Executive Chef and Owner Jesse Schenker Strikes Gold Again
After reading many rave reviews, I really looked forward to dining at The Gander. I am happy to add one more fantastic review to the ever-growing amount of positive attention this new restaurant has earned.
Prior to dining here, I did research on what to order. I love reading different reviews to hear what people feel are the stand out dishes of a restaurant. I was eating with Ingrid and although we are hungry gals, we can only order so many different dishes between us. I knew we had to at least get the Brisket Tots and Duck Tubetti. Based on what she wanted, any specials and our server recommendations, we rounded out the rest of the meal.
I was really impressed with the Gander's cocktail list. The Gander Smash immediately caught my eye and kept my attention for two rounds. It is a seasonally-inspired cocktail made with Fresh Summer Peaches (perfectly ripe and juicy), mint, lemon, peach bitters, and your choice of Vodka or White Rye Whiskey. I went with the White Whiskey - it added more complexity to the drink than vodka which is a much more neutral spirit.
Ingrid got this cocktail too and LOVED it. She ordered the Creole Old Fashioned as her second cocktail (didn't snap a photo - sad face). This was made with Bourbon, Fresh Cherries, Brown Sugar Simple Syrup, Angostura Bitters and Peychaud's Bitters.
While I was snapping a photo of the cocktail, the Manager and Sommelier (Jordan Lari) came over. We spoke briefly about food photography (still getting the hang of it!) and I mentioned that I love sharing my thoughts on my experiences with restaurants, bars and cultural events on my blog. I love when managers take the time to engage with diners - it really does add a personal touch to the experience and makes it more than just about eating. It is an experience - right?
The Gander's signature bread is DELICIOUS. You just want to keep eating rolls (which they happily refresh on your table). This warm and flaky rolls of buttery goodness are dangerous though. Enjoy one or two and then leave room for all the yummy food you ordered! Failing to plan your meal if planning to fail....or something like that :)
As appetizers, we ordered French Fries with Beef Aioli and the Brisket Tots. You may be thinking...I know what French Fries are but what the #$%! is Beef Aioli? I'm so glad you asked! It is mayo raised to the millionth power. Do you know the taste of a hearty beef broth or au jus with a French Dip? Think of all that delicious beefy flavor combined with the power of mayo. It is absolute heaven when used as a dipping sauce for perfectly crisp and salted French Fries. I could have eaten a pile of them.
The Brisket Tots were SO YUMMY! There was clearly a beefy theme tying the two appetizer selections together. The tots are served with thinly sliced potato and and whipped mustard sauce. I highly recommend both of these selections!
Just as we were finishing up these two plates, our server brought over two more. We were confused. Surely he must have mixed up the table! We didn't order anything that looked like what was placed on the table. He kindly corrected us and told us the manager sent them over for us to enjoy. Talk about awesome customer service! I couldn't wait to dig in to what he brought us - I love presents!
The first dish was a play on a Caesar salad. Crispy Calamari sat on top of a bed of romaine lettuce with snap peas, grapes, cashews and a light tossing of Ranch dressing. The combination of grapes, cashews and calamari may leave you wondering how it tasted...it was fantastic! The contrast of flavors and textures complemented each other and was a wonderful surprise!
The other dish was one of the Gander's signature dishes: Sea Trout Tartare with Crispy Trout Skin (check out this YouTube video of Chef Jesse making it!). The Gander is all about reintroducing you to classic dishes you love with a twist. This dish has all the typical components of Beef Tartare but so much more. I loved the Crispy Trout Skin as a delivery vehicle. The contrast of the crispy skin against the velvety texture of the sea trout was divine. Don't be intimidated by this dish - give it a try!
After enjoying these unexpected and delicious dishes, we had our final pasta course! The Tubetti was topped with Duck Confit, Duck Yolk, Citrus and Black Pepper. It was a play on traditional spaghetti carbonara. Once it was all mixed together, the egg yolk serves as a sauce that connects all the ingredients. It adds an unctuousness and incredible mouth feel to each bite. I preferred this pasta to the Gnocchetti Sardi served with Taleggio, Mushrooms, Green Garlic, and Parmesan. While it was also quite tasty, the creaminess of the Tubetti could not be matched :)