Restaurant Vets Take Refuge in Chill New East Side Eatery
This will have to go down as one of the worst months a major New York chef ever had: First Wayne Nish’s revamped menu at Varietal was unable to keep the place from shutting down its kitchen operations; now comes word that Nish’s long-running flagship, Nish (formerly March), has given up the ghost. A forwarded e-mail from the restaurant’s former wine director, Joe Scalice, says it all: “After so many years we have shuttered the doors of 405 East 58th Street; NISH (formerly March) is closed.” Scalice is now the GM at Solace, a new Italian restaurant in a refurbished townhouse at 406 East 64th Street. As for what happened, we will have to get that from the man himself. More as this story develops. Earlier: ‘Speedy’ Wayne Nish Remakes Varietal in One Week Flat
Wayne Nish, who already has a namesake venue with Nish, will now take over the kitchen at Varietal, too, replacing Ed Witt. Varietal owner Greg Hockenberry implied earlier that he’d fired Witt; Witt informs us that he left of his own accord — because the restaurant was going more “mainstream.” (Avant-garde dessert chef Jordan Kahn also quit, presumably under similar pressure. He declined to comment when we spoke with him.) Restaurant Girl, who broke news of the hire, reports that Nish will implement a $48 prix fixe menu — and serve as his own dessert maker. That sounds more mainstream to us, but the imaginative Nish no doubt has his own ambitions. Find out April 6, when he steps up to the plates. Varietal - Bruni Aftershocks [Restaurant Girl]
Bruni sympathetically reviews Nish, handing down two stars, but he seems less impressed than other critics (with the exception of Randall Lane). [NYT] Peter Meehan enjoys the tapas at Ostia, but suggests that the trend may have played itself out. [NYT] Alan Richman gives what may be the first totally negative write-up of Gramercy Tavern: Apparently the food is complicated and bland, the service undersupervised, and the room lacking in personality. A major blow to new chef Michael Anthony. [Bloomberg] Related: Everything Topsy-Turvy at Gramercy Tavern
Momofuku Ssäm Bar wins two stars (!) from Bruni and completes a success story that seemed pretty unlikely a few months ago, when the place was selling Asian burritos to a handful of customers. The review is also a watershed in the changing culture of restaurants: Formal is now officially out, casual now officially legit. [NYT] Related: The I Chang [NYM] Meanwhile, Randall Lane is a lone dissenter, calling out Ssäm Bar for its unevenness, lack of focus, and the steep prices of some of its main dishes. On the whole, though, he seems to have missed the point — David Chang's loose, unfettered approach to good cooking. [TONY] Steve Cuozzo joins in the chorus of approval greeting Wayne Nish’s transformation of the stuffy March into the swinging, fusion-y Nish. The message: Remain formal at your own peril. (See reviews of Dennis Foy and Gordon Ramsay.) [NYP] Related: Bedeviled [NYM]
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