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Varietal

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A Double Blow for Wayne Nish: First Varietal, Now Nish Closes

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

Varietal’s Kitchen Closes in Chelsea

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]

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]

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.

Wayne’s World: Varietal, Version 2.0

Though Varietal looked to be in for a bumpy ride when it lost chefs Ed Witt and Jordan Kahn, the ship seems to have been righted during the week that veteran chef Wayne Nish has been aboard. That was our impression, anyway, from the placid confidence with which owner Greg Hockenberry talks wine and Nish raps rabbit, in this, the latest moving picture from Grub Street Studios. Earlier: ‘Speedy’ Wayne Nish Remakes Varietal in One Week Flat

‘Speedy’ Wayne Nish Remakes Varietal in One Week Flat

Given that Wayne Nish transformed March into Nish just three months ago, we were surprised when we learned last week that he’d been assigned the task of creating a new menu at Varietal in the wake of chefs Ed Witt and Jordan Kahn exiting. Capable dude that he is, Nish started serving his dishes over the weekend. He even took some time to hook us up with said menu and explain where Witt and Kahn had gone wrong.

Sam Mason on the Sexiness of Japanese Steel

Welcome to the latest installment of the Launch, where Sam Mason, former pastry chef at wd-50, relates the ups and downs of preparing to open Tailor, the swanky restaurant and lounge coming together at 525 Broome Street.

Foodie Bloomie; the Starbucks Master Plan

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]

Varietal Finds Its Man: Wayne Nish

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]

Varietal’s Ed Witt
Pink-slipped; Jordan Kahn Apparently on the Way Out

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?

Gordon Ramsay’s Dark Side Revealed; Staten Island Pizza Conquers the World in Vegas

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]

Village Rats Also Eat Vegetarian

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]

Dueling Views on Morandi; Varietal Taken to Task

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]

Chodorow Sure to Be Pissed Over New ‘Times’ Steakhouse Review

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]

Varietal’s ‘Meditation in Purple’: Need We Say More?

Jordan Kahn, the pastry chef at Varietal, is “the pastry chef in New York right now,” as one of his peers recently told us. Today's Annotated Dish, “Meditation in Purple,” was informed by the writings of the immortal French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. “Purple is the color of inspiration,” Kahn says. “I wanted to make a dessert that would inspire. And one that, if you tasted it, you could tell was purple.” Mouse over the arrows to hear about each element.

Nobody Truly Loves Varietal; Pera and Dennis Foy Only Marginally Appealing

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]

From Chelsea to Chinatown

In this week’s magazine, high-end restaurants and the doings of midtown Michelin hopefuls take a back seat to the wonders of Chinatown — and the pleasures, spread out across the city, of the Year of the Pig.

Yet Another Bagel for Kobe Club; Sietsema Visits American Restaurants!

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]