I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar
I get the feeling I may not want to show my face around Vancouver if I offer a negative or even mildly critical evaluation of Gotham Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar, a title which leads very little to the imagination. Even before I made the reservation, friends had cautioned me to such an extent, I felt I should park well enough away and approach the restaurant flanked by anonymous bystanders. Perhaps I should’ve laced Kevlar through my jacket just in case little Suzee’s head doesn’t adequately absorb the energy of a .44 Magnum hydra-shock hollow point fired from a passing Bentley.
What I’m saying is that Gotham Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar—boy, that’s a mouthful—carries a certain reputation, a swagger if you will, like Big Pussy Bonpensiero; will you be greeted like family or pummeled into gravy from repeated blows from a Louisville slugger? This reputation stems from a 2008 gang shooting where criminals killed other criminals as they were about to enter the restaurant. I mention this bluntly though it was in no way Gotham’s fault. I’d perhaps lay credence if shootings were habitual of the location, but if you take restaurant themes into account, you’d have to avoid every Asian restaurant before vetoing the steakhouses. What I found more interesting was that during the 2008 assassination, one of the other patrons was none other than Keanu Reeves, probably enjoying an overpriced fillet mignon and wondering if a spiteful movie aficionado was finally exacting revenge forChain Reaction.
Taken as a statistic, the shooting at Gotham Steakhouse and Cocktail—that’s just too long and it’s getting annoying, I’m just going to call it GothCock. GothCock wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last in Vancouver, proudly claiming six restaurant shootings in the past five years. This isn’t a critical observation of Vancouver restaurants, and given the number bistros, cafes, diners, eateries, and pubs in the downtown region alone, you’d have better chance contracting thyroid cancer from a misfired Russian kill-satellite then getting caught in one of these shootings. On top of that, what are the chances of it happening twice at the same location? If I felt that shootings were a determent to patronage, no one would be eating at our local Moxis.
No, my ridicule of GothCock is that it actually LOOKS like a restaurant from Goodfellas. I expected the ceiling to pull away, followed by a thick-browed director acting like a ferret on a double-espresso dropped via crane to correct me on my posture during the shot. I spotted at least three Pesci-like patrons digging into a steak like it contain heroine.
An ominous descent into the lower levels led me to the bathrooms, flanked by closed buffet rooms where private gatherings operated well away from the other patrons. GothCock wants to be THAT kind of restaurant, but not for disrespectful modern gangsters, heavens no. Not even for the 1990’s sweat-suit wearing Soprano’s generation. No, GothCock was built for the era of fedoras and white cocktail dresses, outside of the post depression era and into the optimistic and pre-free-love age of the 1950s, an era I would love to visit but hate to be stuck in.
At some point, I should mention the food, but GothCock doesn’t seem to care about it, so why should I? Outside of the impressive décor, GothCock mimics many of the motions you’d expect from a high-class grill, not unlike The Savoy in England. What they forgot was the food. I’d mentioned the steak at The Savoy as being the best in the history of carved meat, a title I was curious if GothCock would challenge. Did it succeed? Short answer, no, long answer… ummm…no.
Was it good? Of course it was good; GothCock knows how to make steak. And they knew how to present themselves as a high-class grill, including the white dinner jacket-wrapped piano player clacking away at his keys, the wine list a’la iPad, and the cocktail lounge where you could enjoy a meal while your table was being prepped. Yes, this place looks great, and on the surface would give the panache of Claridge’s a run for its money, but Claridge’s shifts from shaded and comfortable to bright and inviting as you pass from the lounge to the dining area. GothCock just remains dark. Where Claridge’s offered herb-encrusted bread sticks and truffle-oil cream cheese, GothCock offered a stainless steel bowl of cheese-flavored Goldfish.
One might argue I was finding fault for no good reason, but my negativity began when I saw the prices. GothCock was by a large margin the most expensive restaurant I enjoyed during my Vancouver trip, and I must stress my often stated opinion that price does not equal quality. I would praise the cost if I felt I was getting my money’s worth, if I felt the staff, cooking and waiting, were trying their best to earn every dime. Wait, I’m getting to the point, I promise. The meal opened up with a half a loaf of onion bread, which is a great complimentary starter, and one you should enjoy considering how much you’re going to get razed for the main. The fillet mignon arrived virtually orphaned on an oversized plate, a branch of parsley its sole companion, though isolated on the edge like a scolded child being punished for breaking a vase.
Any other side must be purchased; this included the small plate of potatoes I opted for. Without a side, that’s all you get, a lone steak on a white plate, and for that, they’ll charge you $50. That’s right, $50 bucks, not counting the 9$ plate of potatoes. Enjoy your god damned onion bread. For the blissfully ignorant, this is a method started in France and given a posh French name which was then embraced by restaurants wanting to squeeze every dime from their customers. It’s called à la carte, “according to the menu”, and the few times I’ve sat down at restaurants employing this, the prices were either low or the plates were occupied by more than just garnish and dreams. The Savoy Grill was à la carte, but I didn’t feel I was being fleeced, and counting for exchange, Savoy was cheaper. Even if they were on par, The Savoy steak was an F1 to GothCock’s Indy. To me, it feels like I’m paying for the prestige of GothCock and not its food, like they expect their reputation to be worth the weight of Apple stock.
I finished the meal with the sticky toffee pudding and found it blisteringly hot, so much so that I had to make a choice, eat it and pay the price in charred taste buds, or wait and simply drink the ice-cream melting faster than the polar caps. Later that evening, I enjoyed a better sticky toffee pudding at Earls. That’s a depressing revelation, especially since this dessert cost more than my lunch at Country Meadows.
So that was GothCock, proof that my desire for flamboyance has a cutoff. It’s a litmus test where a restaurant forgets why it exists in the first place. Eventually, they won’t serve food at all, they’ll only charge you 30 bucks to sit down, giving you just a certificate to prove you ate there. Yes the meal was good, yes the restaurant looked great, yes the service was without fault—they even picked up the crumbs from the bread. I can’t deny those facts, but I also have problems recommending it, not while they’re so many places that remember that they’re in the culinary business. I think I’d be swayed if GothCock had stripper poles or tight uniforms, or if you could put money on a horse race while you ate, but as of now, there are better investments.
OVERALL: 7.8 out of 10
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