8 days, a whole lot of food, sightseeing and talking with strangers. The last stop of my trip after a grabbing a quick slice at Artichoke Bassile’s was at the 1 Michelin Star gastropub, The Gramercy Tavern. Unlike my previous dinner place at Marea, the dining scene at the Gramercy Tavern is more casual and relaxed as opposed to formal. Most people will tell you that but do not be too complacent as the $58 dollar Seasonal Lunch Tasting Menu is a favourite among the business community. Additionally, do no expect any productive conversations as the interior of wood and concrete walls provides little to dampen the noise from a crowded floor.
Before deciding on what to eat I ordered a lemonade. Kids drink but a winner in Vitamin C. The lemonade came proper with a small bottle of syrup which allows you to adjust the sweetness to your liking. I liked how the lemonade was all about you rather than the kitchen because I preferred mine more sour than sweet and that is exactly how I had it :)!
It did not take long after the bread course for my Amuse Bouche to reach. No mention of the bread at Marea or the Gramercy Tavern because the best bread still hails from either Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon, HK or Tetsuya’s, Sydney. The Amuse Bouche was a complimentary salad filled with the little pleasures of life. Little chunks of lobsters, sweet grapes halves, crispy croutons, and fresh bean. All of which were tossed in a vinaigrette.
Amuse Bouche; Lobster, Grapes, Croutons, Pole Bean
The first course was another salad which tasted more like a continuation of the Amuse Bouche rather than a course itself. In the salad were the vegetables of summer. Crisp, refreshing and tasty. This is what makes vegan stay vegans and carnivores refuse to eat vegetables. Contradictory? No. The salad was good but not life changing enough to make people become a convert.
Cucumber Salad; Carrots, Leeks and Meyer Lemon
Another serve of “salad" graced the menu again. This time, in the form of luxury. Lobster and eggs with pieces of little pickled ramps. Sweet lobsters paired with a balanced egg salad. Not to sweet, or overladen with mayonnaise and neither was it boringly bland. Lobsters from my experience over the week seem to be a trademark seafood during summer. Clearly enough, the freshness of the crustacean was intact at the tavern and maximised by its minimalistic preparation. Poached.
Lobster Salad; Pole Bean, Pickled Ramps, Egg Salad
Next came my favourite course of the day, a course of fish. I dislike fish that are stinky and tend to avoid fish wherever I go, but never when it is in the hands of a capable chef. I have read on other blogs before that the Chef at the Gramercy Tavern cooked at a bistro in Japan prior to coming here. This dish made it obvious. Perfectly cooked fish, in a clear mushroom consommé with a sprinkling of green garlic infused oil. The focus on the fish in this dish showed clarity in the chef’s approach. Everything was about serenading the fish and it was done well.
Halibut; Kale, Green Garlic, Mushroom Broth
A serve of duck changed the course from white to red meat. How well was the duck cooked? The picture says it all. How good did it taste? The picture says nothing. I think for a gamey bird like duck, you need a little more flavour to eat. That does not mean serving it laden with an overbearing sauces but definitely a little bit more than what Gramercy Tavern put on the plate that day. Coming in here, I was expected the red meat to be served a little like the beef Rossini at Sage, KL. This was OK but not something I would applaud for unconditionally.
Roasted Duck; Radish, Almonds, Wheat Berries
After a refreshing palate cleanser of berry foam and orange custard, came the dessert. I like my dessert to be sweet but mildly sweet. A fruity-sweet dessert is more welcomed any day than a sugary sweet one. Not a big fan of meringue. But when something comes out with lots of fragrance but almost 0 sweetness, mannnn it was hard to down. Sorry the Gramercy Tavern, this has had to be the most try-hard dessert I have ever eaten. The beauty of it though were all the layers of texture from the smooth Panna Cotta, to the crumbly apricot pieces to the tapioca pudding. But perhaps 1 or 2 ingredients less. All I needed was a Apricot Panna Cotta with more sweetness in it and just 1 other element to finish.
Apricot Panna Cotta; Tapioca Pudding, Coconut, Thyme
Thankfully the creations of the little oven were pretty decadent. Macarons were good, nougat were OK and the chocolate was spot on.
A sub-$60 dollar meal which consisted of +/- 8 courses depending on what you call a “course” means WenY should just shut up. But no way. The food here was superb in some sense but where it was close to excelling, it did not. Have you heard Lily Allen’s “Not Fair”? Close enough. But where the Gramercy Tavern did well, it really worked. Lobster & Egg salad? Win. Halibut in Mushroom Consommé? Win. Then the average Joe’s which were the two starting salads and the duck. The Hitler of them all? The Panna Cotta. So close to conquering the world yet so far. Progressive dining places like Marea, Tori Shin, Robuchon, and Sepia got better as the course progressed. But my journey here was like a trekking adventure. Ups and downs of different peaks but a thrilling one nonetheless.