The muffin

Why do upscale restaurants feel the need to send you home with something for breakfast? The last time we were at Jean-Georges in New York, it was the most delicate little brioche. Once it was a tiny package of house made granola.

This past week at New York’s Gramercy Tavern, it was a cinnamon-sugar muffin. Not that I needed to wreck the perfectly healthy meal with that muffin the next morning. Wait, what actually happened is worse. The Restaurant Dieter’s Spouse left his muffin on the counter, so I ate both. I couldn’t throw it away.

The folks at Gramercy apparently couldn’t leave it at the plate of petit four that ended the meal — tiny cheese cake cups, macarons and deep rich chocolates.

This panna cotta arrived before dessert

And two courses before that, they’d served something new: the pre-desert desert. It was a tiny ramekin with a panna cotta, a dusting of granola and a single blackberry. Then came the low fat sorbet PLUS a plate of the regular ice cream, courtesy of the house, since the waiter worried that I was struggling over which sounded better.

(An important aside here: I do not announce myself as a restaurant reviewer and writer until I leave my business card at the end of the meal, although I do bring a tiny notepad and take photographs of my food. The surprise dessert is the first time I’ve wondered if the house suspected a reviewer was in their midst.)

All told, our three-course prix fixe menu wound up with eight items being brought to the table, starting with a goat cheese puff amuse-bouche that simply oozed cheese and fat. (Yes, it was wonderful.)

A dieter who watched intake more carefully than I could do rather well here. Three of the six entrees on the dinner menu were fish. The Restaurant Dieter’s Spouse had a fillet of halibut with fava beans, sun gold tomatoes and an herb vinaigrette. It was cooked so perfectly he felt compelled to ask if it had been prepared sous-vide. It wasn’t.

My starter was delicate ruby red shrimp with a salsa verde atop polenta. What really made the dish were slivers of tart, pickled ramp and the barely cooked bed of collard greens between the shrimp and the polenta. By just tasting a bit of the polenta, it qualified as diet food.

Sea bass with marinated cucumber and yogurt sauce

The highlight of the meal was a delicate pan-roasted sea bass that rested on a salad of cool marinated cucumber and a yogurt sauce flecked with mint and cilantro. The yogurt sauce was so creamy and rich that I suspected cream or buttermilk, but the server said it was just plain yogurt.

The sorbets — plum, peach and blueberry — were deep concentrations of the fruit. They were tart enough that one suspects little to no sugar was added.

With New York sweltering in record heat this past week, the sorbets and the sea bass combined for a meal a dieter could only dream of.

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