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Gotham Bar & Grill

You could eat for a month at restaurants helmed by chefs who trained under Alfred Portale, whose Gotham Bar & Grill is one of New York’s iconic restaurants. After twenty years, Portale still delivers one of the most satisfying dining experiences you can have in this city. On a Wednesday night in November 2004, Gotham was packed.

I started with the Gingerbread Crusted Foie Gras ($24), which was probably the best foie gras dish I’ve had. Who else would have thought of putting such a humble ingredient as gingerbread on foie gras? It was ingenious.

It was really tough to choose an entrée, as every item on the menu sounded good. I chose the Rack of Lamb ($39), which I suppose is a boring choice, but when in doubt the lamb will never disappoint. It came with two generous double-cut chops, mind-blowingly tender, and a potato puree that was a bit underwhelming. Portale’s trademark is that he plates dishes vertically, so it was no surprise to have the chops delivered with the bones pointed upward, leaning against a potato tower.

Service was impeccable. This struck me right at the beginning, when I took the plastic stirring stick out of my vodka & tonic, and laid it on the table. It can’t have taken more than 30 seconds for someone to notice this, and come take the little stick off the table.

My only complaint is the bread—a fist-sized wad of dough that seemed to have been baked many hours before. The crust had long since turned to concrete. If Kentucky Fried Chicken can turn out fresh, warm bread, why can’t a three-star restaurant?

Gotham Bar & Grill (12 East 12th Street btwn Fifth Avenue and University Place, Greenwich Village)

Food: ***
Service: ***½
Ambiance: ***
Overall: ***

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