By Anne Raso
Gaby Brasserie Française at Sofitel New York will hold a special place in your heart the moment you set foot in it because it perfectly blends classic French with modern American in both its food and decor! Look around, and you will see classic Toulouse Lautrec-style illustrations etched into glass panels and some equally unique French-inspired portrait art on the ceilings.
Gaby’s dark wood bar could easily be from a bistro near the Champs Elysee! But make no mistake about it—you can get classic French dishes like Duck L’Orange done right here just as well as Modern American classics like a fabulous grass-fed 14-ounce Strip Steak or 16-ounce Rib Eye. The Sofitel staff strives for excellence in both its décor and service, so after your meal, take in the special touches in the lobby like old Louis Vuitton trunks stacked up by the check-in desk and a gallery of photographs related to Broadway stars. (A Tony party is even thrown here each year!)
New York Lifestyles asked Executive Chef Robert Hohmann if Gaby is trying to be a lounge as much as a restaurant as it has an energetic after-work bar crowd. The chef, who cut his teeth at NYC’s Roosevelt and Warwick hotels, replied, “Gaby has a little something for everyone—whether it’s for business, pre-theater, a romantic celebration, or simply dinner with the family, the restaurant is the perfect neighborhood brasserie. Named for the free-spirited French model who took Manhattan by storm in the 1920s, it’s the inspiration behind the newly rebranded bar and lounge, Mademoiselle Gaby. Here you can sample our new bar menu featuring crab beignets and mini duck burgers alongside a fabulous craft cocktail.”
Naturally, we couldn’t resist asking what his thoughts are of the distinct Sofitel French touches apparent in Gaby’s food, service, and ambiance. The kitchen maestro states, “Sofitel New York emanates French soul with a New York City edge. The Art Deco atmosphere of the brasserie and bar are personified through the story of Gaby. From French greetings and cousu main (tailor-made) service to French press coffee and freshly baked pastries, a bit of France is felt throughout every visit.”
KING OF THE KITCHEN
Chef Robert has a strong hand in selecting every ingredient that goes into his elegant dishes as well as designing menu options with the powers-that-be at Sofitel’s parent company Accor (which also owns Fairmont properties including The Plaza). He tells New York Lifestyles, “I am inspired by fresh, high-quality ingredients with a focus on those that are local, organic and sustainable, and I am intentional about incorporating them into the menu at Gaby. We try to source fish, meats, and produce locally and use organic products whenever possible.”
PRESIDENTS, YANKEES & GIANTS
As mentioned, the affable chef’s background is very solid in the upscale hotel/restaurant biz, and he is proud of the celebrity clientele that has come through Gaby’s doors. “My culinary career began when I was 10 years old, washing dishes. It was there that I fell in love with the fast-paced environment of the kitchen. I ultimately worked my way up in restaurants and attended culinary school and started my own catering company before making the switch to working in hotels. I’ve been a chef with Sofitel New York since 2017. I am extremely proud and humbled to have had the opportunity to cook for the last four U.S. presidents and several New York sports teams, including the Yankees, Jets, and Giants.”
Dining at Gaby is as much an emotional experience as a taste treat. That’s because so much of the food brings back childhood or romantic memories for those who have feasted on French classics like onion soup, Beef Bourguignon, Tuna Niçoise, Scallops Provençale, Crème Brulee and Pot De Crème. The Beef Bourguignon arguably has the most tender chunks of beef you will ever come across and it is served over artfully displayed baby carrots and buttery mashed potatoes. The Duck Breast a L’Orange seems to be a favorite, and the Yelp reviews tell you all you need to know—reviewers have called it “a slice of culinary heaven,” especially when done medium-rare. Salmon served with Lentils De Puy is a favorite with the health-oriented crowd and is one of the dishes that Chef Robert is most proud of. We recently visited Gaby to taste some of these dishes as well as the 14-ounce Strip Steak, which is served on the bone with a heavenly house-made Bordelaise Sauce. To say that the meat melted in our mouth is an understatement. This Strip Steak might be your “go to” entree anytime you are in the Theater District. (There is a price fixe with theatergoers in mind that includes three courses for $39.)
SPRING AHEAD WITH FRESH OFFERINGS
Chef Robert also told us there are some special additions to the menu for spring: “Gaby will continue to enhance the guest experience with new French offerings, including Le Goûter, our take on afternoon tea, and L’Apéro Chic, a daily happy hour featuring complimentary canapés with a cocktail or wine order at Mademoiselle Gaby.”
The NYL team might just be heading back to give Le Goûter a go as the thought of the French pastries that will be served have us daydreaming already. And you know the tea will be great, as (believe it or not) some of them are created in the Gaby kitchen. The mint tea is already a dessert time favorite because of its remarkably fresh flavor from the organic leaves having been ground up and dried in-house just recently. When it comes to making your first foray into Gaby’s oversized-glass doors to dine, be very open-minded. And, of course, ask your knowledgeable server for recommendations. Trust us that you won’t go wrong, no matter what you order!
For more information on Gaby Brasserie Française (44 West 45th Street), visit gabynyrestaurant.com. Reservations are recommended but not necessary.