By Christopher A. Pape
When one walks into Gastroarte, one knows one has arrived at a special place. Located on the ‘garden’ level, the space is bright, airy and has a wonderfully landscaped courtyard that serves as inspiration for an excellent meal. During the visit, we were struck with their innovative use of ingredients. We especially loved an appetizer of shrimp marble with flavors of the sea which was a perfect combination with briny pungency and had flavors that sang of both sweetness and savory notes. For another starter the soft, velvety texture and mild flavor of pig’s feet and lobster ragout went beautifully with the richness of corn soup. A third dish that was loved was the Salmorejo – salt-cured rock shrimp, hitachino, white ale and grapes. The shrimp was perfectly plump and tender and the acidity of ale was paired nicely with the sweetness of the grapes. For a main dish we ordered and enjoyed the Serrano-wrapped monkfish with romesco, spring onion and a confit shitake mushrooms.
Employees Only, on the other-hand, invokes a speak-easy that tries to play off the rage in members-only clubs. With a sleek and modern bar, the dining room is somewhat of an afterthought. However, their food isn’t. Matched expertly with handcrafted cocktails and made with the utmost of care, my guest and I were thoroughly impressed. One of the most innovative dishes I’ve ever had was the bone marrow poppers. Served with a pastry shell and a bordelaise, it was a truly spectacular representation of New American cooking and its emphasis on ultra-fresh ingredients and pushing the boundaries of experimental cooking. Another dish that I vividly remember was a large pork chop, bone-in that was one of the most succulent and tender pieces of pork I’ve ever had. It was accompanied by black-eyed peas and Savoy cabbage. The peas gave a nice textural contrast to the pork, while the cabbage was rich and savory. Have a glass of their Provençale made with lavender infused Plymouth gin and stirred with Herbs de Provence-infused vermouth and cointreau – it was a real winner!