We spent an evening as guests at GEM recently, sampling plates and crafted cocktails while dodging the rain that intermittently poured down in the Financial District. When we arrived the bar was packed and lively and we were ushered into the dining room, a more intimate space. They describe the space as having a private club feel and we'd have to admit that it did have a supper club kind of vibe.
We began with cocktails. I went with the VANILLA PEARL: Stoli Vanil, Canton Ginger, Pineapple and Pinot G. Not an overly sweet martini but pleasant enough for me to order a second later in the evening. Dean went with the SAZERAC: Old Overholt, Pernod Rinse, and Bitters. The very smooth Overholt went down easy. Both nice drinks.
TATER TOTS with Green Onion and Russian Dressing. We'd been encouraged by friends to try this as a starter and they were entirely correct in recommending these. The potato balls were nicely seasoned and fried, with a creamy center, but filling. Definitely something to share.
LOCAL BURRATA & TOAST with Unfiltered Olive Oil, Opal Basil and Cured Tomato. Delicious. The Burrata was literally perfect. This would be the one to get if you are looking for a lighter, yet still rich-tasting, start.
MAC & FIVE CHEESE GRATIN with Buttered Breadcrumbs. I love my Mac & Cheese with white cheese and this, again, was very, very good. The cheeses change almost nightly so you may not get the same five but you will always get Gruyere, which is what gave it the creamy taste . The portion is easily enough for two to share.
AHI with ginger over Sweet Corn Purée. The lightest of the starters and the one that we manged to completely devour. Great Ahi.
By this time Dean was ready for another cocktail. We were starting to grow full. DON, MEET PARIS: Don Julio Blanco, St. Germain, Lemon Simple and Fresh Raspberries. Nice balance. Refreshing.
We forced ourselves to share one more dish before our mains. SHRIMP & GRITS with White Grits, American Shrimp, Bacon Lardons and Pickled Watermelon Rind. Again, recommended by friends, and not a disappointment. I loved the addition of the rind to this plate.
Then the kitchen sent out a surprise: FRIED GNOCCHI in Plum Tomato Sauce. I think we managed to taste one each and they were pillowy soft.
PRESSED CRISP CHICKEN with Marsala Jus and Tosca Signature. One of the most popular dishes on the menu and with good reason. The chicken was slightly dry but the Jus was great.
ROASTED SEA BASS with White Miso, Soy, and Pea Shoots was Dean's choice. I tasted a slice. It was good but Sea Bass is not my first choice for seafood. He raved.
As if we had not had enough, we decided to split just a taste of the IRISH WHISKEY TIRAMISU at our server's insistence. It was so good that we'd wished we had went lighter on the shared plates.
Overall, I would have to say we enjoyed GEM very much, including the music mix and the vibe of this place. The food was very good but the shared plates and appetizers were standouts. This would be a great choice for an off-the-beaten-path, intimate night with friends over shared plates and great cocktails. We did not have time to linger after dinner and check out the bar scene but as previously mentioned it seemed quite popular and hosts guest DJs regularly. It's a nice, small place as an alternative to the cavernous nightclub scene.
42 Province Street