Gilt (NY) – Superficial Gloss
(Note: Gilt has changed chefs since this review was written.)
I read through the reviews and surmised Gilt could be an exciting restaurant – endless stream of courses, different flavor pairings, and new techniques. I expected a few great highs amongst mostly solid courses with a few disasters – experimentation does come with risk.
But for all the fancy preparations & hoopla, our meal was merely above average at great expense. This is a meal that has priced itself on the playing field of JG, Le Bernardin, or Bouley; but the few tastes that were extraordinary came as small side dishes. More often, everything was just plain “good” – none of the wows of Bastide, the perfection of Manresa, nor subliminity of JG – just good ingredients cooked very well. The execution was mostly flawless but the ideas are lacking. If Bouley was only given 2 stars by Michelin, Gilt should be afraid.
The Dining Room
The pictures on their web site do a great dis-service to the room. The web pictures looks staid & stodgy and unnecessarily formal; but the room is quite stunning. The red light shine onto the wood a create a very striking effect; the purple glow from the bar gives it a touch of ‘cool’. The room is long & narrow – I don’t understand why the servers put their various carts in the middle; not only does it look like a buffet, it made the room seem a tad claustrophobic.
1. Saffron Ice Cream w/ Black Truffle, Cinammon, & Olives
The ice cream was sprinkled w/ black truffle bits and sat on a bed of crushed cinnamon & black olives. The ice cream itself was very good but the whole dish wasn’t cohesive – too many flavors darting around in the beginning. The cinnamon did contribute a nice long finish that saved the entire dish. Good.
2. Salmon w/ Cheese & Parmesan
Salmon tartar paired w/ a soft cheese; presumably a play on cream cheese & lockes. Unfortunately, wittiness requires superior, or at least different, tastes – this was no different than what you found on your bagel last week. Bland.
3. Scallops w/ Black Truffle & Leek Gelee
Scallops & leeks chopped into similar sizes, set in the gelee, and topped w/ the truffles. Truffles & scallops are an excellent pairing by themselves; I didn’t understand the need for the gelee. Maybe it was the texture interplay between the scallops & leeks? Above average.
4. Foie Gras w/ Nori Sugar & Fig
Cooked w/ a honey glaze (if memory is correct) W/ crystallized nori on top. The foie was of high quality (although nothing like the Manresa specimen i had last week) and the honey flavor paired quite well w/ the nori. I question the design; i think the nori could be better served by a different vehicle. Above average.
5. Lobster w/ Olive Oil Powder
The lobster had a thin film of orange skin (akin to milk skin) that imparted the essence of orange. Cooked perfectly in something very rich. Delicious but it’s hard to screw up lobster. Above average.
6. Monkfish w/ Dried Cabbage & Gnocci
Seared monkfish, nice enough but nothing special, but the dried cabbage saved this dish from mediocrity. Didn’t see the point of the gnocci. Good.
7. Green Apple Sorbet w/ Wasabi
Ok, this was exciting & incredible. A terrific flavor combo whose ‘temperature’ differences (hot wasabi, cold sorbet) added another dimension. Excellent.
8. Wild Hare w/ Dried Cocoa ‘Leaf’ served w/ ‘Potatoes’
The quotes are mine but this dish was full of whimsy. The hare was gamy but delicious – the dried chocolate added another level of richness. Above Average. The potatoes were excellent. A bed of thinly sliced potatoes topped a black truffle and a hollow pomme frite. Perfect salting, excellent frying, and a wonderful new texture. Excellent.
9. Lychee Sorbet w/ Clementine Jelly
Excllent, bursting w/ flavor.
10. Chocolate Dessert
Ok, nothing special, didn’t take notes & don’t remember much. Average.
The restaurant is aptly titled – Gilt – covered with gold – superficial gloss. Overall, the flavor concepts aren’t that impressive given the alternatives around the country. I’m sure the chef is still honing his philosophy, and potential definitely exists; however, we should not be paying top-tier rates for second-tier food. If i had to sum it up – lacking concept, executes well, solid meal. If I lived in NY, I might try it out every 3-6 months; however, as a visitor, I’ll have to stick to the tried & true masters. Lower the tasting menu to $100 and you’ve got my recommendation.