Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shades of Grayz

Grayz, the peculiar high-end restaurant on E. 54th Street run by celeb chef Gray Kuntz, is selling itself as a kind of non-stop, swanky cocktail party. So, of course, I had to go. Indeed, there isn't much food to speak of. A dozen small plates of fancy finger food and three entree-size offerings. The focus is the cocktail and wine lists.

The first page lists Grayz' "signature" cocktails and, to be frank, the descriptions of many of them made me feel a bit queasy. The Irish Day, for instance, is made of Jameson's Irish whiskey, pomegranate molasses, apple and lemon juice, cracked pepper. Sounds like a liquified spicy baked apple. And the Loretto is composed of Maker's Mark, Nieport 1986 colheita port, bliss maple syrup and (urp) bourbon-roasted pineapple. What's with all the fruit and tree sap?

I zeroed in on the drink that seemed most appealing, the Agave Agave. Herradura Silver, St. Germain elderflower syrup, agave, lime, mint. No surprise: it turned out to be Grayz' most popular cocktail. The concoction proved refreshing, piquant and light. It was served in a Martini glass and the lime slice floated on top. Just right for the Indian Summer New York is suffering through right now. From there I went on to the second-most-bouyant-sounding drink, the Tornja, made of Mac de Oro Cachaca, grapefruit marmalade and syrup, orange bitters, and lemon juice. This was served in a rocks glass with a huge wedge of orange stuck to the side, like the flag on a mailbox. I approved of this drink as well. Bracing, tart and sweet. Both drinks were $12.

The help was quite obliging and seemed rather nervous; the place has only been open a couple weeks and has been the focus of much snarky press. The bartender said their version of a Rockefeller Manhattan was also popular, but since it had a base of bourbon, I wasn't too keen. In fact, no rye-based drinks were featured, though they had (one) rye in stock, and there were too many vodka drinks for my taste.

My friend has two Cucumber Gimlets, which he enjoyed throughly. Made of Bulldog Gin, Cucumber, lime juice and simple syrup, it seemed to me to be a rip-off of the Cucumber Collins that Hedrick's rep Charlotte Voisey has been mixing up lately, just with lime in the place of lemon juice. But the use of lime instead of lemon really made a different, tipping it over to the far side of tartness. A drink in its own right, if essentially a riff.

Place has potential. I'll be back


Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,

I noticed that you refer to St-Germain as an elderflower syrup but it is actually a liqueur.

Robert Simonson said...

Good point. Actually, that's Grayz' wording, not mine. I took it verbatim from their cocktail menu. But I know they were using St. Germain.

Anonymous said...

It is probably both ingredients...St-Germain and elderflower syrup. Most likely just missing a comma on the menu.