Gotham Bar and Grill
photo by Voice Media Group
Gotham Bar and Grill celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2014, and the three decades since its opening date have seen the complete transformation of the Union Square neighborhood, including the fall of the singing Italian restaurant once located across the street. “When we opened,” remembers managing partner Brett Csencsitz, “it was a fairly remote location for a restaurant of our caliber.” More remarkably, the kitchen has been under the command of one man for 29 of the aforementioned 30 years. The original partners brought Alfred Portale aboard after one year to give the menu a refresh. Portale’s longevity proves he has never stopped that process, updating his menus to pull them in line with contemporary preferences and plating styles (he was an ambassador of towering food sculptures, but you’d scarcely know it now). A few dishes endure — the tuna tartare spiked with Japanese cucumber; the quintessential steak — but the only thing sacred about the food here is the lens through which it’s viewed: Portale does tight, pristine modern American food with nearly flawless technique. And what he’s turning out of his kitchen, into a recently remodeled room manned by an impeccably trained staff, is as relevant today as it was in ’84.