Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gem | New York

I will start by saying that this review will not be 100% unbiased as my other reviews are. Gem is a restaurant in New York that opened a couple of months ago. This is nothing special, as there are possibly hundreds of new restaurants opening in New York every month. I don't have the privilege of knowing the chef personally at any of those, but I do at Gem. I got to know Flynn by coincidence last year so I kind of got to follow the journey of Gem, from the initial ideas to the final result. So of course when the restaurant finally opened I couldn't wait to try it. Last Saturday it was my turn!
Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


First of all, if you need a little introduction on my genius friend Flynn, here's a good read. This post, however, is all about the food and my own experience at Gem. I brought a friend who dines at New York's best restaurants because I knew he'd appreciate this too. We met at 6 on a Saturday, for an early dinner. There are only two seatings of 16 guests, at 6 PM or at 9 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. I'd reserved about a month in advance, which I highly recommend. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem is located - somewhat hidden - on Forsyth Street on the Lower East Side. The outside is painted all black, and the inside mostly off-white with flowy curtains and different types of wooden furniture. It creates both Scandinavian and Japanese vibes, but most of all it represents Flynn's style. He wants his guests to feel as though they're entering his home for a nice dinner. Which is why every dinner starts in the "living room" with a cool glass of champagne. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

The little black tables remind me a lot of the burnt wood they often use in Japan. 



Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

After a drink in the living room, we moved on to the "dining room". My friend and I got a supreme spot by the window which overlooked the restaurant. The place is so small there's not a single bad spot, but if you like being in the middle of the action I think the best one might be the one right next to the kitchen. 



Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


The sommelier helped us choose a nice crisp floral Austrian wine, which paired perfectly with the mostly vegetable and fish based courses to come. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

Shrimp ceviche in rhubarb juice with grilled peppers and creme fraiche and summer savory

A little sour, a little sweet, delicious. I liked that the texture of the grilled pepper and the shrimp were very alike. Loved the flowers (a recurring theme throughout the meal).

Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

Grilled snap peas with fresh tofu and smoked trout roe. Chilled mushroom broth

Very summery thanks to the super fresh peas and chive flowers which remind me of summers at home. Super silky tofu. This dish reminded me a lot of the food I tried in Japan.



Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

A stew of summer squash, mussels, garlic scapes and tomato squash blossom stuffed with mussels and caramelized tomatoes

The stew, again, very light and summery thanks to the yellow baby squash. The stuffed squash blossom with mussels was incredible, a flavour bomb. So good I could have eaten 10 of them. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


*Checks if no more stuffed squash blossoms are hiding under the other shells*


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Green asparagus cooked in ramp tonnato with a broth of fresh asparagus juice

Another beautiful and light dish, with delicate flavours. The tiny breadcrumbs added some crunch to the dish which was awesome. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


White asparagus with vadouvan and baby pine

I must say I've had better and sweeter asparagus this season but I'll blame it on being spoiled with the best Belgian & Dutch produce. The baby pine is interesting. At home, we used to pick baby pines in spring to make pine syrup for winter, so again I got a little nostalgic. One of the more interesting dishes but not my favorite. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


First row seats. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Corn agnolotti with brown butter and lime

I'd been waiting for the pasta dish, and when it finally arrived I got even more excited because sweetcorn is one of my favorite foods in the world. So this was one of my top 3 favorite dishes of the meal. Sweet and creamy thanks to the corn, a little crunchy thanks to the crispy quinoa and fresh thanks to the basil. Perfect perfect perfect. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Grilled cucumber and celtuce in a chili yogurt, smoked maple, egg yolk

To my surprise, this was one of my other top 3 dishes, even though I don't even like eggs. The grilled cucumber is unlike anything I'd eaten before, very gherkin-like texture-wise. I can't pinpoint exactly what I liked so much about this dish, possibly the combination of the grilled flavour with the creamy rich egg yolk.


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


An aged beet with its greens and bordelaise

My last top 3 dish. I might be biased because I love beetroot. But my friend, who'd been hoping that this was a piece of meat (ha!), couldn't stop talking about this. Meaty, salty, sticky, sweet and very umami (is that a lame thing to say? There's no better way I can describe it)


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


This tastes nothing like any beetroot you've ever tried. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Lobster Feast
Grilled tail with apricot bbq sauce and spicy flowers 
Claw with salted plum and daikon

Started with the little lobster roll with daikon, which was fresh & delicious. Moved on to the pickled carrots and spicy flowers, which I ate all (picky dinner partner). The spicy flowers were - surprise - another reminder of home since these grow in our vegetable garden every year.

The lobster tail taco with apricot sauce was my favorite part. The taco tastes like French crêpes and the three components just worked magically together. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Lobster feast part II
Knuckle with garbanzo beans and mint
Rose and lobster broth

The last little bit was tasty, but I enjoyed the other parts of the lobster feast a little more. 

I didn't photograph the rose and lobster broth, which came in a cup. A different but nice way to end the dinner with, like having a tea. It tasted a lot like saffron to me but that might just be my taste buds.


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


This was our final course in the dining room. We were kindly escorted back to the living room for dessert. I must give some credit to the service during the whole dinner, which was super swift, efficient, clear and friendly/helpful. I also loved the music that was playing during dinner, it added an extra personal dimension to the whole experience. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

Dessert is somehow never my favorite part of dinner. It's usually too heavy or not as good as the savoury dishes. But at Gem, I had quite the opposite experience. It was fun to see dessert arrive in all these different components that somehow all worked wonderfully together. 

Alphonso mango
Strawberries and elderflower

Chamomile and geranium 

Alphonso mango, another childhood favorite thanks to the big Indian community in Antwerp who'd always generously share boxes and boxes of Alphonso mangoes until we could eat no more and had to puree and freeze the rest for winter (I swear this dinner was like a walk down my childhood memory lane).

Strawberries and chamomile whipped cream were like a midsummer's dream. 

My friend couldn't get enough of the little heaps of whipped coconut. Overall, we could have eaten this dessert 10 times over again. Possibly maybe my favorite part of the whole meal. 


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


After dessert, we hung around for a glass of natural white wine. I wish we could have stayed longer but the kitchen was preparing for the 9 PM dinner service so it didn't feel quite right to linger. Gem's living room is so cozy you just want to stay on (& roll straight into bed, when is the hotel part coming?)


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry


Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

Gem | New York | Flynn McGarry

I loved the dinner at Gem, but I expected nothing less. The tasting menu is priced at $155, drinks not included, but the tip is. So it's definitely not your everyday dinner, but if you're up for something special and a new dining experience in New York, I can highly recommend it. Make sure to book well in advance because I can't imagine it becoming any easier to get a spot.

PS. Gem is also open during the day, every day, from 8AM till 5PM for excellent coffee, homemade pastries, and sandwiches. 
PPS. They also do à la carte pasta nights sometimes, so keep an eye on the gram.


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