It was spring, and as soon as New York City fully reopened, we ventured out on a culinary adventure to Gem NYC where Chef Flynn Mcgarry makes his healthy and in-season dishes. Gem seemed like the obvious choice because it represents so much of what we learned during the pandemic. As the world slowed down, so did we. Americans don’t agree on a lot of things, but we can all agree that the one activity that never stopped during the pandemic was eating, and living in New York City meant we ate well. Experimenting with new recipes at home, ordering take out and taking joy in outdoor dining helped us see that taking pleasure in food is not only nourishing for the body, but also the human spirit. We learned how to slow down and create a balance in our lives. Formerly known as the teen chef, Flynn Mcgarry is a big believer in a healthy work-life balance. If you spent any time around chefs you already know that is not the norm, but this chef would have it no other way. In fact, Flynn Mcgarry proves that age or how much time you spend on your craft has no bearing on talent or passion.
The business of summer is over and this is the perfect time to slow down again and try Gem. Inspired by harvest feasts, the prix fixe menu is composed of a 6-8 course dinner, showcasing autumn ingredients. Lunch is more casual and vegetarian. Ingredients are ever-changing. During our spring visit we chose our dishes from an a la carte menu. This allowed for exploration and our favorite dish was the chicken and rice stew with herbs and vadouvan. Flynn Mcgarry does unbelievable things with sauce and broth. We asked for his secret, but, of course, received no satisfactory answer.
Whether you choose lunch or dinner, eating at Gem feels like visiting a friend’s uber-stylish apartment. The interior is unassuming, cozy and instagrammable at the same time. No detail goes unnoticed. The open flow interior and visible kitchen makes eating at Gem a relaxing experience. There is something exciting about seeing the chef work because it creates anticipation and you feel a rapport with the staff. Above, asparagus with ramps, morels and fava beans offered the perfect balance of crunch and softness.
Other dishes we tried were smoked mussels with artichokes and green olives, and ended with steelhead trout with pickles and sprouting greens (in photo below). The earthy ingredients satisfied us without feeling like we overate. All the dishes proved that great care was placed on the importance of freshness and creative expression.
Whether you choose a laid-back solo lunch at Gem or invite friends to dinner, the experience is equally impressive. If you happen to be dating a foodie, this is the best place to show off your restaurant picking skills. We cannot wait what concept or menu ideas Chef Flyn Mcgarry comes up with next.
Some things to know before you visit. Gem falls under fine dining, expect to spend money. Don’t expect large portions, but anticipate interesting combinations of ingredients. Don’t expect a glamorous neighborhood. Gem is located in the artsy Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. For out of towners looking for an activity before or after their meal, we recommend visiting the nearby Tenement Museum.
Gem NYC, 116 Forsyth St (betw Broome/Delancey St)