Review: THE GRILL (NYC, May 2017)

From the first night of my upcoming NY trip report

After a swanky throwback feast at THE GRILL, the just-minted crown jewel of New York’s Major Food Group, you may begin to hum: “Start spreading the news…”. Word will spread quickly about this veritable supper club in the Seagram Building, not only because it’s a shoe-in for a media darling, but also because dinner there is an assuredly smooth and delicious evening – with excellent midcentury American classics reinvented at a level quite high that you wonder if the Crooners had food quite this good in their time.

Thanks to inclement weather and a delayed departure, I arrive late, near closing time. The upright hostess puts me at ease as I brush dry my pewter dinner jacket. Up the wide stairs and I arrive at the tall-ceilinged dining room, whose sweeping bar commands attention, but my gaze is fixated left on the impressive “buffet” (if it’s as good as the dishes I ordered, it may redeem the word).

I sip on a Rob Roy after ordering and look on as desserts are flambéed in front of the adjacent banquette. Big Oloroso notes. I skip the buffet in favor of “TODAY’S CHILLED CRUSTACEAN”: nearly 30 crawfish on a big ice bed, the meat pre-loosened for my ease, and accompanied by “New Bay” seasoning and 3 pitch-perfect sauces – “Carolina” cocktail, tartar, and Dijonnaise. The crawfish are pristine, mildly sweet, and well-chilled.

The Champagne Cocktail (with sauternes, elderflower, and grapefruit) is a bit restrained and neutralized, but not a bad match for my next course, the excellent “SEAGRAM CRABCAKE.” This dish was high on finesse, and would not be out of place at a 2-Michelin Star establishment, if such restaurants served this kind of cuisine. Sitting atop the crab meat is pommes anna, which had a perfect textural contrast with the luscious Dungeness and mustard seed crème sauce beneath. The potatoes’ crisped doneness is great foil to the silky crab meat mixed with chives. The crab cake ends up being one of the best dishes of my trip. I snack on a pretzel bun with chive butter as I await the main course.

The “PRIME RIB TROLLEY” arrives and so does some St. Joseph. The hulking meat is spit-roasted, so it has a charred crust that at times is reminiscent of burnt-ends. Cut to order tableside, the rib is perfectly medium-rare and exceedingly tender, excellent with the fresh-grated horseradish. Better yet is the “DEVILED BONE,” which has a deep barbecued smoke flavor and a legitimately spicy dry rub. “JACK’s PIE” is a delicious pot pie of asparagus and what I believe is sunchoke. I regret not having also ordered the cottage fries, but the prime rib is a very healthy portion.

Now it’s my turn to witness the dessert presentation. My eyes light up as brandy ignites the plump, tart cherries of “CHERRY MELBA FLAMBE,” served over good vanilla ice cream and with toasted almond slivers. The dessert, like the restaurant itself, is executed with aplomb. THE GRILL has a certain charm to it, from the debonair waitstaff to the thoroughly recreated ‘40’s supper club atmosphere and throwback menu, and it avoids succumbing to the usual trappings that other restaurants with an identifiable theme restaurants are apt to do.

To be continued…

99 E 52nd St.
New York, NY

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Was the Rob Roy’s whisky identified to you?

It’s single malt Scotch. I didn’t inquire which one.

Prompted to ask as the Martini recipe was reported to be combining gins:

(assuming one malt in your drink, otherwise it wouldn’t be a single malt)

Their Rob Roy has single-malt Scotch, Oloroso sherry, and orange bitters. I don’t know specifically which Scotch, but it tasted more like from the Highlands or Skye, not Islay. I make Rob Roys at home - honestly Dewer’s plays better than my otherwise go-to Talisker, with some sweet vermouth and angostura bitters. I understand sweet vermouth is classic, and the Oloroso was noticeably different.

“Single-malt” refers to the way that particular type of Scotch is made - single distillery, barley, pot still, at least 3+ yrs.

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Good on you: Another Talisker fan. (We’d never mix it with anything but two/three ice cubes.)

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Fish market.
Credit: Ramesh SA, Flickr