Gotham Bar and Grill - 212 620 4220 - 12 E 12th Street

We had heard so much about this place from various friends and reviewers, so we finally broke down and gave it a try. It took us ten years to try the Union Square Cafe, so we had high hopes. What we got was high food. That is, the chef took haute cuisine literally and stacked the ingredients on each dish into a veritable tower. This meant we started each course laying out the various components on our plate so we could figure out a course of attack. We are way too clumsy to try eating vertical food and we know it.

So, how was the food once we got it all laid out and flat on our plates? It was very, very good, but not absolutely great. Everything was prepared competently and every dish worked in its way, but it lacked a certain spark, a sense of individual style. The best dish was the wild mushroom pasta with a richly scented truffle cream sauce. The pasta was dark and murky and the truffle oil reeked of the underground. In contrast, the seafood salad was a bit plain, though the risotto with prawns, ramps and artichokes was better.

We are not saying the food was bad. Far from it. But it lacked something. The roast squab was flavorful and competently prepared, but it didn't evoke the orient with five spice powder or the hunt with dark flavors or juniper. It was just nicely cooked squab. The lobster tails with chervil were a million miles from Jasper White's signature dish, Lobster With Chervil Butter.

As for the desserts, we imagine chocoholics would be happy, but our favorite was the pineapple relish with basil. The tiramisu had too much chocolate and not enough coffee flavor for our taste, but it did come with a properly balanced chocolate covered espresso popsicle.

The service was excellent, but not particularly warm. The acoustics were wonderful, so it is a good place to talk. All told, we were satisfied, but we were not really impressed.

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