Restaurant Review: Gato

Bobby Flay, like Emril Lagasse, Paula Dean and Gordon Ramsay, has found success both in the kitchen and on screen. Flay has truly reached celebrity chef-dom, with his recent divorce from his wife of 10 years (Law & Order SVU actress Stephanie March) making the pages of E! and TMZ. He’s appeared on 13 Food Network shows and specials and acted as a celebrity judge for a number of cooking competitions.

I’ve had the opportunity to eat at a few of his restaurants- most recently, Mesa Grill in Las Vegas and Bar Americain here in the Big Apple.  His newest restaurant, Gato, opened in March of 2014 to pretty good reviews and pretty excellent Instagram buzz.  I immediately added it to my Bucket List, and every time my parents came into the city I would try to get us a reservation (what, you think I could afford to take myself out to eat here?) No dice.
Until finally, on a Wednesday night in April, success! We got a reservation for 8 p.m. at Gato. My ideal dinner time!

I printed copies of the Immaculate Infatuation’sGato review since they are my most trusted source of foodie information. As my parents and I enjoyed a pre-dinner drink at the hotel bar, I talked them through the strategy and let them read the review. A little much? I guess you don’t know me.

It would be a mistake if I were to bury the lead on this one -  before we get into me saying, “It was delicious” and “you should order this” a lot, let me just mention that Bobby Flay actually works in the kitchen at Gato fairly regularly and on this particular Wednesday night, he was there. 

My mom spotted him and immediately started saying, “It’s Bobby, it’s Bobby!” While pretending to wave at him and saying hi. We agreed he looks much better in person. My Dad was equally excited. I was totally chill, calm, relaxed, “whatever” about the whole thing. Ok, not exactly. But it was my DAD who told the waitress, “My daughter has FOOD BLOG can you tell Bobby to come over?” Hearing my dad say the word blog will never not be weird. But once Peter agreed he would take the ultimate, “I’m star struck and totally not playing this cool, can I have a picture?” picture – I anxiously awaited my opportunity. As he was walking back to the kitchen we asked him if I could get a picture and he said, “Come to the kitchen.” At first I thought he said something about needing to go back to the kitchen aka NO but then I realized he wanted me to follow him so everyone in the restaurant didn’t see he was taking pictures and start forming a line. 

So, there ya have it, Peter took my picture with Bobby Flay in the kitchen of Gato and it was great and my dad swears it’s because of this “food blog” that is influential and important to the culinary landscape of New York City.

Now for the review.

First things first, we found Gato, situated inconspicuously on Lafayette Street. Once we walked in, it was a lot nicer. The space was larger than I expected, fairly open and airy, with awesome light fixtures. My mom was a little critical of the flooring – it looked like pretty mosaic/Moroccan tiles – but was actually a soft/corky material. Didn’t bother me, but my mom is Mrs. HGTV so I figured her interior design critique was worth mentioning!

(Read the New York Times' Review which is much better written than mine!) 

It was crowded around the bar, but we found a spot to stand and took a look at the cocktail list. It’s really no surprise that I opted for the Lorenzo – gin, St. Germaine and muddled cucumber – some of my favorite cocktail ingredients (although gin, St. Germaine and grapefruit is my all-time favorite combo). I was a little concerned that there was also sherry in it, but it turned out to be delicious. Plus people sometimes call me Lorenzo, so it was destiny.
 We sat down and our waitress was great, giving us suggestions and letting us know what some of the most popular dishes are.

First up were the bar bites, a great deal that lets you pick 3 for $17. These were smaller than I thought, and not the easiest to split among 4 people but c’est la vie (true story: my alarm every morning is C’est La Vie by B*Witched. I am a true child of the 90s.)

Now without further ado, the bar bites:
Lamb Tenderloin, salsa verde – thinly sliced, super tender, full of flavor. I love lamb, sorry Lamb Chop!
Chorizo Crepinette , apricot mostarda, pickeled brussels sprouts – tasty, but I think I liked the things around the chorizo more than the chorizo!
Eggplant, manchego, oregano, balsamic – I am a veggie lover, but even the meat lovers agree that this may have been the best one!

(Left to right: Lamb Tenderloin, Chorizo Crepinette, Eggplant)

Normally, I would skip pizza on any menu unless I was out specifically for pizza. But the dudes over at Immaculate Infatuation promised that, “You’ve never had anything like it, and you’ll want it again.” So we ordered the Pizza with Lamb Sausage, tomato jam, mozzarella and mint. It was good, but I’m sad to report that I didn’t lose my shit over it, and I wouldn’t order it again, especially when it meant foregoing appetizer options like the popular Scrambled Eggs or Roasted Octopus. Too bad, so sad. But, it was probably the best appetizer to split between 4 people, and since the bar bites had only provided teensy bites to each of us, we were in need of some apps.

I had also heard tons of great things about the VEGETABLES at Gato. My favorite! There was no doubt that my first choice were the charred carrots with parsnip chips, harissa, mint and yogurt. I think one day I might turn INTO a carrot. I eat them pretty much every day. These carrots were delish and I loved that they came out looking like real, full carrots!

The second vegetable side we picked was the crispy potatoes with poached egg, smoked paprika and parmigiano. They were definitely crispy! This was that dish on the table that I didn’t need, I didn’t love, but yet I kept picking on them and ending up eating way more of them then I intended.

Alright ENTRÉE time!

There was never really a question as to what I was going to order for my main meal: Kale and Wild Mushroom Paella with crispy artichokes and EGG. Adding an egg on top of anything automatically elevates it to another level. The waitress confirmed this was one of their most popular dishes, and the Immaculate Infatuation deemed it another “must order.” It’s the dish featured on the “Menu” page of Gato’s website. And it’s all over the ‘gram. I’m so glad I jumped on the bandwagon with this one. The rice was incredibly crunchy in a great way and the flavors mixed together perfectly. Did I mention the server patiently waited for me to take my picture before scrambling the egg in for me? Now that’s what I call service!  

(Picture perfect pre egg scramblin')

While everyone else’s meals had lots of spice and an somewhat overabundance of seasonings, my meal was flavorful but mild and relied mainly on the already delicious flavors from the veggies, with the rice adding more texture than anything.

Immaculate Infatuation claims the paella is the perfect size to split between two people. Quitters. I finished every last bite by myself.

My mom has always said that when she goes to a Bobby Flay restaurant, it’s too spicy and there’s too much happening – and after trying everyone else’s meals, I would have to agree with her, especially if you’re like me and like trying a lot of different things/sharing during the course of a meal. If you got one dish and that was all you were having, it would be different, but we had tried 4 appetizers plus an entrée and my taste buds were going a little crazy.
While Flay uses a lot of spice, even for things that you would never expect to by spicy, the flavors are still usually very good. So while the spice doesn’t overpower the flavor, it’s not really necessary or adding anything except a burning in your mouth and maybe a runny nose.

I digress.

Peter ordered the Duck Confit with fregula sarda (huh?), delicate squash, mustard greens and pomegranates. The addition of pomegranate seeds to any dish is a personal favorite of mine – adds some sweetness and a fun little “pop” of texture.

Mom ordered the Orata (it’s a type of fish) with piquillo pesto, roasted lemon olive oil, pink & black pepper.  Doesn’t sound spicy, but somethin’ in there was!

Dad got the Red Prawns, meyer lemon & garlic, gigante beans and thyme. The shramps were delish, and surprise surprise had a kick to them! The gigante beans came in a side dish and were weirdddd man.

When it was time for dessert, we each received a free shot of Sherry (OK, so maybe it was for sipping, not taking a shot)as well as complimentary chocolate, pine nut and pistachio biscotti that tasted exactly how they should. We also ordered a scoop of Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato (I’m not the world’s BIGGEST Nutella fan, but I fell in love with this gelato!), Fromage Blanc Cheesecake with burn orange and pinenuts (again, not a huge cheesecake fan but loved this dessert) and the Pear Crostata with fig gelato(the pastry to pear ratio was skewed – a little too much pastry in my opinion).


(Pear Crostata with Fig Gelato)

(Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato)

(Fromage Blanc Cheesecake)

I didn’t realize until I just typed that all out what a sweets addiction Peter and I have. Haha just kidding, I’ve definitely realized it. But I don’t think it’s going away any time soon. The dessert section of my Bucket List grows by the minute and it’s officially ICE CREAM SEASON.

Overall, it was a great night, a great experience, great food. But you’ve been warned – don’t go to Gato to sample everything under the sun. Stick with an app and an entrée or an entrée and a side of vegetables. And seriously, order the damn paella, just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s not amazing!