Nabbing a table on opening weekend for a highly-anticipated New York City restaurant is like winning the lottery. By some twist of fate, however, Peter and Nick got us golden tickets to Bobby Flay’s new NoHo restaurant, Gato. When an opportunity like this presents itself, you take what you can get – even if it means a 5:30 pm reservation.
I spent all week dreaming about this dinner … how amazing is the food going to be? What does the venue look like? Will we actually see Bobby Flay?! By Friday morning, the only thing standing between me and this meal was one work day and a commute back to the city. I even got in early … so I could scoot out a tad early.
But as luck would have it, a 3:30 pm meeting gets put on the calendar. Quick mental math … 3:30 meeting, gets done at 4:45? Get to the station in time for the 5:01 train. 45 minutes on the train, plus 15 on the subway. Get there at 6:00 pm. Only 30 minutes late – not bad! The boys can stall, right? Work’s too important. Gotta make do.
Everything was going as planned. The 3:30 meeting didn’t run long. I ran breathlessly to the train station, arriving on the platform at exactly 5:01. As I stood there triumphantly, believing all was not lost, the loud speaker crackles on:
“Attention at … Greenwich. The … 5-oh-1 express train to … Grand Central Terminal … is operating approximately … twenty five … minutes late. I repeat. The 5-oh-1 expr ——” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! Just when I think things couldn’t get any worse, it starts to downpour …
Well the train arrives just as the clock strikes our reservation time. Hopefully Peter and Nick are good at stalling because I would definitely be a fashionable 60 minutes late (at least).
Turns out, the hostess staff was exceedingly accommodating! I finally show up, over an hour late, and Peter and Nick are just chilling at the bar. The hostess knew right away that I was the missing third, and happily showed us to our table. I couldn’t believe it.
The restaurant’s vibe perfectly embodied the neighborhood: exposed brick punctuated with steal girders and modern glass-covered lights hanging from the ceiling. This was no Bar Americain or any of Flay’s other Midtown, tourist-friendly monstrosities. This was unique and quirky. It was … New York — the restaurant version of BoHo Chic.
The focal point of the whole restaurant was the massive bar in the center of the room. Flay really wanted Gato to be a place that people come for drinks and small plates, so he designed a bar that would accomplish that vision. He even created a menu just for folks at the bar, made up of tapas and other small bites. Perfect for the happy hour crowd.
To start off our meal, we ordered a round of small plates (they come in threes). And since that wasn’t enough, we ordered a second round…
Ricotta, with Wild Mushrooms & Hazelnuts
Piquillo Filled with Raw Tuna, Saffron Sauce
Lamb Tenderloin, with Salsa Verde
Chorizo Crepinette, with Apricot Mostarda & Fennel
Beef Crudo, with Pickled Fresno Chiles
Squid, with Bacon & Garlic
These were excellent starters for our meal. There was enough for all three of us to have one bite of each dish — keeping with true tapas tradition. Flay (who was actually cooking in the kitchen!) made each dish with the perfect amount of spice — enough to test those with sensitive pallets while still satisfying those of us looking for some heat. Can you really have a favorite of this bunch?! No. But if I had to choose? Probably the chorizo. So many complex flavors, crammed into one little bite.
Squid ink, Spanish red prawns, mussels, and green onion sauce
This was my entree … and oh my was it good! Not only was it fresh squid ink noodles, but the sauce also had squid ink mixed in, creating the deep black color you see. The pasta was tasty — creamy but not heavy — but it was the prawns that took center stage in this dish. They were perfectly cooked, full of flavor, and in short supply on my plate.
Porterhouse Pork Chop
Tomato pan juices, and Romesco polenta
Peter’s choice — the pork chop — was another great selection. Now I spent four years in Iowa during college, so I know a good pork chop, and I must say, this was as good as any I’ve tasted. And the polenta …. oooh the polenta …. it was just plain creamy and delicious. The perfect compliment to the pork chop with just the right amount of sweetness. Frankly, Peter didn’t share enough with me.
Valdeon blue cheese, brown butter, red wine, and broccoli rabe-farro
Nick’s selection gave the rest of the table major food envy. His steak was cooked so perfectly that it melted in your mouth … medium rare, on the rarer side. The sweetness of the browned butter sauce, mixed with the savory of the blue cheese crumbles, made my one and only bite of this, perfection. I know what I’m ordering next time…
Salted Calvados caramel, vanilla-black pepper gelato
That’s how you know Bobby Flay designed this menu — even the gelato has a little bit of a bite! Who even thinks up vanilla-black pepper gelato? This dessert was really awesome. A flaky puff pastry, layered with apples and caramel, and paired with a lovely dessert wine.
They say it’s nearly impossible around here to get a reservation on the opening weekend of a hot new restaurant. After all that, who knew that would be the easy part? Fortunately, not even an hour’s worth of delays and an ill-timed rain storm could keep me from getting to that restaurant. And it’s a good thing — because something tells me a table won’t be opening up again any time soon…