Recession Dining at Gravitas

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As J.C. Reid so aptly pointed out in his recent post about culinary schadenfreude, recession dining is becoming increasingly popular.  And we "foodie recession profiteers" (my new favorite phrase; thanks, J.C.!) are reaping all the benefits.

One of the latest restaurants to introduce a reduced-price menu to attract diners is Gravitas.  While their normal menu isn't terribly expensive considering the quality of the ingredients and the talent in the kitchen -- executive chef Jason Gould and pastry chef Plinio Sandalio are some of the best in town -- the new pricing on some menu items makes Gravitas an ideal spot for a midweek dinner with friends or a weekday lunch to perk up a gloomy Monday, bringing in revenue for Gravitas on what would normally be slower days.

A "3-30 Lunch" at Gravitas invites diners to have a three course lunch in a time-saving thirty minutes for only $19, while the weekday blue plate specials such as chicken-fried steak and meatloaf are only $12, a decrease from the normal $14 to $15 price range.

I went to Gravitas last night with a group of friends to check out the most intriguing item -- the $35 five-course degustation menu -- firsthand.

The first course in the degustation was a tangy Bibb lettuce salad with thin strips of crispy bacon and heaps of creamy blue cheese.  It was instantly apparent that just because the degustation menu was cheap, the portion sizes weren't going to be.  The second course was a silky butternut squash soup served with a buttery sage biscuit that quieted the entire table as we ate.

The third and fourth courses -- seared red snapper over pureed celery root with a radish salad and a flat iron steak with salsa verde and smashed potatoes -- were large enough to have been meals in and of themselves.  The smashed potatoes tasted as if they'd been cooked down with all the butter and cream available from the dairy case and were simply divine.

The last course, one of Sandalio's creations that he calls "smoked brownies," were the proverbial icing on the cake.  Dark chocolate brownies with a sultry, smoky edge were enhanced by the spicy roasted peanuts and simply sweet vanilla ice cream served on the side.

The five-course menu, which is $7 per course when broken down into its individual components, exceeded our expectations.  Combined with a bottle of 2005 Belasco de Baquedano "Llama" malbec at $46 (a bit of a markup, but delicious nevertheless), it made a memorable meal for just about $50 per person.

Now to try one of the 3-30 lunches...

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