A few weeks ago, Justin and I had looked for tickets to see Bleachers, a new favorite band, and could only find them playing at one of those radio station group performances. So we grabbed the tickets to 102.7’s Fresh Fall Fest, which was also hosting Ingrid Michaelson, Neon Trees, Matt Nathanson, and Nico & Vinz. I was vaguely interested in those other artists, except Nico & Vinz; their song “Am I Wrong,” irritates me to no end. As Justin and I started considering our dinner options, we decided, “let’s do something a little cheaper, this time.” But as we browsed our yelp lists and realized the never-ending list of upscale places to check out, we couldn’t resist Gato, Bobby Flay’s restaurant on Lafayette right above Houston street.
We had 5:30 reservations. I took the x1 express bus into the city and got to the restaurant first, at 4:56. I walked in, excited to get a drink at the bar and take a look around while waiting for Justin, but instead encountered an awkward and somewhat annoying exchange. While the door was open, two girls stood at the front desk, and the bar was full of people drinking, I was told that the restaurant wasn’t opened yet. I looked around, confused by the other people who were already being served, but said, “Ok do you mind if I just stand here and wait for my date?” The hostess responded – granted as apologetically as possible – that she was sorry, but I couldn’t and it was a mistake that the door was unlocked so early. She told me I could get a drink at a bar down the block. As I stood there, perplexed, the other hostess complimented my scarf. I felt really weird, and went outside. I know that the people already inside must have been part of a private party or something, but that was not explained to me; the whole thing made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I stood and waited for Justin, who showed up about 10 minutes later. I jumped in his truck to help him find parking, which took some time, and we walked back to the restaurant. By this time, it was 5:30, and the doors were still locked. I was annoyed to now find that, even though I had been here 30 minutes earlier, I had to wait at the end of a long line of customers. The hostesses, visible from the line outside, chatted and looked very not busy, until opening the doors at 5:34. Nothing pisses me off more than people disrespecting my time. I hate when a doctor’s office overbooks and makes you wait, and I hate when a store or restaurant opens its doors even just a few minutes late, while people are waiting outside. It would have made all the difference, to me, if they had let people in a minute or two before 5:30, just to show some respect to their customers’ time.
Needless to say, this started my meal off with a bad taste in my mouth. By the time we were seated it was about 5:45. I did very much like the decor of the restaurant: modern rustic with some Spanish influences. The high vaulted ceilings with exposed brick were beautiful, the tiled floors were great, and the light fixtures were also a nice touch.
To start, we ordered cocktails: Justin’s Morgan, on the left, and my Angelo on the right.
For our meal, we basically took all of the waiter’s suggestions, as they happened to be the menu items that stood out to us already. As appetizers, we did the roasted octopus and the crab risotto.
The octopus was good, but not the kind of good I had expected after the flowery and extensive description from the waiter. I thought this octopus was going to be carried out on the wings of a unicorn, but instead it came out on a standard plate, tasting a lot like every other roasted or charred octopus I’ve had before: delicious, yes, but certainly not magical.
We switched over to wine for our entrees – we are creatures of habit – and went with the $75 bottle of Rioja.
For entrees, I did the kale and wild mushroom paella, Justin did the charred beef, and we went with the roasted cauliflower side.
The paella was, hands down, the highlight of the meal – agreed upon by both Justin and myself. It was superbly salty and satisfying. The rice was somehow crunchy with the softness of the egg. As an avid meat eater, I did not miss the meat. If you go here, this is a must have.
As the restaurant filled up, we noticed a definite slow down and sacrifice in service, which I guess is only understandable. Our waiter did the best he possibly could, and the busboys kept our waters full, our napkins folded when we used the restroom, and our table clear. By dessert, we had to wait quite a while for our waiter to give us his rundown and decided on the chocolate crema catalana and the walnut brown butter cake, which also came out with a plate of complimentary biscottis.
The chocolate dessert resembled a creme brûlée, and was good, but nothing really special. The brown butter cake was very good, the honey on the side giving it a little something extra to stand out, that was our favorite. The biscottis and espresso were good and basic.
While the dinner service was very good, and the meal was good with a few stand out dishes, my first impression of Gato was negative. I toyed with the idea of a four star rating, but the experience as a whole could only warrant three. So Gato received an official Baconboozer rating of three stars: good food, good service, poor reception. I strongly suggest that the restaurant open its doors to customers earlier than four minutes after the reservations begin. I think it is a wise idea, instead, to open an hour or at least 30 minutes before reservations begin. Am I the only person on earth who likes getting a drink and checking out the scene while waiting to meet friends?
Following dinner, we grabbed a cab to the Beacon Theater (I love this venue), a nice cold bud light each, and found our seats, which happened to be the absolute last corner seat in the building. Despite being the farthest possible, though, the theater is designed to give even us nosebleeds a great view and experience. We made it just in time, unfortunately, to catch Nico & Vinz. I guess their performance was good if you like their music, but I cringed the majority of the time… Their bouncing around and waving of arms made me a little nauseous.
Next came out Matt Nathanson, whose only song I had ever heard was Headphones. I liked him a lot more than I expected. Quite a funny personality and some pretty cool music.
Next was Bleachers, our main reason for buying these tickets.
They were awesome, with a great cover of the Cranberries’ Dreams and of course playing their hit, I Wanna Get Better, along with some other great songs from their album, Strange Desire. Best part of the show, no question.
Ingrid Michaelson came out next. She was ok, except for forgetting the words to Winter Song, the only song I was really excited to hear. So that kind of put a damper on things.
And last was Neon Trees. I liked this band before they got too big, liking their songs 1983 and Animal. But I don’t know why, I just didn’t love their performance. They sounded great, but the lead singer, Tyler Glenn, was just a little too over the top, writhing on his back on stage in leather pants. Just not my thing.
Despite my sometimes negative opinion on things, I thought it was a great show. It’s nice to be able to see a handful of performers all at once, and the Beacon is a beautiful and historical place to do so.