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Wednesday
Jun062007

The Payoff: Gramercy Tavern

Today, Frank Bruni awarded three stars to Gramercy Tavern. A good deal of what we predicted yesterday came true. As expected, it was a “yes, but…” kind of review:

  • There are restaurants with more shimmer, and there are certainly restaurants with more spark. There are restaurants that take bigger chances and stake bolder claims to your attention.
  • They steer clear of anything too challenging, and if tameness is a consequence, so be it. Gramercy has never been a destination for the most adventurous or jaded gourmands.

Bruni reiterated his view that Gramercy Tavern is no longer the flagship of the Danny Meyer empire:

  • It doesn’t scale peaks as high as those at Eleven Madison Park, currently the most exciting restaurant in Mr. Meyer’s collection. But like a solid marriage rather than a heady love affair, it has stood the test of time, righting itself when it starts to go wrong, knowing that what’s at stake are a great many warm memories, some yet to be made.

As we imagined, Meyer nailed the balance between casual and formal that Bruni finds lacking—the casual part, that is—at many high-end restaurants:

  • The service is back on track, with its trademark blend of coddling and unpretentiousness, a mix that Gramercy nailed well before other restaurants and that explains a lot about diners’ loyalty to the restaurant. They find comfort in rooms with well-spaced tables and one rustic touch for every two elegant flourishes. Gramercy Tavern is a homey retort to the slickness of some fine-dining peers, and minor changes to lighting and art have made it look fresher, less where your grandmother goes after needlepoint class and more where your aunt goes after Italian for the Umbria-bound.

But having correctly predicted all of that, we failed at the one prediction that counted: the rating. Frank Bruni awarded three stars, and we predicted two. We don’t like losing, but if it has to happen, we’re glad it happened this way. In Frank Bruni’s three years on the job, this was one of the few times he awarded the correct rating to a restaurant, simply for doing classic things well. We would not be so foolish as to suggest Frank has actually learned something. We expect him to be back up to his old tricks again soon.

We lose $1 on our hypothetical wager, while Eater wins $3.50 at 7–2 odds.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $34.00   $35.67
Gain/Loss +$3.50   –$1.00
Total $37.50   $34.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 14–3   12–5

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