If you love steak, the names Smith & Wollensky and Quality Meats probably ring a bell…or make you hungry. Considered one of the steak institutions in Manhattan, Smith & Wollensky has been serving up dry aged steaks for almost 40 years. Quality Meats, offers a more rustic yet modern interpretation of the New York steakhouse featuring a sophisticated, innovative menu set against the accents of a typical butcher shop. These popular restaurants have gone on to become some of the Fourth Wall Restaurant Group’s most successful eateries. With General Assembly, the latest addition to the restaurant group’s portfolio, founder and veteran restaurateur Michael Stillman ventures outside familiar territory to offer a European-inspired dining experience featuring local seasonal ingredients.
Located in Gramercy, General Assembly caters to the business lunch crowds as well as the intimate dinner dates. With an ornate chandelier serving as the centerpiece for the spacious dining room, General Assembly’s décor draws inspiration from the elegant Parisian halls and European gardens of the Art Nouveau era.
The atmosphere sets the tone for a round of Clover Club veteran and head barman Bryan Schneider’s exquisite cocktails, including road to Jericho (vodka, pomegranate molasses, fig, and orange blossom served in a copper cup; $16). If you prefer beer, beverage manager Justin Randolph’s beer catalog offers 20 international beers including General Assembly Saison—a custom brew from Kelso Brewery featuring Andrew’s Honey and complex, malty notes—to complement the market driven menu. Wine lovers will enjoy an extensive selection of French and American wines made with Rhône varietal with 20 of them available by the glass.
With chef Craig Koketsu (Park Avenue and Quality Meats) at the helm, General Assembly’s menu uses a number of seasonal fruits as well freshly caught seafood to entice your senses. Begin your experience with the gazpacho featuring diced strawberries and piquillo peppers—a smooth and refreshing appetizer that will whet your palette. For something heartier, add on the gnocchi & Viking village scallops featuring a bacon beurre blanc sauce that provides a subtle buttery, smoked flavor. Although pasta is considered a filler, this dish is surprisingly light. Continue on the seafood kick with the yellowtail ($17), beautifully sliced and served with diced grapefruit and elderflower.
When it comes to the main course, the fact that the menu features Skuna Bay salmon is a reflection of how committed Fourth Group is to giving diners the best of the best. Known for its craft raised approach to farming salmon in glacial-fed waters off the coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Skuna Bay ensures ideal farming conditions matched with a small carbon footprint in providing crème de la crème salmon. General Assembly Diners will appreciate the preparation as well as the accessories—grilled ramp aioli and rhubarb chutney.
With the gnocchi appetizer, General Assembly demonstrates that its possible to offer classic pasta dishes with a twist. For the main course, consider putting this concept to the test with the cavatelli & Easter sausage ($23) featuring rabbit, caramelized fennel and cherry peppers.
Round up your main course with a side of corn crème brûlee ($10)—a Fourth Wall staple that has lived up to its reputation as an innovative side dish that brings together all the goodness of sweet corn and the beloved French custard dessert. Be prepared to battle with your dining companions to sample this dish.
Save a little room for dessert because a visit to General Assembly is incomplete without a decadent eclair. With several flavors to choose from, including coconut almond joy and coffee praline, everyone goes home happy.
For those of you familiar with the Fourth Wall restaurant group, General Assembly may be a departure from the steakhouses that have helped build the brand. Yet, the market-driven concept is refreshing especially given the movement toward using more organic and locally grown ingredients. Some diners might find the prices to be a bit high, but when you consider the fact that the ingredients are locally farmed it's a given that prices will reflect the quality being offered. With a versatile menu complemented by a creative beverage program and attentive service, it looks like General Assembly is making its mark while helping Fourth Wall successfully branch out and tackle other cuisines successfully.
360 Park Avenue South (at 26th Street)
New York, New York 10010