Review of Grammercy Bistro
As I drove to work this morning, eyes locked on the engine temperature indicator, right arm coiled and ready to spring forward and turn the heat on the moment the blue light faded away, my teeth chattering in the freezing fifteen degree temperatures, I thought of Jennifer Adams lounging by the pool on a balmy cruise somewhere on the warm sunny sea, and wondered why I would agree to do her a god damned favor.
Of course, of course, she would do the same thing for me, we’ve been friends for years, blah, blah, blah, but really, my motives aren’t that altruistic. I’m just the type of opinionated attention whore that should have my own blog, and I love food, but I’m too lazy to sustain the effort. So this one off entry helps Jennifer keep you people on the hook for another week (hopefully) and it satisfies my need to Express Myself About Food.
I did not choose to review Grammercy Bistro as much as it presented itself to me at the exact time I needed something to write about. I am ambivalent about this review, mostly because the pictures were taken with my iPhone and are kind of crappy. If I had cooked something at home, I could have used my fancy camera. But this entry needed to be posted at the beginning of the week and I did not have a chance to cook over the weekend. So, please forgive the lack of lovely pictures. Maybe she will let me come back sometime and I can show you a fantastic slideshow of a raw chicken.
At any rate, my husband and I were in the Berkshires this past weekend to hit a few museums and a show at Mass MoCA. I scoured the internet beforehand looking for a place to have dinner before the show. I grew up in the Berkshires, and there used to basically be zero decent restaurants north of Great Barrington, but right after Mass MoCA opened, about ten years ago, there were a flurry of entrants into the North Adams market. Unfortunately, most of these have failed, including the the several that have been in the space right on the Mass MoCA campus, directly outside the main entrance to the museum. As recently as a year ago this space housed Cafe Latino, whichserved fairly consistently delicious Nuevo Latin cuisine family style. I would have been happy to dine there, but sadly, it is closed as well, and we made a reservation instead at Grammercy Bistro, located at 24 Marshall Street in North Adams, directly across the street from Mass MoCA.
I love bistro dining. Bistros are popular in Paris because they offer a counterpoint to the traditional complex, sauced, and heavy cuisine of France. Bistro food should be uncomplicated, but made with excellent, flavorful ingredients and prepared with love. Grammercy’s menu did not disappoint in that respect, offering up a variety of rustic fish, meat and game dishes with a variety of local and/or organic ingredients. (The menu that is posted on the website is about 30% different than what we were presented with when we were seated, but it did give a general idea of what to expect, and I suppose changes need to be made frequently when you are using fresh/local foods. Still. It shouldn’t be that difficult to update your website with a current menu.)
When we arrived, our coats were taken by a hostess wearing jeans who seemed a little impatient with us. We were seated in the main dining room, which has high ceilings, exposed beams and some interesting work by Samuel T. Adams.
Our reservations were for 6 p.m. (we had a show to attend at 8 p.m.) and the place was pretty much packed the entire time we were there.
I decided to start with the goat cheese tartlet and then move on to the cassoulet. My husband started with the pork belly and had the lamb shank for an entree.
My tartlet was good. As far as I could tell, it was an egg and onion tart in a buttery, flaky crust with a smear of goat cheese on the top. The crust was very subtle, it melted right into the tart itself. The tartlet was plated with a few microgreens and a dijon vinagarette. This dish was good, but in my opinion, under seasoned.
The pork belly was crispy and had a subtle maple flavor. The tart green apples were a nice counterpoint to the rich meat and smoky sauce. I had a bite of this and ended up wishing I had gotten it myself.
At this point, I should say that our server was pleasant, and although she seemed to be over extended, she didn’t come off as overwhelmed. Our plates were cleared and we were provided with new silverware between courses in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, when they brought our entrees out, they brought me a duck breast instead of the cassoulet I had ordered. This is not something I wanted, even a little, so she took it back and informed me it would be another ten minutes before I received my entree. We reduced the awkwardness of my husband eating without me by requesting a small plate so I could share some of his lamb while I waited.
To me, the lamb was unremarkable. It came with some fingerling potatoes that were fantastic. They had a delicate taste and an aroma of lemon that cut right through the braising liquid of the lamb. They were terrific. The dish also came with a roasted garlic bulb, which was weirdly dried out and didn’t really taste roasted, even though it was clearly cooked through.
My cassoulet came out well within the ten minute ETA. I have to say I was slightly disappointed here as well. The dish was dry, which seems almost impossible given how many types of fats are in it, but there you have it. Dry, and again, not seasoned properly. The duck rind on top was delicious, perfectly cured, but overall, it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. (This picture is terrible, I was so excited to get my food I ate half of it before I remembered to take the pic.)
(I should mention that even though they made a major mistake with my entree, they did not offer to comp me anything. Perhaps I was too polite about it, but it shouldn’t just be jerks who get made whole in situations like this, IMHO.)
For dessert, we split an apple tart with caramel sauce and what I think was hand made ice cream. The ice cream was delicious. The tart crust was a little soggy, like it had been heated in a microwave instead of an oven.
Overall, Grammercy Bistro puts in a good, serviceable effort. They have an excellent sense of their mission and what the experience should be. I would eat there again (Especially given the dearth of alternatives), but ultimately it was a forgettable experience. There was no customer delight, no tastes or textures that are going to live on in my memory past the time it takes me to write this entry.
So, there is that. Thanks for bearing with me and my atrocious photography. I hope you all have a nice, freezing week.