Red Lantern, an Asian restaurant and bar on Stanhope Street. So, when I and a guest received an invite to check out one of Chef Long's newest endeavors, GEM Restaurant & Lounge, I was intrigued.
GEM, located downtown in the Jeweler’s District next to Sam La Grassa's sandwich shop, opened in March and is part of the Big Night Entertainment Group, which includes other restaurants such as Empire, Shrine, and more. GEM is self-described as a "fusion of gastro-lounge and ultra exclusive supper club." It is supposed to possess the ambiance of a "private dining supper club" and provide a "sophisticated take" on comfort food. To me, this creates certain expectations about the cuisine, that it will be above average in quality and execution.
The wine list is relatively small, with about 25 wines by the bottle and 15 by the glass. The least expensive bottle is $50, with 10 bottles over $100, and glasses generally run $11-$14, though you can also order a glass of Dom Perignon Champagne for $45.
Cocktails and martinis generally range from $12-$18. I tried the Province St. Smash ($12), a blend of Maker's Mark, ginger beer and peach bitters, and was impressed, especially as it was not overly sweet and had a balanced taste of vanilla, peach and ginger. It is a cocktail I would order again. I also had a Hurrikane ($12), made with 10 Cane Rum, Myer's Dark, orgeat, pineapple and orange. This will remind you of a Mai Tai, and tends to be a bit sweet and fruity.
The food menu is essentially plenty of comfort foods, with 10 Firsts (appetizers) priced $9-$18, 7 Mains priced $15-$31, 4 Sides priced $6-$8, and 3 Bar Bites priced $5-$6. There were also a few Specials on the evening I dined there. My dining companion has some food allergies and called the restaurant ahead to make them aware of it. When we arrived, the restaurant was quick to raise the issue, pointing out which dishes to avoid, while also noting that the chef could revise some of the dishes to avoid the allergy ingredients. They deserve kudos for their attentiveness to this significant issue.
I have mixed feelings about GEM, especially as it has been open long enough to have worked out its initial kinks. I feel the menu and some of the dishes need some work. For an "ultra exclusive supper club" with a "sophisticated take" on comfort food, I have certain expectations that the cuisine should be elevated above merely average. Plus, at their price points, you expect something special. A few of the dishes met this high standard, but others failed. If I desire high quality comfort food, I want something more unique, a reason to choose one restaurant over another. GEM has potential, but it has not yet realized its full potential.