Another birthday came last month for me. Where does the time go? Though not a milestone year, I ceremoniously titled it “My Obama Birthday” for our 44th president (trying to make it stick, copyright in progress!). I would not let it go by without raising a glass and eating some good food.
My M.E.A.T. (Must Eat At Tomorrow) list is already long and getting longer every week with all the new restaurants opening up in the city. What to choose for my intimate birthday dinner for two? After consulting with one of my food magazine editor friends, I settled on Bobby Flay’s (@bflay) new restaurant Gato (@gatonyc1), 324 Lafayette St., 212-334-6400, www.gatonyc.com).
We had a late reservation on a rainy night, which made me a little uneasy, but walking into the bustling restaurant and sidling up to the bar made it all melt away. The industrial-designed, loft-like space felt cosy with low lights and leather. The kitchen covered only by paned windows revealed Flay in the kitchen on the line, holding it down with his staff. OK! I was now ready to eat!
The host escorted us to our table with our cocktails, the Paco and the Martinez, in hand. The menu, Flay’s expression of Mediterranean food and drink, is a mixture of little bites and big flavors. Our server was very patient with all of our questions and ultimately our order.
We started with the bar menu, where you choose three of their tapas-sized bites to be served together. We got the chorizo crepinette with apricot mostarda and fennel, the cod potato mousse and, our favorite of the lot, the 11-layer potato with caramelized shallots and fried sage. A bigger portion of this would not have been wasted on us.
For our entrees, I went the way of the crab with seasonal special softshell crab crostini with charred ramps and an appetizer portion of the crab risotto with garlic breadcrumbs and Calabrian red chile. Next time it will be the dinner portion of that sea-sweet, savory and spicy plate of risotto goodness.
While we shared a perfect side of roasted cauliflower with padron peppers and agro dolce (sour sweet), it was Flay’s entree that was the winner of the evening: rabbit with fregula (pasta) sarda, chanterelles mushrooms, peas and carrot hot sauce. The rabbit was cooked for the gods and the fregula could have be a dish unto itself with the salty bits of Serrano ham and bright sweet peas. I want to know how to make carrot hot sauce too!
And what would a birthday dinner be without dessert? A travesty! We shared a blackberry crostata with strawberry rhubarb gelato. It was the type of dessert I love with quintessential ingredients that represent the season.
We shut down Gato! Our late reservation turned out to be a boon because Flay stopped by our table to chat on his way out for the night. Good job, chef! We see you and your team putting in the work!
Should this be your year, I wish you a Happy Obama Birthday, too! (Is it sticking yet?)
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl and on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.