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Fr.og

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Breaking: Aix to Close, and Soon

We’re told by a source close to the restaurant that Aix Brasserie, Philip Kirsch's Upper West Side French restaurant, is closing after service on Sunday. Apparently, the costs and complexities of running the place have become too much for Kirsch to bear, particularly as he struggles to maintain FR.OG. The staff is to be told today.

FR.OG Had to Choose Between Death and Didier

Here’s what we know about the departure of Didier Virot from FR.OG. The fact that he’s gone and the restaurant is still there may just prove something we had heard and only half-believed: that the chef was in fact an employee and not a partner. A source tells us that that the restaurant had been struggling (not helped by its name, which every food writer with an Internet connection had sport with). Rather than just close shop — a real consideration, we’re told – owner Philip Kirsh let the chef, who made a very significant salary, go to his next job, a cushy gig at the Palm Court. Currently, the menu is being produced by the line cooks. Efforts to reach Virot haven’t been successful, but should he be up for talking about the endgame at FR.OG, we’ll let you know the score. Leaping From FR.OG [NYT]

Citywide Truffle Shortage; A New Eastside Fro-Yo Foe

A citywide truffle shortage can explain why “the Waverly Inn jacked up the price of its infamous truffle-topped mac & cheese from $55 to $85. The dish was an amusing punch line at $55; at $85, it's just obscene.” [NYP] Related: Le Cirque Bids High for Monster Truffle Bruni eschews all the courtesies one suffers at the dinner table, which he refers to as restaurantspeak: “Would I ‘enjoy coffee with dessert?’ I don’t know; it depends how good the coffee is. I’ll have some, yes, then we’ll see.” [NYT] FR.OG has now lost Jean Georges alum chef Didier Virot to the Plaza’s new restaurant-to-be, the Palm Court, set to open later this year. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]

P*ONG Found to Be Small and Uneven; Monkey Bar Gets Hammered

Frank Bruni appreciates Pichet Ong’s skill and creativity but finds his restaurant, P*ONG, in what will probably be a defining review, unequal to his talent: “Mr. Ong is an enterprising cook, but he doesn’t seem to be a seasoned restaurateur, and P*ong points out the difference.” [NYT] Similarly, Paul Adams grants that FR.OG chef Didier Virot has “has a virtuosic ability with flavors,” but was less than thrilled with the restaurant. That’s about in keeping with most other reviews the place has had, which call out a few dishes but give it an “eh” otherwise. [NYS] Randall Lane disliked the Monkey Bar so much that it’s amazing that he gave it two stars (out of six). “More often, though, the dishes were so unsuccessful that I had difficulty finishing them.” Eek. Not what you want to hear after a huge, expensive relaunch.[TONY]

Unzipping Our Flies at FR.OG

Philip Kirsh and Didier Virot probably fancied themselves the Mac to Balthazar’s PC when they opened up their new place FR.OG just a hop away from the grand ol' dame. Still, they knew that a slick design scheme and cutesy punctuation wouldn’t cut it: Had they gone up against the ’Zar without proper hardware — meaning, the restrooms — they would’ve been up shit’s creek. But we can assure you the bathrooms won’t be the reason if this place croaks.

Insieme Lauded (Except for Lasagne); Landmarc Squeaks By

The Times finds Provence beautiful, romantic, and well-intentioned, but barely worthy of a single star. A major disappointment for the Marc Meyer/Vicki Freeman team, who had been on a roll with Five Points and Cookshop. [NYT] In the Post, Steve Cuozzo — judiciously taking the long-term view as usual — makes the case that Amalia, FR.OG, and Insieme, “the best new Italian restaurant since L’Impero,” have overcome weak starts to become some of the city’s strongest places. [NYP] Paul Adams gives yet another admiring review to Insieme, though he found the much-praised lasagne underflavored and disappointing. His favorite dish: a chamomile farfalle. [NYS]

Chumley’s Will Be Back to Its Old Tricks in the West Village

Cobble Hill: Employees at the Key Foods deli counter apparently don’t give a damn if you want your Sausalito turkey sliced thin, or they don’t know how to recalibrate the machine. [Clean Plate Club via Brooklyn Record] East Village: Sex in the bathroom of Angels & Kings predicted to be less “grotty” than it was at CBGB's, further lessening the spot's rocker cred. [Gawker] Midtown West: The Japanese chain Go-Go Curry, which translates 5-5 Curry, will open at 273 West 38th Street on May 5, unless straining to create quirks that involve the number five delay opening. [NYS] Soho: Wash your hands and more next to your date in the FR.OG restrooms. [Restaurant Girl] Tribeca: A divorce is behind the name change of Sosa Borella to Estancia 460. [NYT] West Village: A former Bungalow 8 bouncer will open a Cuban social club in the former Salon space (with help from Giuseppe Cipriani) that’s supposed have a neighborhood feel. [Eater] Chumley’s plans to reopen June 1, after a partial wall collapse threatened to shutter the historical watering hole permanently. [NYT] Williamsburg: Bling Kong bandmates Liz “Shredder” Schroeter and Scott “Steakbomb” Gold will demonstrate their recipes featured in the rock-star cookbook at the Brooklyn Kitchen tonight. [Brooklyn Record]

Fette Sau and 15 East Get Strong Endorsements From the Experts

Peter Meehan gives a highly thought-out, admiring review (probably the most knowledgeable one so far) of Fette Sau, taking pain to mention the place’s few but significant shortcomings. [NYT] Related: Fette Sau’s Weird Williamsburg Barbecue Palace [Grub Street] Alan Richman, a person with highly developed opinions about sushi, thinks 15 East a great find: “If you have pricey seafood cravings without the wherewithal to finance them, I don't believe you can do better than 15 East,” he says. [Bloomberg] Frank Bruni inexplicably reviews Max Brenner: Chocolates by the Bald Man, a place that no one would ever expect to be good. Unsurprisingly, he hands them a bagel. [NYT] Related: Milking It [NYM]

New Hope for the Moondance Diner

Well-heeled fans of the soon-to-be-closed Moondance Diner consider jacking the place up and moving it somewhere else. [NYT] Related: Well, It's a Marvelous Night for Luxury Condos [Daily Intel] Rachael Ray seizes control of her own E! True Hollywood Story. [Buffalo News] The only difference between the Rao’s in New York and the Rao’s in Las Vegas: The latter has a terrace overlooking the Caesar’s Palace hotel pool. And you can actually eat at the Vegas location. [NYS]

FR.OG Finds the French Influence Everywhere

Sure, France is a minor power now, but from Saigon to Casablanca, it once held sway over a broad swath of the globe, and it still lives on in much of the world’s cooking. That’s the key to understanding FR.OG, whose opening Rob and Robin announced this week. Co-owner and chef Didier Virot sees the French soul in Vietnamese, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern cookery, and so his menu, which we now release to the world, is a study in unforced fusion: foie gras with ginger crust and mango coulis, a classical roast chicken served alongside green papaya salad, a braised lamb shank served with roasted duck breast. Add to that an equally eclectic cocktail program and a location on a very fashionable corner of Soho and FR.OG seems bound to succeed — even to diners without a sense of history. Restaurant Openings: FR.OG, Suba, Móle, and Paradou Marché. [NYM] FR.OG Menu

Nature Bursts From the Pages of This Week’s Issue

In this week’s issue, as befits spring, nature is bursting out of our food coverage. Snails and sea urchins take supporting roles in Adam Platt’s review of the highly rarefied Anthos; Gael Greene flutters into a restaurant called Tree; Rob and Robin talk tomatoes, spring almonds, and even more snails; and, in the spirit of growth, our food editors lay out two Short Lists of places where you can introduce young, growing gourmands to their future lifetime pursuit. Plus, four new restaurant bloom in the April sunshine, all in New York this week.

Late-Night LES Kimchee Cart Accepting Applications

Bedford-Stuyvesant: In addition to Belgian waffles and couches for weary churchgoers, Common Grounds café will now offer homemade ice cream! [Brooklyn Record] Brooklyn Heights: Moxie Spot, planned for 81 Atlantic Avenue, wants a liquor license, says they’ll be family-friendly. [Brooklyn Heights Blog] Carroll Gardens: The new farmers' market won’t launch until July 8. Meanwhile, they’ve hit the ground running in Union Square. [Brooklyn Record] Clinton Hill: Cadmen Congregational Church will host a Good Friday fish fry fund-raiser — plates will go for a miraculous $7. [Clinton Hill Blog] Lower East Side: Unless you’re willing to run it (seriously), the late-night kimchee cart may become a thing of the past. [Gridskipper] Midwood: DiFara reopens today. Dom DeMarco: 1; rat excreta: 0. [Slice] Soho: Balthazar challenger FR.OG, set to open on Spring Street Friday the 13th, brings mild ethnic slur to the fight. [Gawker] West Village: Department of Health nabs Kobma Thai; neighborhood resident unfazed. [Eater] The battle to rename part of Greenwich Avenue “Little Britain” rests with a man named Rupert. [Englishman in New York]