Restaurant Review: Gobo

1426 3rd Avenue
(at 81st Street)
Upper East Side, Manhattan

401 6th Avenue
(between Waverly Place and 8th Street)
Greenwich Village, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

Gobo achieves a very inviting feel with their restaurant; well-spaced tables in a calming, sleekly furnished dining room gave it a great atmosphere during our recent visit. Curtains created a subtle division from the street (to which the dining room was open), and natural decoration like a beautiful slab of driftwood adorned the walls. Everything blended wonderfully, giving an understated elegance to the venue.

The staff also impressed us. Our server was energetic, engaging, and seemed genuinely excited to provide suggestions and to hear our feedback.

Adding to both the excitement and the elegance of the evening, we were joined by vegi-friend Mary Beth (who arrived with a pre-announced bias;  Gobo is among her favorite NYC restaurants). Her presence gave us a great opportunity to sample a nice selection from the menu (which is vaguely Pan-Asian, though the fit into that category of cuisine is not a perfect one). The restaurant also markets itself as “Food for the Five Senses,” a confusing slogan that gave us a night’s worth of amusing speculation.

To begin, we explored a variety of their drinks. The original gingerale was sweet and subtle. The sake-jito had an herb-infused, mojito-like freshness. A riesling met with the approval of our guest reviewer… All in all, a great start to the meal.

Getting into the food, we ordered two items for the “Quick Bites” (aka appetizers). The crispy spinach cheese wontons were delicious; the smooth consistency of the cheese contrasted perfectly with the crisp spinach-based shell. The scallion pancakes were also nicely done; the deep-fried savory deliciousness of the pancake was topped by a sweet mango salsa.

From the “Small Plates” section of the menu (which are actually full entrées, but served in negligibly smaller portions than “Large Plates”), the avocado tartare did not quite live up to the sophistication of its name, bearing greater resemblance to a taco salad without a shell. A wasabi lime dressing gave it a bit of heat, and a side of tortilla-style chips helped to further support its semblance to guacamole rather than a tartare.

However, a braised tofu served over Asian kale surprised us. The rich, thick black bean sauce was so delicious, we would have ordered shots of the marinade alone.

From the “Large Plates”, the grilled king oyster mushrooms were delicious, cooked with asparagus in a thin black bean sauce. Fresh lilies hid among the mushrooms (having lost any floral appearance in the cooking process), adding a surprisingly tangy, onion-like flavor to the dish.

The sizzling seitan medallions were more conventional (resembling a vegetarian General Tso’s chicken). The mild citrus sauce could have used a bit more spice to bring greater depth to the dish.

Moving on to desserts, the chocolate cake was simple, rich, and very satisfying. The mango pudding was also tasty, though decidedly lighter and less decadent. The strawberry cheesecake was an unfortunate miss; the tofu-base gave the cake a fishy taste, rendering it regrettably inedible. To accompany the desserts, both the cremant rose and the port wine were wisely recommended by our server.

Despite the few misses, the food was really enjoyable overall (we found them considerably better than their competitive peers in the city:  Zen Palate). That said, at $73 each, Gobo isn’t the cheaper option (even when factoring in our extra drinks).

However, with a restaurant that is never known to be crowded, a kitchen that is able to offer some nice surprises, and a pleasantly decorated dining room, Gobo can offer a great experience to both the vegetarian and (as Mary Beth can attest) the omnivore alike.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (2.5/4)

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