53rd street in Hell’s Kitchen is a street I’m well familiar with. I used to walk by Kiran, an Indian restaurant formerly at the same space as Gloria like a Hassid in East Village. Face covered so the super nice owner wouldnt see me walking by. I didnt want to break his heart after years of loyalty while I was cheating with another Indian on 9th. After Kiran it was another love hate relationship, CoBa 53. They opened, they closed (thanks Health Dept, and Obama!), they reopened but could never find their groove. The biggest, weirdest gripe I had with them was that this was the one place where tablecloths just seemed out of place.
So when I heard Pescatarian Gloria opening in that spot, I needed to see it and taste it to believe it. Instead of the usual Walk of Shame or avoiding that corner of 53rd entirely, I actually coudnt wait to see what they’ve done with the space. Nifty light fixtures replaced with niftier ones, and the tablecloths are GONE. The irony is that after all the space anticipation I forgot to take a picture of it. Multiple shots of every dish (Our neighbors who flat out stole our corn bread thought we are some sick food paparazzi) but nothing of the space.
I often start posts like this one with a Jambalaya of irrelevant junk, before giving a place the proper praise it deserves. So before I lose any more reader, I can honestly say that this was one of those meals. A solid 3 star! The most refreshing thing to open in Hell’s Kitchen since The Marshal introduced us to American food (we have every Thai and Mexican imaginable, but good luck finding good ribs). Some call Gloria a mini Contra as thats the place most associated with it (GM formerly with Contra). But its more like a mini Le Bernardin.
Corn Bread – Nothing wrong with this bread course. Except for the fact that we got it fairly late in the game after they initially delivered ours to the next table.
Black Bass Tartare – Pretty to look at, and one of the dishes to get. Just wonderful flavor with the watermelon radish adding nice brightness.
Jonah Crab – Simple, yet outstanding! The sweet as lobster crab mixed with strips of Kohlrabi (like a cross between Turnip and Daikon) and aided by a thin eggy Sabayon. Ok, maybe not that simple.
Octopus – Yet more delicious awesomeness. Perfectly cooked Octopus slices sitting on a bed of cabbage and black rice, delivering one heck of a nasty bite. Its rare to see a place deliver so many probable menu staples so early in the game
Shrimp – If I may briefly pause the party for just a sec. I think this is the only one I would skip next time, which is more of a testament to the rest of the lineup. Nothing wrong with the shrimp and their Gulf funkiness, but nothing new flavor wise with the Cortez sauce. And the Hominy made my brain expect Peruvian corn like texture but that snap was sorely missing.
Skate Wing – This is it. The one, the Neo, the dish to get. There’s nothing better in the seafood universal than Skate Wing simply seared with butter with a sprinkle of magic dust.
Panna Cotta – Meh! But no point deductions here
401 West 53rd (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Skate Wing, Octopus, Tartare, Crab