Gastropub Just a Little Off


Gus & Gabriel’s Gastropub | 222 West 79th Street | 212.362.7470 | www.gusandgabriel.com

I JUST COULDN’T PUT MY finger on it, or why, but the whole day was a little strange. And it seemed no amount of pre-planning would have changed the “oddness” of the day.

I usually like to go to “current”, popular, oft-written about restaurants either as soon as they open—without influence from others—or after a few weeks/months when the place might have worked out the kinks and I’ve acquired a sense of the establishment’s food and atmosphere from any number of, by then, the unavoidable opinions of others.

And so was the case with the Upper West Side’s Gus & Gabriel’s Gastropub. A newly minted superstar chef, Michael Psilakis (Kefi), a popular, recession-proof restaurant style, gastropub, in a self-professed high-concept foodie neighborhood, all prime ingredients for a theoretical restaurant success.

Gus & Gabriel’s did get to enjoy some of that initial success, but, in this ever-increasingly fickle culinary culture, the backlash was swift, and, to this day, remains the archetypical reason why the pedestrian eater can’t enjoy a modicum of objectivity when it comes to reading restaurant reviews. Especially when they are user—, and not professional food critic-, provided.

Having had read several reviews, from MenuPages to TimeOut NY to The New Yorker to CHOW.com to Yelp.com and so on, I couldn’t derive a general consensus “beat” on the place, so it was about time I went and found out what I could of Gus & Gabriel’s myself.

I usually like to check out a restaurant during its non-rush hours, yet early enough as well to enjoy some natural light for my food photography. I jump into a cab a little after 2:45 p.m. (unaware that there was an additional, mandatory $1 surcharge). The ride was quick and bode well for the possibility of a quick meal once I had reached my destination.


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Coming west across 79th between Amsterdam and Broadway, I was trying to spot the place from the cab window, but completely missed at first pass. Getting out on Broadway and only after walking back East half a block did I come across the storefront, which was down a small set of stairs into between two much larger sets of stairs leading up to two separate townhouse.


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Walking in, I’m struck by the large armor suit situated by a very small bar taking up about the same amount of space, and some residual tables. Confused again, I wondered if they had remodeled since the last pictures I saw of the place, but was quick enough to notice a long hallway, which, I would find out, led to a much bigger room. More on that later.


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I had come in for my late lunch, but was told by very nice bartender that the restaurant actually stops serving between 3 and 5 p.m. to re-prep for dinner. The only other person in the restaurant was a women dressed in this sexy military outfit who was foreign but spoke too loud on her cell phone like the average American. The barkeep did convince the kitchen to make me a quick meal. Not the meal I wanted, since the sweetbreads were no longer featured ion the menu, but I looked just as forward to their appetizer of “Paella”—their quotation marks, not mine—and mix of their two hot dog styles, Chicago-style and Chili Cheese.

While the kitchen put in my order, I trekked the long hallway to check out the main dining room in the back.

The room looked cozy and warm, but, at least the last pictures I had seen of the space, the addition of several plasma TVs was a little, let’s say, confusing. The little bit of natural light from a door window was overwhelmed by the glares of these screens.


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I returned to the bar, grabbed one of the four stools, at first watching ESPN on the extra large plasma screen less than two feet from my head—while I watched the bartender set up for the night shift and deal with beer reps—then choosing to pay intention, instead, to the more pleasing decor decisions of the variety of bar taps and Tiffany lamp shades. .


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My “Paella” arrived shortly, and it did smell heavenly.


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Aromas aside, the taste held up pretty well too. And the mussels, smoked chicken, merguez (spicy lamb sausage) all had the appropriate textures and proper seasoning, but the use of orzo instead of rice was a surprisingly out of place nuance, I thought. Pasta doesn’t have the same bite is rice, and doesn’t soak up nearly as much liquid as rice would, so my “paella” was more of a overthought Jumbalaya bouillabaise with orzo, losing any pretense of a “pub food” element.

My hot dogs came out soon after, and presented a larger platter than I had expected.


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The hot dogs being longer than the buns they were on, I was able to try a bite of just weiner. They were good—Psilakis’ recipes both—and possessed the texture of homemade sausages. But, again, they kind of clashed with the remedially lowf-fi food “comfortability” of the toppings, especially the Chicago dog, which excelled on the toppings but were better suited for a Sabrett’s. Again, both tasty, but the next time I’m craving hot dogs, these won’t be the ones that first come to mind. The fries, however, I’d have delivered to my home on a weekly basis if I lived on the UWS; they were well done, crispy, crunchy, soft, airy, salty, and held up under mounds of ketchup throughout the entire meal.

I did take the halves of both hot dogs home, and was happy to get full, with 2 ginger ales, for just a little over $20. But, as I walked up Amsterdam Avenue towards 86th to get the crosstown bus, I couldn’t help but think that the rest of the menu seem to suffer from the same “mixed messages”. The reason why they stopped serving their Crispy Sweetbreads (or Bacon & Chicken Liver Terrine or Calves Tongue) was because, as the bartender even admitted, offal didn’t really fit into the ever-evolving idea of a unglorified-yet-elevated pub food menu (the bone marrow, however remains), which, as you can see, comes off as slightly oxymoronic.

Even the desktop printed signs Scotch-taped to the beautiful wood panels of the interiors wall attested, they were running a “Football Feast” special: Nachos, any Burger, and a pint of beer, all for $15. I thought, Perfect for a guy and his buds on a Monday night! One problem: They’re not open on Monday night…!

And as I still walking and thinking of how I was going to put this post together—of which perspective I would use—I came across with a beautiful, dry Manhattan tree that inspired me to take a photo of it.


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You expect to see knots in trees. But I didn’t expect to see this just half a foot up in the very same tree….


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Yes, a glove. A seemingly nice glove, in a beautiful tree. The two separate ideas, however, as whole, just a smidge incongruous. (Although together they did make for a nice picture, don’t you think?) :)

Bun Apple Tea!

.kac.

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Gus & Gabriel’s Gastropub | 222 West 79th Street | 212.362.7470 | www.gusandgabriel.com

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