My favorite “Iron Chef” thus far has been Mario Batali, but I am exploring the restaurants of his competitors and successors. Forgione (Marc) came first, and now I have finally tackled his fellow redhead; and being one too, I almost feel obligated to support the red-head chef club. But I must admit, I have avoided dining in a Bobby Flay establishment because heat emanates from his fiery red follicles and translates to his dishes.
Growing up with parents from Germany and Switzerland, my digestive tract never had the opportunity to be acclimated to spicy foods. Therefore, the association with Flay to chile, habanaro and any other peppers of that sort are directly linked to discomfort rather than enjoyment. Tearing eyes, flushed skin and a burning hole in my gut are not the memories I’d like to conjure up from a dining experience.
Then, Bobby opens Gato recently – Mediterranean focused, and this opened the door for me. I immediately made a reservation three weeks out. This would be his opportunity to prove to me that not every Flay dish is laden with fiery spice. The design was a bit similar to Forgione, with the brick walls and exposed black pipes. There is bench seating along a wall of windows that frame the kitchen. Once I saw Bobby working, I chose the chair facing him and asked my husband to take the bench with his back to the kitchen. It’s hard not to become a little chef star-struck, but I gain a deeper appreciation seeing him actually cooking instead of hiding behind fancy camera work.
We truly did want to order almost everything on the menu, but narrowed it down to the following:
SCRAMBLED EGGS ALMOND ROMESCO, BOUCHERON CHEESE, TOMATO CONFIT TOAST – I had read from a reviewer that this is a must, and boy was he right. When I ordered it, my husband exclaimed “scrambled eggs!?”. The server and I both said, “It’s not what you think.” It was better than what anyone could think.
ROASTED OCTOPUS LEMON, BACON, BASIL – The smokiness gave the outside a nice grilled crackle, but the octopus was oh so tender.
Chef Flay stepped out of the kitchen several times (standing right next to our table) and surveyed the dining room. My husband complimented him on the scrambled egg appetizer after realizing his pre-conceived notion was way off. He said, “I’d love to get that recipe, haha.” Flay responded in a humble yet secretive way: “It’s just eggs.” No, no; it is like eggs that were pampered and mixed with a silk spoon. And yes, there was pepper with the romesco (nut and red pepper sauce), but it was a mild heat – one that creates a contrast yet balance.
The waitress talked us into trying a vegetable side, and this may have been my favorite flavor profile of the evening:
ASPARAGUS & FAVA BEANS YELLOW ROMESCO, PECORINO, PISTACHIOS
STEAMED HALIBUT SICILIAN OLIVES, MINT, ANCHOVY, SAFFRON-TOMATO BROTH,
We were quite full as dessert approached and were debating since we kept dipping the bread in the olive oil from Sicily with a bit of sea salt. What the heck – let’s get the full experience:
MEYER LEMON TART PISTACHIO WHIPPED CREAM
TARTE TATIN SALTED CALVADOS CARAMEL, VANILLA-BLACK PEPPER GELATO