On Monday night, I packed up my reporter’s notebook and headed to midtown, where I planned on loitering outside Grayz on its semi-soft opening night. Like with Tailor a few weeks ago, I intended to interview exiting diners on their experience. I hadn’t anticipated that there would be a well-suited doorman outside, and immediately punked out.
Plan B was to call the only friend I have who works in midtown and wears a suit every day, and drink a few $18 cocktails inside. $18!
First, my friend insisted on sitting at a very tall table near the bar, where his chin was basically resting on his plate. “I’m gonna need a booster seat,” he told the decidedly un-jokey waitress. (You might as well picture a younger, trimmer, non-bald George Costanza. Also, note to management: Might want to trim those legs down a tad!) We moved to the bar, where I had an “Irish Day”, (Jameson, cloudy organic apple juice, house-made pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, cracked pepper) and my date had the Grayz take on a Manhattan, which uses bitter amaro instead of sweet vermouth, plus brandied cherry juice to make up for it.
Unfortunately, the Manhattan, which was served in a tumbler full of ice, was a little bitter for George. The advertising douches next to us asked what it was, saying “that looks fruity and delicious.” “It’s not,” he informed them. Then he asked the guy closer to him if he wanted to taste it. The guy pretended he hadn’t heard that, because clearly, this isn’t the sort of watering hole where you’d drink out of a stranger’s glass. I drank most of it instead.
We sampled some (very) small plates, as well, and I’ll just describe them briefly, because really, to judge the food on Opening Night is silly. The salt stone grilled prawns with a kaffir remoulade is three shrimp on a burning hot brick of pink salt, which George and I insisted on touching several times to see if it was still hot. It was. Those three prawns were also $18.
The pasta fiori with tomato concasse was basically two delicate sheets of pasta with some very fancy, concentrated version of tomato sauce with some foam and some unremarkable Parmigiano twilles. Doesn’t foam look like rabid dog drool?
The Grayz oysters Rockefeller is served in a specially designed wooden contraption which we’ll call the spoon guillotine. Each spoon held one oyster, in its shell. I think I’ve made my spoon position clear. And when you can’t even eat off it, it’s double stupid.
All week, I’ve struggled with how to describe the decor. Everything is brown, the ceiling feels low, the other customers all have the kind of nose jobs they did when they first invented nose jobs. The kind with the ski slope and the pointy little tip. Downstairs, it gets weirder. One section looks like a corporate dining room, with graphic, manly wall-to-wall carpeting and leather upholstered tables. I’m glad I don’t have to wear a suit. When I mentioned Grayz at the Voice staff meeting this week, a few of my colleagues thought I was talking about a new Gray’s Papaya.