true grit: gjelina – a love letter


guest blogger: l.d.

restaurants are my boyfriends. we embark upon a whirlwind love affair; the first flush of the unfamiliar dishes that delight and surprise, honeymoon phase of frequent visits and declarations of eternal love, until inevitably the intoxication of the new fades and another fresher establishment captures my affections. however there is one place, the prototypical bad boy of dining establishments who remains trenchant and aloof, and although i know it just isn’t that into me, i just can’t quite keep myself away.

everything is difficult about this place. you can barely find it if not for the pseudo-bohemians that crowd its entrance, much like clubbers awaiting the leniency of a bouncer. an impromptu visit garners a bitchslap of a waiting time. the clientele seem to be poignantly selected to make you feel bad about yourself. they are better dressed, fitter and thinner than you, just accept it.

the lighting is dim, the brass walls cold to the touch, the clamor of other patrons making it hard to even hear. however with that rebelliousness comes a certain innate badassery that is lacking in most other aim-to-please establishments. this is the place that doesn’t give a shit if you want dressing on the side, victoria beckham, you’re going to eat it the way we make it.

even the name is hard to figure out at first- gjelina. i’ll bet you three of their butterscotch pot de la crèmes that you can’t find someone who can pronounce it right the first time.

although i was wary, i knew my bearded guest with a penchant for quality cocktails and french press coffee would appreciate the haughtiness that tends to ward off plebian gourmands. armed with the reassurance of a reservation, our gangly hipster host escorted us past the communal table where the artfully disheveled crowd nibbled on kale salads, to the cozy back patio. we cracked our knuckles and dove head first into brussel sprouts with caramelized onions and bacon, grilled pears with buratta and bacon vinaigrette, miyake mushroom toast with truffle oil, squash blossom and buratta pizza, and pillowy gnocchi with mushrooms.

the intriguing irony of gjelina is that as carefully crafted as the ambiance and ongoings may be, the food is beautifully, effortlessly simple. the fruits and the vegetables are so fresh, you’d think the chef personally picked each individual cherry tomato himself. dishes that play on the fine line of taste and texture, desserts that verge on caramel nirvana, light rose that washes everything down with the slightest of punches. it all lures me in, crawling back, needing more.

oh gjelina, i just can’t quit you.

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