As of December 2012, Gilt has closed.
My mind was preoccupied with a sense of guilt as I walked into the restaurant, the name of the restaurant certainly didn’t help, nor did the opulent dining room.
Normally I reserve high profile dinners to significant occasions, all to make the occasion more special. Of course, being more selective when I dine also preserves the health of my ailing bank account. Occasionally, however, I succumb to the temptations of fine cuisine, then convince myself that a minor occasion is worth celebrating.
4 days after my fantastic dinner at Cafe Boulud, here I was walking into Gilt. With my taste buds still remembering every bite of brilliant cooking at Daniel Boulud’s UES cafe, I wondered if I was making a mistake in coming so soon. Could Gilt possibly be better than Cafe Boulud? Aside from the fact that Gilt has 2 Michelin Stars, I really don’t know much about this place.
Walking into the courtyard at the New York Palace Hotel is quite an event. As you stroll through the courtyard amongst lounging tourists and New Yorkers, you can almost feel their intense gaze measure you, your outfits, and your accessories. This place is trendy, and thanks to the popular TV show Gossip Girls, this location is now also a trendy fashion icon of sorts.
Before the space became Gilt in 2006, it was the home of Le Cirque, a staple in classical New York fine dining. The space certainly shows its fine heritage, conveying a sense of grandeur. When Paul Liebrandt created Gilt, he infused into the space elements of his modern, and perhaps slightly avant garde style. Even though Chef Liebrandt is no longer at Gilt (he left months after the opening, despite the critical acclaim), the futuristic bar design within the backdrop of a classic marble lined room can certainly be described as odd.
Since this was going to be an elegant dining experience, we decided for a bottle of wine. Gilt’s wine service was excellent, though not as dramatic and elaborate as my experience at Daniel. The sommelier was tremendously knowledgeable, and had the perfect selection when I said I wanted to try “something strange and unique”. The Antoine Arena red wine from Corsica was phenomenal.
For food, we decided simply to get the tasting menu, so we can sit back and enjoy the surprise as the plates hit the table. I personally love the idea of tasting menus, it allows for foodies to expand our palate, and the less experienced diners to be lead on a culinary adventure.
The first course blew my mind. The hamachi sashimi is perhaps not something you’d find at a european themed restaurant, but when you eat it with the nitrogen flash frozen yogurt “snow”, the complex and intense clash of temperatures, textures, and flavor was something truly special.
The grilled octopus did not look very appetizing, especially in the dark surroundings. However the taste was surprisingly tender.
Then came the mackerel. This is a type of fish that’s tricky to prepare because it not only spoils quickly, but can give of a strong “fishy” taste if not cooked right. To be honest, I felt trepidation when I saw the two thin slices of mackerel on the relatively simple plate. Much to my delight upon the first tepid bite, it was delicious.
To cap off the savory portion of the meal, a beautifully presented little chunk of beef. This immediately drew comparison to Cafe Boulud’s beef entree that I ordered. Upon further inspection and scrutiny, Gilt’s version was just as tender and slightly more flavorful.
For dessert, we asked if we could mix it up and not get the same thing, and the wait staff happily obliged. The Knickerbocker Glory and the Chocolate Liege Waffles were two very different, but very delicious chocolate masterpieces.
As we stumbled out of the courtyard, with our belly full and wallets lighter by about $150 per person, we both agreed that despite the near perfect experience at Cafe Boulud, Gilt was convincinglybetter. In fact, I even believe that strictly on taste, this trumps some of the 3 Michelin Star establishments. What seems to be keeping Gilt from truly joining the ranks of the elite status, however, is the lack of continuity. Paul Liebrandt left only after a few months at Gilt, Chris Lee left for Aurole shortly after winning 2 Michelin Stars.
Despite the constant state of flux in the kitchen, it’s truly impressive how Gilt has managed to maintain excellence. Under the talented chef Justin Bogle, it’s only a matter of time before Gilt finds its identity, and rank among the best in the city.
(Photos taken with a Samsung point-and-shoot)
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Gilt (Make a Reservation)
455 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10022