But I can tell you that the food in the lower east side is definitely coming of age – and while a lot of American food does have the reputation of being deep fried, huge and big on meat and potatoes – there’s actually plenty happening in New York (and in particular the lower east side) that’s moving away from that type of heavier, rib-sticking food.   

Overall, my thoughts are that Gramercy Bistro is a place to go when you’ve got something else happening.   It’s the “grab a quick meal” type of place that I can imagine will get a lot of custom from “young, hip, happening things” ready to go out on the town. It will provide you with rib sticking food – that maybe will give you lots of fuel to get through a night of dancing or carousing.  But, if you’re more interested in a fine dining option – then this is not the place.  I concede – we went in with expectations of our own creation.  They had been built upon previous experiences – and so perhaps it was inevitable that we were going to be disappointed.  It’s just not that type of restaurant – but if you’re into this type of restaurant – you’ll probably love it.  Not for us though…. 

Now…. do you think it’s too early to visit Ezard again…?

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