Having exhausted the usual UWS offerings (at least those reasonably priced), a friend and I recently chanced upon the Gastropub, which occupies an unassuming nook between Amsterdam and Broadway on 79th street. Aside from a decidedly odd name (it reminds me alternately of either a curious stomach ailment or some grommet to prevent plumbing from leaking) the interior is very well thought out, and makes an otherwise narrow, claustrophobic space cozy without being oppressive. The service is awful; it’s never been clear to me how servers in New York get it in their heads that they can behave in a way so contrary to the title of their position, but here is no exception, and this was proven no fluke as the second time I came on a different night it was more or less the same story.
We were feeling hungry but indecisive (the feeling had carried over from earlier in the evening trying to choose where to dine, I suppose) so we eschewed the normal app+main routine and ordered practically every appetizer to share between us. This meant we got Arugula and Frisée Salad, Potato Leek Soup, Nachos (for two), Paella, and Bone Marrow.
The salad was decent but I have yet to feel like I ever get my money’s worth with a salad from a restaurant. You get suspicious when the plate is heavier than all the food on it.
My problem with this soup, and this applies to almost all soups that I don’t make at home, is that it was way too rich. I understand that “Creamy” Potato Leek soup has some implications to the texture or consistency of the product, but it doesn’t necessarily have to become a cream and butter laden affair. The thinly sliced crisp sweet potatoes on top were a nice touch though.
Nachos are, by definition, awesome. Nachos made with house-fried tortilla chips are twice as awesome. These nachos were almost as good as those at Amsterdam Cafe, our default nacho joint. They get points for using shredded pork instead of ground beef, as well as exercising restraint with the amount of cheese. However, and this relates to my rant above, there is just something too neat about these nachos. Nachos should be sloppy, messy, and to some extent greasy. These had all the right characteristics, just not quite enough. Keep in mind though that we are real connoisseurs of nachos, and by all normal standards these are excellent.
The paella was okay with a major caveat–it came in a porcelain bowl, which means no bits of burned rice on the bottom! There wasn’t that much either, which is excusable because this is an appetizer.
The real coup of the evening was getting Ada, a reasonable vegetarian (I don’t know any unreasonable vegetarians, this is a personal choice) to try bone marrow! The succulent fatty marrow was served with thick slices of fresh red onion, a masterful touch, atop the most butter-rich toast I have ever eaten. I don’t know how they got all that butter into such small slices of bread. They reminded me of those TV commercials for kids cereals where they advertise how much flavor they can cram into those tiny morsels of sugared corn meal. Each slice of toast had a substantial heft, from all the molten butter.
Needless to say, Ada wasn’t a fan of the marrow. But she tried it. I secretly maintain that her recent performance in the Miami half marathon (1:39, 3rd place in age group) is partially attributable to the bone marrow she ate. But don’t tell her that.