Since 1985, Alfred Portale has been a constant in the kitchen at Gotham Bar and Grill, maintaining the restaurant through all those years with what New York’s Adam Platt calls a “comforting, old-fashioned stability.” No longer. As of a few weeks ago, Portale is no longer with the restaurant, where he remains a partner, amidst what the New York Times reports is an ongoing change in direction. In Portale’s place, Victoria Blamey has been named the restaurant’s executive chef. As for her predecessor, he’s not out of the game: He plans to open his eponymous restaurant, Portale, this fall.
Blamey is a talented chef, and Gotham will give her a bigger platform and larger venue for more people to try her food. She got on more people’s radar when she reopened Chumley’s, where she worked until 2017 and earned praise from the Times’ Pete Wells, who called her burger “an erotic poem on the theme of fat,” and Esquire, which named the restaurant one of 2017’s best. She also worked at Paul Liebrandt’s cerebral Corton, before it closed, and Il Buco Alimentari, where she was most recently the interim head chef for a period late last year. Also, she won’t serve fluke curdo — “I’m completely opposed to having it,” she told Grub — which is certainly not a bad sign. The restaurant will close for a short time in August, and Blamey tells the Times she’ll keep the steak and caviar but turn the menu into “a melting pot.”
It’s an interesting if unexpected move by the owners of Gotham, which is one of New York’s dining institutions and a place that, in 2009, Gael Greene called one of our most important restaurants of the last four decades. It’s also extravagant — in a 2011 review, the Times’ Sam Sifton wrote that its “very expensive, almost aggressively so” — and it’s also a place where people dress up for a proper dinner when, well, that’s been very out of fashion for a minute now. New Yorkers will see soon what exactly this change in direction means for the restaurant.