Much like with people, the things you love about restaurants are often the same things you hate. For example, I love my Dad's biting sense of humor, but I hate it when he's cleverly calling me fat. Likewise, I love super couple Michael and Naomi Hebberoy's latest restaurant, Gotham Bldg. Tavern (they also run Ripe and clarklewis), but there are things about it that drive me nuts.
First, there's the hype. I'm a Sex and the City type of gal and I want to hit the newest, hottest spot. Then again, I don't want to be a total amateur, clamoring to get a reservation at Gotham because I overheard some yuppie talking about it at XV.
Second, there's the menu. Filled with beautifully simple, yet brilliantly conceived delights, I adore the food at Gotham. That said, I could do without descriptions like "Leek and Gruyere Tart with Frisee and Herb Salad." It's not that I can't decode what they're saying (actually, sometimes I can't), but the descriptions do strike me as a little elitist. Smartly, though, the menu makes up for its more highfalutin entries with gory descriptions like "Scallops and Housemade Blood Sausage. " Like true geniuses, Gotham tempers their snobiness with just enough grittiness to win your heart.
My third and final compliment/complaint is Gotham's design. Undoubtedly, the restaurant is stunning, incorporating hyper-stylized crisscrossed wooden beams, big, cozy booths, a long, sleek bar, clean bathrooms, and slick, shiny floors. It's gorgeous. But to get the best seat in the house--one of Gotham's semi-private cocoon booths--you actually have to pay $50 on top of your meal. That's completely ridiculous to me, and makes me feel like at Gotham, pulling up in a Hummer is the best way to get respect.
In the end, though, it has to come down to the taste of the food, and in that Gotham excels. Fried Gougeres (or doughy cheese puffs) were rich and dense, and yet somehow light on the oil. The simple green salad with beets is a dish I've loved at Ripe, and here I loved it again. Tender beet, a hint of strong cheese, and a subtle vinegary tang blend together beautifully. The goat cheese ravioli with ramps (onions) was subdued and creamy--Gotham's homemade pasta is some of the best in town.
The star of the meal, however, was the halibut cheeks entree with asparagus and roasted morel mushrooms. The fish was brilliantly cooked, perfectly marinated to a complex saltiness, and served in a generous portion. The grilled Cascade natural hanger steak impressed me less. While my tablemates enjoyed the charred outside and blood red inside, I didn't like the flinty charcoal taste it added to the meat.
Like that girlfriend of yours who is great looking, has the perfect job, and always has a rich, handsome boyfriend, you can't help but feel a tinge of resentment towards Gotham. For them, being charming just comes too easy. Then again, there's a reason you keep that friend in your Rolodex: Envy aside, you can't help but admire their success.