Chris Day messed up his ankle. He was practicing some sort of Japanese sword play, as he does, and it gave out.
So he was hobbling around on crutches (quite ably, I must say) at Gilt, where he’s the restaurant director. He bound through the restaurant’s front door to greet me, escorted me to the bar, took my drink order (following his suggestion, I ordered the Mariposa, a sort of smoky Margarita made from high-end mezcal and flavored with candied violets).
I told him to get off his feet and go home. He could have told me that I’m not the boss of him, because of course I’m not, but he said he would leave soon. Then he continued to zip around the place, picking up dropped napkins and otherwise displaying considerable skill in maneuvering on crutches.
My guest, Yishane Lee, arrived 14 minutes late, except that she’d told me she’d be 15 minutes late, so she was right on time.
Chris escorted us to the dining room and introduced us to beverage director Patrick Cappiello.
Patrick had a lot to prove, because he was replacing the talented, engaging and quite tall Jason Ferris, who left to study for the master sommelier exam. I think he’s still looking for work, in case you’re looking to hire.
I think Patrick’s pretty tall, too, but I don’t really know because (a) I was seated most of the time when talking to him and (b) everyone seems tall to me.
Chris then took his leave, and I hope he went home.
Yishane — freelance writer, mom, and friend from my Bangkok days (which means we have known each other for 14 years, believe it or not) — and I were there to sample the food of Justin Bogle, who like Patrick had a lot to prove, as he replaces Chris Lee, a Food & Wine Best New Chef, James Beard Rising Star Chef, and fun person to drink with. He had been hired away to be executive chef of Aureole. Justin had worked under Chris Lee, and I expected his food to be similar, but it wasn’t, not at all.
Chris’s food, as I remember it, is comparatively earthy. Refined, but in an accessible, modern-American sort of way (click here if you’re curious to know what I ate at Gilt when Chris was the chef).
Justin’s food seemed more cerebral, with unusual flavor combinations and textures that in some ways harkened back to Chris’s predecessor, Paul Liebrandt, who is currently enjoying much more success as executive chef of Corton than he managed to do at Gilt.
Speaking of success, Gilt seemed to be doing fairly well. The dining room was about half full, which is good for New York these days, and the bar scene was hopping when Yishane and I left some time after 11.
11! you exclaim.
Well, we didn’t sit down until around 8:30, and Justin and Patrick (and pastry chef David Carmichael, who met Chris Lee when they both worked at Oceana) had quite an evening in store for us. So did Chris Day, who had left instructions to finish our meal with a tasting of five different teas. They were mostly oolongs, including an aged one, vintage 1994, but one was a Japanese sencha.
I’m not sure why Gilt’s tea menu hasn’t gotten more coverage than it has. It’s so much more extensive than any other tea menu I’ve ever seen, and that doesn’t even include the reserve tea menu, which they present if you ask for it. Chris Day is in charge of all of that.
What Justin Bogle, Patrick Capiello and David Carmichael did to us (I mean that in a good way):
Cured Wagyu beef with Parmesan gelato, pine nut dust and arugula
Crispy escargot with black truffle vinaigrette and parsley (and some sort of crushed mushroom and chocolate “dirt,” an addition that’s all the rage these days)
NV Pierre Peters Brut Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Champagne
Bay scallop ceviche with pink grapefruit, hearts of palm, ginger, yogurt and shiso
2007 Lafage Grenache Blanc, VDP, Roussillon, France (Patrick’s a big francophile, but he did serve us an Austrian Gruner Veltliner along with the Champage — a 2006 Sighardt Donabaum, “Aztberg” from Wachau)
English pea ravioli with ricotta, pickled ramps, speck, buttermilk and mint
2007 Weinbach Pinot Blanc reserve, Alsace, France
Halibut with spring vegetables, horseradish, oysters and American caviar
2007 Boisson Côtes du Rhone Villages Cairann “L’Exigence,” France
Pancetta spiced foie gras with kumquat mostarda, candied black olive, fennel and pine nut
2001 Cauhape Jurançon “Noblesse du Temps,” Southwest France
Lamb loin with wihte asparagus, Vadouvan, black sesame paste with squid ink, preserved lemon and duka flavored chick peas
2006 Luis & Michel Bronzo, Bandol, “Le Bastide Blanche” Provence, France
Strawberry sorbet with frozen buttermilk strawberries
Mint chocolate chip stacked with thin crispy meringue, topped with strega gelée and a fine mint chiffonade
Chocolate soufflé with caramelized chocolate almond cake
2006 Clos de Paulilles Banyuls, Roussillon, France