Gotham Bar and Grill has always been known as one of the stalwarts of the high-end New York City restaurant scene. For nearly three decades they have had a consistency that few other establishments can match. It’s frequently compared to Gramercy Tavern but amazingly, they opened in 1994, 1o years later than Gotham!
Ever since I starting dining at Gotham Bar and Grill they have had great desserts. In particular, their famous chocolate cake is thought to pre-date the now, ubiquitious-in-NYC, flourless dark chocolate cake, by at least 10 years! That’s some serious dessert street cred!
This past spring, long time pastry chef Deborah Racicot left the restaurant after 10 years (she is now with Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster). Luckily for Gotham they were able to lure Ron Paprocki from Gordan Ramsey at the London.
The best thing about Ron Paprocki’s desserts is that he strikes a perfect balance between what I will call “ultra-refined fancy restaurant desserts” and “comfort desserts” leaning more towards the refined. However, he seems to have an awareness of both of these categories and how some diners might prefer one type of the other.
For example, the Vanilla Semifreddo incorporates a wide array of textures and contrasting sweet and sour components in addition to having a beautiful and striking presentation. At the same time, Paprocki isn’t averse to using a granola-like oat crumble in his Buttermilk Panna Cotta that reminds me a little of a (deconstructed) blueberry crisp–the ultimate “comfort” dessert. He adds a cool (looking and tasting) mint granite so people don’t think they just accidentally transported to a Bed and Breakfast in New England.
The Gotham Black Forest is exactly the kind of plate you hope (and expect) to receive when you order a chocolate-based dessert at a restaurant of Gotham’s status. It has an especially artful presentation that reminds me of a Jackson Pollack painting. It also seems thoughtfully designed for sharing since it has two scoops of fresh mint ice cream (to cut the sweet of the chocolate) and at least 4 bing cherries. The only component you’ll have to fight over is the chocolate creme at the center.
When the Caramel Chocolate Mousse arrives at your table you might think to yourself ”I’ve had this dessert before [somewhere else]“. It’s not until you put your fork though the impossibly soft and creamy caramel mousse and salted ganache that you realize it’s something special. The mousse and ganache seem to optimize each other perfectly with the ganache being slightly denser and the salt cutting some of the much sweeter mousse. The white chocolate powder adds complexity with yet another chocolate-based flavor. Despite this being the fourth course of full-sized, plated desserts, I couldn’t not finish the entire serving.
For me, it was very hard to pick a favorite out of the four desserts we were served–they each brought something exciting to the table. Among my dining companions the favorite plate was the Vanilla Semifreddo–and I think it was mine too–until I received the final course, the Caramel Chocolate Mousse. The dessert you should order, if you can only have one, depends on whether you’re truly a “chocolate” person or not. If yes, then definitely get the mousse, you won’t be disappointed (unless you have to share it!)
Ron’s desserts are easily worth a special trip to Gotham bar and Grill. I highly recommend their savory food, the $25 Greenmarket prix fixe offers a fantastic value well, but if you can’t do a full lunch or dinner they have a large and very pleasant bar where you can order dessert and a drink.