It all started with an orange cat, possibly a stray. The feline weaved through Bobby Flay’s feet as he waited for the real estate broker to show him the 100-year-old NoHo building that would eventually house Gato.
Named for the fleeting visitor, Gato (“cat” in Spanish) is the latest addition to Bobby Flay’s restaurants (Mesa Grill, Bar Americain). It buzzes with young energy, and is Flay’s interpretation of Mediterranean food, drink, and design.
The hospitality is warm and the service excellent. Enter and you will embark on perhaps a journey to the Mediterranean, with an eclectic menu that has its own unique textures and flavors with countless dynamics, and memorable melodies that echo in your mind.
Each dish I tried had its own unique tone, pattern, and colors, all combined to a harmonious effect.
We sat in the back of the dining room facing the open bar, an island in the room packed with guests. The dining room is spacious and cozy, giving a sense of wonder while combining the past and the present.
Flay is of course, a celebrity chef with countless shows and cookbooks to his name, but he is also a skilled, resourceful chef with a natural talent that accounts for his rise in the culinary world. He is known for grilling and his New American cuisine, bold flavors, and his focus on Southwestern style. He interprets and recreates dishes (both classic American and those from around the world) while adding his own twist. It shows on the menu.
For example, the unusual ricotta with wild mushrooms and hazelnut toast was an interesting creation of crimini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms with a medley of herbs and hazelnut vinaigrette. Or the artichoke heart with quail egg and sea urchin—it definitely got my attention but, sad to say, did not also grab my palate. The eggplant with manchego cheese, oregano, and balsamic was nice and delicate. It consisted of thin layers of fried eggplants with manchego cheese and a glaze of honey and balsamic vinaigrette, which transformed the entire dish. (Three small plates from the bar menu, $17)
I will give a special shout-out to the small and exquisitely prepared scrambled egg ($14) served in Flay’s favorite terra-cotta dishes, cazuelas. My friend gave it a 10 out of 10. Made with the sauce from the northern part of Spain, with almond romesco (a sauce of roasted red peppers, ground almond, and oil and vinegar), crème fraîche, chives, and Boucheron cheese, accompanied by the most delicious tomato confit toast. It was heavenly–very smooth, delicate, and flavorful with perfect consistency.
I nearly fainted when I saw the Charred Carrots ($10) with parsnip chips, harissa, mint, and yogurt. My dining companion was devouring it faster than I could imagine was possible. The Crispy Potatoes ($10) with poached egg, smoked paprika, and Parmiggiano was superb. The potatoes were first baked and then fried. They were crispy and light with bold flavors.
Charred Carrots with parsnip chips, harissa, mint, and yogurt. (Courtesy of Daniel Krieger)
My friend, a pasta fan and aficionado, regretted ordering the Fresh Fettuccine ($34) prepared with squid ink, Spanish red prawns, and mussels, although she was warned that it was not a favorite on the menu. Meanwhile, I savored every bit of perfectly prepared Charred Beef ($35) with Valdeon blue cheese and brown butter with red wine, served with a mild accompaniment of broccoli rabe and farro.
Charred Beef, served with broccoli rabe and farro.(Courtesy of Daniel Krieger)
The memorable finale was the exquisite Red Plum Tarte Tatin ($11) with vanilla-black pepper gelato. It was light, not too sweet, and just the perfect ending to linger over.
And as for the Gato? He was never seen again, but in honor of the opening of the restaurant, Flay and his family acquired a Maine coon named Taco.
324 Lafayette St. (between Bleecker and Houston streets)
Sunday–Thursday 5:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5 p.m.–11:30 p.m.