Thursday at Gotham Bar & Grill
To get to the bar we had to step through two doors, past two hosts and up two stairs. Once there we realized there wasn't a single empty seat. Pretty impressive at any expensive Manhattan restaurant, let alone one that's been open since 1984. It was my first time inside Gotham Bar & Grill but I had been walking by it, on West 12th Street, for the past year. Thankfully a few spots opened up at the bar and we took our spots. Feeling a bit like a little kid sitting in my dad's armchair, this bar is a man's bar. It's hefty, large, and solid; and it's not going anywhere, anytime soon.
The friendly female bartender set us up with tall glasses of water, a dish of nuts and menus and, as we scanned for our fish favorites: octopus, ceviche, bass, we chatted about what we could share. Putting menus aside for a second, we dealt with the more important item: what to drink. I ordered a gorgeously balanced Greek wine, a white with a nice minerality and a crispness that said both sweet and fruity simultaneously. I would compare it to a Spanish white. Then we each ordered the grilled octopus and a share dish, striped bass ceviche over compressed watermelon.
Our orders in, we could relax and catch up. We talked OKCupid, we talked school, we talked about when we could do yoga together. And then the executive chef walked up, Alfred Portale. Apparently my friend is friends with the chef. Not a bad friend to have, Portale was warm, friendly, and engaging. He had a twinkle in his eye. I wondered what he was up to. I twinkled back.
We didn't have long to wait, and we soon started on what would prove to be a mini, four-course meal: striped bass ceviche, grilled octopus, chanterelle tagliatelle, and Montauk swordfish. Each dish a little better than the last. The ceviche was tangy and acidic with a sweet melon finish. The grilled octopus was light and tender, a nice chew to each bite. The roasted tomato under the octopus the perfect charred compliment to the tug. The tagliatelle was rich and buttery, with a fragrant and earthy mushroom finish. The swordfish, our last dish, had a pleasant foam floating around the base and several layers of differing tastes and textures, shell beans wandering around the plate, fennel confit and a wonderful pickled mustard seed on the top, with instructions from the waitstaff to swirl it around in the foam, lest we eat it all in one bite.
I couldn't help it...four courses required another glass of wine. I ordered a second glass of the Greek wine, telling the bartender how much I was enjoying it. Next thing I knew she was handing me a slip of paper with the winemaker's info. Always a fan of surprises, I found this meal to be a wonderful bounty of the unexpected.