Ask Platt: On Amateur Reviewers, Struggling Restaurants, and Flavor Fatigue
Our esteemed critic answers your questions. Plus, ask more!By Daniel Maurer
Our esteemed critic answers your questions. Plus, ask more!By Daniel Maurer
After just five months, Ed Witt is packing his knives.By Daniel Maurer
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
Bronx: Italian pastry shop Egidio has a history steeped in family feuds, politics, and adultery; now a cannoli-wielding former owner has opened up shop nearby. [Lost City] Chelsea: Varietal has closed its dining room, though wine’s still being served at the bar. [Restaurant Girl] Great Small Works performing-arts group will host a Spaghetti Dinner this Sunday evening on the roof of the 14th Street Y. Besides bowls of garlicky pasta, ticket holders can look forward to “puppet theater [and] New Orleans brass band music.” [Blog Chelsea] Greenpoint: The Original Soup Man (a.k.a. the Soup Nazi) joins other chains on Manhattan Avenue and shocks customers by charging $9 for some selections. [Gothamist] Hell's Kitchen: Alex Garcia’s new restaurant, Gaucho Steak Co., at 752 Tenth Avenue, is now open for lunch and offering delivery. [Grub Street] Soho: Savoy’s Clambake Dinners start July 6 and run through the end of the month. [Restaurant Girl]
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]
Bloomberg holds sway over our eating habits like no mayor before him. [NYT] Wayne Nish is out to save Varietal from its folly, including a “full-of-itself wine list [that] boasted obscure, uninspired vintages masquerading as hidden treasures,” and desserts that were “scary messes.” [NYT] Behold, the Starbucks master plan for growth — which may help to explain its aggressive anti-union strategy, which has roused the ire of the National Labor Relations Board. [Business Week]
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]
Eater reports that Ed Witt, Varietal’s head chef, is leaving. The restaurant’s critical reception has been less than absolutely stellar, with Adam Platt giving it two stars and Frank Bruni awarding it one (out of four). “I think it would be silly to say that [the reviews] didn’t play a part,” owner Greg Hockenberry tells us, confirming the departure. Was Witt fired? “We’ve been looking to make a change for a while.” Okay. What about Jordan Kahn, the postmodern dessert whiz Eater earlier claimed is on the way out? “We’ll be making an announcement about that, too,” Hockenberry says. Uh-oh. Best of luck to both of the chefs, then. EaterWire: Ed Witt Leaving Varietal [Eater] Related: Varietal’s ‘Meditation in Purple’: Need We Say More?
According to a revealing new profile by Heat author Bill Buford, Gordon Ramsay isn’t a bad guy, “but he does get angry, helplessly and uncontrollably angry — not an earthly anger but something darker — and has trouble knowing how to stop.” [NYer] State legislator proposes an A through F system of grading restaurant hygiene, but the Department of Health is against it. [amNY] A Staten Island pizzeria beats out a field of 65 from six countries to win the 23rd International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. It’s Denino’s, right? Joe and Pat’s? No. It’s Goodfella’s Brick Oven Pizza. [NYDN]
Chelsea: Varietal pastry chef Jordan Kahn, famous for his abstract desserts and now a slam from Frank Bruni, may resign. [Eater] Greenpoint: Unidentified soon-to-open restaurants spotted on both Greenpoint Avenue and Franklin Street. [Gowanus Lounge] Greenwich Village: Health-food mecca Gobo contributes to the rat-video craze. [NewYorkology] Lower East Side: Chickie Pig’s will open soon, but they may never have wine. [NYO] Midwood: DiFara hopes to reopen Saturday; stop in, if only to confirm that Dom DeMarco will be wearing a hat. [NewYorkology] Murray Hill: Wild Edibles now has a restaurant arm. [Gothamist]
Morandi gets absolutely slaughtered by Steve Cuozzo. Keith McNally has hardly received a bad review yet. [NYP] Meanwhile, Moira Hodgson loves the place: “You’ll want to taste everything on this menu.” She seems to have liked all of it, with the possible exception of an overpriced veal chop. Did these two even go to the same restaurant? [NYO] Bruni one-stars Varietal, calling the food creative but uneven and lambasting avant-garde dessert chef Jordan Kahn, who has enjoyed a lot of critical love. The desserts “don’t so much eschew convention as pummel and shatter it — literally, and often pointlessly.” [NYT]
This one is bound to kill Chodorow. Bruni visits a steakhouse even more vulgar than Kobe Club and awards it one star: Robert’s Steakhouse, inside the Penthouse Executive Club. Adam Perry Lang, as most recognize, is one of the city’s top meat guys. [NYT] Meehan affirms that Kefi’s has terrific food at a bargain. He notes that it was strangely quiet the nights he was there, but that has changed, we’re told, since the Underground Gourmet gave the restaurant four stars. [NYT] Think of this less as a review of Gilt than an excuse for Steve Cuozzo to acknowledge Chris Lee, one of the city’s most underappreciated chefs, whose ill fortune it was to follow Paul Liebrandt and his alienating high-concept cookery. [NYP]
Bruni one-stars two restaurants, damning both with the faintest of praise: “Pera is a restaurant good enough at what it does best to argue for at least a moment’s consideration,” he says, carefully calibrating the knocks everyone else has given the place. Dennis Foy is too,” he throws in. [NYT] Meehan is downright enthusiastic in his praise for East Village mini-chain Chickpea, which he considers the epitome of cheap eats, if not the final word in falafel and shawarma. [NYT] Alan Richman reviews a more or less random steakhouse, Harry’s in the financial district, and delivers the news that the sides are lame, the steaks are fair to good, and that the place isn't especially pretty or pleasant. Who'd have thought? [Bloomberg]
Bruni hands Kobe Club the dreaded bagel, for many of the same reasons Adam Platt did: a tacky interior, wildly overpriced food, and an ill-conceived menu that doesn’t include great steak. [NYT] Peter Meehan, meanwhile, discovers the joys of the diamond district’s kosher kebab house Taam Tov. [NYT] Sietsema takes a break from celebrating Haitian hot pots to survey and grade the new burger joints: The result is detailed, thoughtful, and moderate. None score higher than a B+. [VV]
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