In 2018, a 19-year-old Californian opened a tasting menu restaurant called Gem on the Lower East Side. You were locked into one of two nightly seatings for an aggressively vegetable-forward, 12-15-course tasting menu priced at $155. That was cool. It really was. Even back then, the chef, Flynn McGarry, made you feel like you were dining in the future, but also in his living room. He put hyper-seasonal vegetables on display without forsaking meat entirely, all in a flower- and art-bombed space that feels more like a fun hang than a restaurant.
But now, in 2021, you can experience all of that without committing to a tasting menu. The a la carte options change almost daily, depending on the farmer’s market, and each and every dish will blow you away. Some standouts from a recent meal included emerald green ramp tortellini in broth, lamb and oyster tartare with fried capers, and an entirely vegetarian schnitzel made with cabbage and maitake mushrooms.
While all of that was being consumed, the chef was sitting a table over, having dinner with friends, jumping up every few minutes to take a dessert order or help in the kitchen. We left the restaurant excited for vegetables, meat, and for what the future of dining out could look like.