Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Graffit goes GASTROARTE and NY's upper west side goes sublime (10-29-11)

This past summer one of my fave spots on NY's upper west side, Grafitt changes its name to Gastroarte Restaurant (http://gastroartenyc.com/) located at Broadway and 69th Street. This unassuming spot (down several steps just two doors off Broadway) has become a great spot for Spanish dining in the US (Jose Andres eat your heart out!). Chef Jesus Nunez does wonders with his gorgeous creations making you eat way more than you could ever wish for and enjoying every single bite.
You may recall that the tapas menu is only served at the bar and high tables in the front section; this time I headed into the dining room where the dishes impress just as easily. There is a $40 three course prix fixe if you order before 6:30pm (yes, even on Saturday) and this has to be one of the best deals anywhere as you can order anything off the regular menu!
I started with BRAISED BEEF TONGUE with Roasted Scallion & Carrots. The dishes are described so simply but what comes is an array of ingredients that is almost too beautiful to touch. The tender tongue sat in a divine sauce with huge swirls and dots of veggie puree of all different colors made from beets, carrots, scallions and more. The colors were divine and there were also braised scallions and purple, white and orange carrots in the dish.
Did I mention the steaming hot mini-loaf of ciabbata-like bread that arrived after I ordered with some of the best virgin olive oil to dip in as well; it left a hint of smokey pepper in the back of my mouth when I sucked the oil off the bread--what flavor!
The decor is rustic and warm, even in the awful snowstorm that NY was having that day. Brick walls with toreador paintings and gilded mirrors. The banquette is not my favorite place to sit as the person opposite must sit a formed red plastic chair that did not look too comfy. Be sure to go for a table with regular upholstered chairs.
My server, Amalia, from Romania, remembered me from last time and was a gem. She guided me perfectly and I will always trust her choices here. When I asked if the sommelier/manager Nacho was in she said he now just bought the wines and no longer worked as a manager. No matter, Amalia knew the wines well and sent over a glass of PRIMA TINTO de TORO which was smokey with slight tannins and a smooth dark chocolate taste that was perfect with my tongue. For the main course we moved to a bigger CAMINS 2008 Granacha-Carinena from Priorat that was like spiced berries and has to be the best storm wine around with big food. I had the LAMB CHEEKS with Lentils, Spiced Idiazabal Cheese (in little balls that melted over the dish, Brioche and Asparagus. the dish had a rich thick sauce as well as a pumpkin puree and the brioche were in small rectangles (think British toast soldiers) that stood up in the sauce. The asparagus were sliced very thin for decoration and the overall dish looked great but tasted even better. I can't wait to go back again for more!

I also love the music here which combines mild easy jazzy English with exciting yet soft Spanish singers.
Amalia guided me right to the BUTTERNUT SQUASH & DULCE di LECHE dessert which is one of the best ever.
The squash was in different size discs and formats from gelees to marmalades and one like a pate and the best were the discs with caramelized sugar (think veggie disc with creme brulee topping). This all sat on a huge bed of Dulce di Leche "mousse" which was thick and caramelly and the perfect end to a magnificent dinner. Amalia offered a glass of semi-sweet sparkling cava as an after dinner drink and I left oh so happy...and what a deal!