Gotham (New York)

Dana and I met our freshman year of high school in Trigonometry with Mrs. * who, by all accounts, was certifiably insane. There was the time, for example, that Mrs. * threw a chair across the room or, more peculiarly, stormed out of the classroom in a fury, slamming the door eight times against the wall and splashing water-fountain water on her face.

Dana and I connected quickly; her father and my father were both dentists. She then took me on as a project, much like Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. At the time, I was wearing jean shorts and champion t-shirts. She introduced me to the mall, and the preppy world of Banana Republic and J. Crew.

That summer, she and I went for a 6 week program at the University of Michigan. Our Michigan summer is a blur, but we followed that up the next summer with 6 weeks at UCLA. The high school years were dotted with adventures in cars, Proms, class trips to Europe and Billy Joel appreciation. The summer after our first year in college (we went to different colleges), we discovered New York together.

Living at NYU (across from Washington Square Park), our summer was spent hiking along Madison Avenue, or exploring SoHo, waiting in the TKTS line and stalking Woody Allen and Harrison Ford (our celebrity heroes). Whether getting caught in rain storms or being blessed by Hassidic rabbis, Dana and I fell in love with New York that summer.

And then time and distance kept us apart. We saw each other two or three times, and then there was static. She went on to Cardozo Law as I continued at Emory Law. We really hadn’t spoken in what must have been 5 years when I heard from her a few weeks ago. We struck up an e-mail exchange and spoke on the phone for a few hours. We made a plan to meet today at Gotham for lunch since it’s across the street from her law school.

I got there, as I always do, way too early. I snapped a picture of the outside:

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I walked around the block a few times. It was during this walk that my love for the city resurfaced. In the course of one block, I saw a group of people petting an adorable dog, a homeless man coughing up a loogie, and two cab drivers having a fight. The first one said: “You are a piece of shit!” And the other one, perhaps not really thinking before speaking, retorted: “You are a piece of ass!”

Finally, I returned to Gotham and saw a familiar figure approaching with a red umbrella. Her fingers lifted and signaled hello. I ran to greet her.

“Well hello!” she sang.

“Hey!” I sang back. We hugged.

We walked inside all smiles. We decided not to check our coats.

The interior was asutere without being intimidating. Huge lamps covered with fabric hung from the ceiling. A mock statue of liberty stood in the corner.

“Roberts, party of two,” I said to the maitre’d.

“Very good, sir,” he said, “right this way.”

We followed him to our table; an elevated two-top by the bar.

I sat facing the door and Dana faced the back.

“So!” she said, “tell me everything!”

“Well, let’s see…”

We caught eachother up on eachother’s lives. Then the waitress approached. She had an icy quality with a hint of warmth, like one of those sports balms.

“Good afternoon,” she said, “Welcome to Gotham. There are two additions to our menu today. The soup is…”

We listened attentively.

“Would you like tap or bottled water?”

This always gets me. If they use the word “tap,” it’s like they’re judging you. “Do you drink from the tap like a dog, you filthy animal?”

“Tap is fine,” we said.

We examined the menu. A Prixe Fixe lunch was available for $25.

“That sounds good,” we decided.

The waitress returned. I ordered the soup, the duck and the cake. Dana ordered the salad, the duck and the cake.

“Thank you,” said the waitress.

A bread boy brought bread.

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“Mmmm,” said Dana, “this bread is good.”

We caught up some more. We even gossiped. And then our first courses arrived.

Here is Dana’s salad (fennel and apple with walnuts):

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Here is my soup (potato and leek puree with lemon oil, spinach and toast with goat cheese):

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We tasted each others. Mine turned out the winner. “Yours has more flavor,” said Dana.

The plates were taken away. More catching up was done. And then the entrees arrived.

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I think we were both surprised. I think we expected a duck breast; instead we got duck pasta.

“I was expecting something different,” said Dana.

“Ya,” said I.

We tasted and it tasted fine. Not spectacular.

We talked while chewing about things past, things present, and things future.

“I think you’re going to love New York,” said Dana, between bites.

“I’m excited,” I said, between chews.

We finished our entrees. They were taken away.

Finally, the waitress returned with dessert. Chocolate cake with tangerine sorbet.

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“Mmm,” said Dana before even tasting.

“Mmm,” I agreed.

We scarfed down some cake; Dana ordered tea, I ordered coffee. The waitress snapped a picture of the two of us:

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Finally the check came. The meal had come to an end.

“This was fun,” I said.

“Ya,” said Dana.

We made plans to hang out again Sunday. We left without paying the bill. Just kidding.

I walked Dana to the subway and continued back here to write up this review. Now I have to digest quickly and make room for our 6 pm dinner at Amma. Boy, this New York Spring Break dining adventure is hard work!

In any case, it was great to catch up with Dana. Sort of like a VHS tape that you stopped watching 5 years ago and popped back in again. Except now it’s a DVD. And its hair is straighter.

BONUS BATHROOM REVIEW

As part of my New York dining adventure, I will (if the opportunity presents itself) photograph and evaluate the bathrooms at New York’s finer dining institutions. Today, we evaluate the bathroom at Gotham:

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I think this bathroom was disappointing. The countertops were green marble, yes, but the overall feel was one of a museum. There was no pleasant smell; even the soap didn’t smell especially good. The faucet was too high and caused water to splash on me as I washed my hands. The towels were nicer paper, but not anything glorious. All in all, the Gotham bathroom was underwhelming.

Gotham Bathroom Grade: C