When Napoleon escaped from exile on Elba, a continent went to war. When the Spice Girls announced their reunion tour, tickets sold out so fast that Posh probably asked Mel B if there was still room for one more. And when Gotham Bar and Grill, an iconic fine-dining spot in Greenwich Village, brought in a new chef and overhauled the menu after 35 years, we expected a similarly noteworthy splash. But unlike a defeat at Waterloo or a triumphant show at Wembley, the result of this comeback is just an exceptionally average restaurant.
The food at Gotham has changed, but the restaurant still very much feels like a place where legacy media executives order $25 appetizers while strategizing what to do about the “whole internet thing.” If you walk into the bright, high-ceilinged dining room with a hat on, you’ll be asked to remove it before you’re seated. Countless servers roam around looking for a dropped napkin or empty water glass, and sommeliers help you navigate the 73-page wine list that includes more big-name producers than The Black Album.
The new menu at Gotham takes bigger swings than the hamburger, chicken, and tuna tartare that originally made this place famous, but only a couple things leave any type of impression - positive or negative. The one dish you’ll still be thinking back on fondly weeks later is the Iberico pork cheek, which tastes like chorizo that’s been baptized in a river of caramelized sugar. At the other end of the spectrum are the pickled oysters that come on the half-shell with white chocolate, cauliflower, and caviar. After an off-putting sour creaminess coats your mouth, you’re hit with unexpected heat from chili oil. The clashing flavors will leave you reaching for bread and water faster than Kobayashi in a hotdog eating contest.
But other than those two exceptions, most of the food here is about as memorable as a dream from four nights ago. The foie gras is fine, the spaghetti has a few nice bites of octopus, and you wouldn’t give the dry-aged strip steak another thought if not for the all-too-real reminder on your next credit card statement. Add a glass of wine to your appetizer and entree, and you’ll end up spending around $100 per person.
You won’t have a bad dining experience at Gotham. The setting is too grand, the service is too engaging, and the food is too inoffensive. But if an average meal is the only outcome of a major overhaul to a long-standing institution, it’s hard not to ask yourself, “What was the point?”
Not since Whitney Houston lip-synced the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl has something with such great potential performed so poorly. The oysters are topped with osetra caviar and cauliflower-white chocolate mousse, but they’re pickled and served over chili oil, and the combination of the creamy texture with the salt and spice means you’ll push the platter away after one bite, even though six of them cost $28.
The American Wagyu is served with sheets of fried tendon that are intensely meaty, but so light they wouldn’t set off a pressure sensor in a bank vault. Along with the pork cheek, this is the best thing here.
With braised and seared pork cheek, vinegar-y chickpeas, and pickled onion, this appetizer has more going on than a former social chair during wedding season. But all of the parts work together really well. Order this.
The foie gras comes with salty, creamy kombu butter that we’d happily eat by the spoonful. Unfortunately, that’s the best part of the $28 dish.
This is fattier than a seal who uses a fear of sharks as an excuse to lay on the beach all day. There are only a few bites of actual meat, so it’s definitely not worth the $44 price tag.
The dishes on the entree side of the menu here are generally overpriced and forgettable, with the exception of this sepia ink spaghetti. The bites with spicy peperoncino and charred octopus are some of the best ones here.
We’d gladly coat supermarket steaks in the sweet tomato glaze used here. But when we’re paying $55 for a small portion of dry-aged steak, we want to be able to actually taste the steak.
This Japanese sea bream is as memorable as a Wells Fargo customer service rep who needs his manager to approve your overdraft protection. Any minimal flavors from the mild fish and smoked tomato jus disappear when you eat them with the runner beans, which vacuum the flavor out of everything else on the plate.
The desserts here are expensive ($15-$22), and they’re more interesting on the menu than on your plate. But if rationale takes a backseat to the desire for something sweet, then you’ll be happy with the caramelized french toast with brown butter ice cream, or the peach souffle that dissolves like cotton candy.