I wrote a post a little while back about going to Frenchette when it had opened to vaccinated guests. Walking into the restaurant felt like walking into a place in 2019. Entering Gage & Tollner is a trip further back in time.
From the outside it doesn’t look like much. A narrow and drab entrance greets you. Step through the doors and its as though you have entered the later Victorian era. The wood paneling is dark. The mirrors are antique with the silvering worn in parts. Where there isn’t wood or glass on the walls, there is fabric. Not wallpaper, its as though the walls have been wrapped in cloth. The two signs that tell you are in the 21st century is that the lights are no longer gas fired and the dress of the crowd. Its crowded and loud. There is a thrum of activity and buzz of conversation on a Friday night.
The menu is split with small plates which are most raw bar items, apps, chop house selections, mains and sides. The choices skew towards traditional American fare with some twists like kimchi slaw. Really intriguing wine list. Choices span some unusual spots and the prices range is very reasonable starting in the 50s and heading up with many options in the 60-70 range.
My dear wife orders a selection of 1/2 dozen oysters. I’ve never had Oysters Rockefeller. Not even when I’ve been in NOLA. I’m more partial to raw rather than cooked oysters and when I have them cooked its usually fried. But for some reason, I decided to try it out for the first time. We also ordered the Parker House rolls. Seems like more places are charging for bread in various forms these days.
The oysters come from 3 spots, two in Massachusetts and one from Prince Edward Island. The Canadians are the winner this evening. I get 5 oysters for my starter. Being a rookie, I make the mistake of trying to grab one of the shells so I can use my fork to pull the herb covered morsel out. Ouch, very hot shell. After waiting a few minutes for my finger and the oysters to cool, I take a taste. Oh wow, herbal and rich. I don’t have anything to compare them to but these were wonderful. Creamy flavor of the oysters was really enhanced by the thick carpet of broiled herbs.
The Parker House rolls were fine. Nothing remarkable about them.
For our main, DW ordered the roast chicken and I ordered the veal chop. As the chop house selections came with no sides, I ordered the sauteed mushrooms too. The wait between the starters and the main stretched on for a while. Even though the house to my eye looked fully staffed, its clear that the service still needs some work. One other minor annoyance. We had ordered a bottle of white wine. The bottle was opened, the wine tasted and approved and two glasses were poured. Then the somm took the bottle to keep cool. It was very busy that evening and on at least two occasions my glass was empty before I got a refill. If you’re going to take that route for wine service, keep any eye on your thirsty customers. A minor annoyance as I said when you sit there tapping your empty glass.
The mains finally come. The veal chop is huge and well cooked. A marvelous hunk of meat. The mushroom side was an assortment of a half dozen or so varieties. Very nice. Across the table my DW was really enjoying her plate. The most fabulous part was the mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes you ask? The best part? Really? Yes really. The chicken was beautiful. Well cooked with a crackly bronze skin. The sprouting broccoli (which looked just like ordinary broccolini to me) was glowing green and sheened with butter. But the mash potatoes were just elevated above. How so? The first time we had potatoes like this we were at Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris. When my wife after swooning over the first taste asked the chef at the counter how they made them, he replied “Madam we make them with love.” As much love and butter went into these.
Had no room for dessert though we were sorely tempted by the baked Alaska for two. That will be for next time. Dinner for two with 20% tip was $315.