Saturday, October 27, 2007

Anatomy of Gray's

Start spreading the news… there’s a diva in town. Well actually two!

Plan A after disembarking at JFK was to hot foot in into Manhattan, check into the Hudson and then cross the road to the Time Warner Centre (probably spelt center, but that distresses me) and finally head for a highly covetable table at Per Se. DD and I were on the waiting list for a table at 9pm, I landed at 7pm and therefore had plenty of time! I hadn’t actually mentioned the possible table at the fabulous Per Se to DD; I just thought it would be a lovely surprise when we arrived! But I hadn’t heard from the restaurant before the flight so I hadn’t changed in the toilet before we landed and it turned out to be fortuitous. For some inexplicable reason the journey through immigration was unusually torturous and I would never have made a 9pm table reservation anyway. On arrival at the Hudson, possibly the darkest hotel in the world, I threw myself on the mercy of the concierge for a rapid replacement reservation. I suggested maybe Italian and definitely not too far from the hotel. I mentioned that I had been waiting to hear from Per Se and he suggested an interesting idea, Café Gray at the Time Warner Center. (I figured if I have to write Gray, then I can get over center!) It met my criteria for a very short walk and though not Italian seemed the prefect spot to grab something not too heavy but elegant all the same, so a table was booked for 10.30 pm. After a quick spruce up we headed over to see what Gray’s would have to offer.

We would shown to the bar and took in our surroundings – clean lines, bright (yeah!) enticing aromas wafting around us and a despite the fact that I should have tucked up in bed (London time) ages ago, I was rather peckish. In fact the jet lag/hunger combination did cause me to have a bit of a diva moment when I saw the little banquette I had my eye on being snapped up by another couple who arrived after us. But they swiftly appeased me and led us instead to a little linen-clad table in the main part of the restaurant where we could spy on the chefs’ ministrations in the open-plan kitchen, a much better table!

We were delivered a gorgeous amuse bouche of spoon of ginger and spaghetti of some vegetable possibly squash that I cannot recall for sure but I have asked the restaurant if they could remind me.

But I have no problem recalling the starter. DD and I opted to split the RISOTTO mushroom fricassée between us. And it was seriously gorgeous. The risotto came served in a little silver pan topped with an unidentified top-hatted gentleman. And it was an unctuous very tasty starter. We were given a pan each but only half filled, I am guessing the full portion would have the pan brimful but we both agreed that actually it was the perfect size and a very memorable risotto.

I went for an unusual choice for me and that was SKATE SCHNITZEL – butternut squash, red wine apples and caper brown butter. There was a good choice of amongst others roasted veal, cheeks and sweetbreads, braised short rib of beef and grilled organic poussin but the skate intrigued me. And it was a wise choice; it was light, a crispy coating and tasty autumnal vegetables and a vibrant and verdant herby sauce.

We weren’t sure if we could squeeze in a dessert but felt we could just manage to share a chocolate soufflé. Unfortunately the last had just been sold so we swapped our plans swiftly to CHOCOLATE CRÈME BRÛLÉE with apricot compote instead. And it was the perfect way for two divas to finish our first meal together on our second bite of the Big Apple. It was the crunchy chocolate brûlée topping, the rich, creamy interior contrasting with the tangy, juicy apricots.

I was initially disappointed that my cunning plan had been thwarted by Per Se but was delighted to discover Café Gray and frankly I was in no state to do a full Per Se tasting menu justice. I was disoriented as my crown-less watch needs a special magnet to change its time which inconveniently I have left at home. This means that I can’t really adopt New York time as on every occasion I catch site of it I am transported back to what time my body thinks it should be, never mind maybe I can track down a Rado stockist tomorrow and adopt a New York state of mind. What a fabulous excuse to go shopping!

That mushroom risotto was sublime, the skate a wonderful and unusual change and the chocolate hit as a finale, very fine indeed! Gray Kunz is definitely a chef to be reckoned with and personally if I were asked to compare Masa with Café Gray (both inhabitants in the high faluting food court come shopping mall aka the Time Warner Center) I would choose Café Gray any day over the shabby service and frankly shabbier food of Masa - a place that will always remain a mystery to me.

Three well deserved shiny grey forks for the accomplished cooking of Café Gray and they made a weary diva feel very welcome.


DD said...

Oh my, the Risotto was heaven!

Please sir, can I have some more?


J said...

And I since found out that Café Gray is justifiably famous for its "classically dense mushroom risotto".

Didn't we order well?

DD said...

Dense indeed! I can still taste it!

I am still awaiting for the Amish Chicken post. What a fab farewell dinner we had at the USC! Mind you, the Meat Packers Diner was also good! But, I have to say, the USC shall forever remain my fave...


Jeanne said...

OMG. I am so going here next time I get to New York. That adorable little silver pan! Choclate creme brulee! Great review :)

Ann said...

Ooh... I haven't been there yet... must go! it really does sound lovely. SO sorry you missed out on Per Se, though... we have a reservation for dinner there in two weeks... and I can't wait!