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See Ya, Wakiya

The Gramercy Park Hotel's cursed restaurant will close on December 21.

By Daniel Maurer

Frankie Marshall of Wakiya Wouldn't Dare Replace Anna Wintour's Napkin

Wakiya
Frankie Marshall was a bartender (and a singer) for years before she became a server at Wakiya in the Gramercy Park Hotel. And what a place to serve! She waited on Adam Platt before he panned the restaurant in New York, and Frank Bruni, who hit it off with her and quoted her making a racy “tung” joke in his takedown of the restaurant. Now that the reviewers have moved on, she’s left to serve folks like Ron Wood of the Stones, who let her feel his cashmere sweater. “Jimmy Fallon kissed me [good-bye],” she says. “I was hoping for tongue, but he wouldn’t deliver.” Anna Wintour, on the other hand? Not quite as friendly.

Platt Sees Only Disaster and Peril for Out-of-Town Chefs

With the recent news that the celebrated Charlie Trotter might be opening up an outpost here in New York, our thoughts turned to the whole phenomenon of out-of-town chefs and their usually disastrous forays to New York. We thought to contact our dour friend Adam Platt to see what kind of world-weary wisdom he might dispense on the subject. As expected, the big man had deep thoughts at the ready, and we transcribed our exchange for posterity, in case Charlie Trotter wants something to put on his refrigerator.

Jennifer 8. Lee Tackles Fortune Cookies

The galleys for the The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee’s forthcoming book about Chinese food and restaurants, have flooded the city, and people are getting hungry. Since the mysterious, crowded world of Chinese food is something about which we can never get enough intel, a quick chat with Jennifer was in order.

Three Versions of Tailor; Paul Adams Bugs Out

Danyelle Freeman hits Tailor and finds its tiny menu and weird food ill-fitting the talents involved. “Mason glimpses at genius…” Restaurant Girl says, but “[y]ou leave Tailor still craving dessert.” Ouch! [NYDN] Moira Hodgson likes Tailor a little, giving the place two stars and only bemoaning the fact that there wasn't more of the food. “But the tastes were so tantalizing I came back another night to try everything again,” she says. [NYO] And then there's Randall Lane, who gives Tailor a four-star review. (Of course, that's out of six.) Still, it's a lot, but it seems to be mostly for Eben Freeman's cocktails. Lane found the food, especially the “sweet” half of the menu, to be a pretty mixed bag. [TONY]

Wakiya Earns a Second Bagel; Meehan Mistreated at BarFry

Wakiya's brief flirtation with the possibility of success seems to be over, now that Frank Bruni has concurred with Adam Platt by handing the restaurant what seems to be a well-deserved bagel. How long before it goes down for the dirt nap is anybody's guess. [NYT] Alan Richman, by the way, hates the place even worse. You don't even have to look beyond his subheads: “Preening.” “Small Portions.” “Incomprehensible Menu.” The bottom line? The place is wildly expensive and “Wakiya suffers from an absence of delights.” To say the least. [Bloomberg] Peter Meehan, though taking care to praise Josh DeChellis's cold dishes, had what sounds like a series of awful experiences at BarFry, with terrible service issues. Talk about picking the wrong guy to leave stranded with bottles in his hands! [NYT]

Bruni Finds Bar Stuzzichini Good Enough; Sietsema Worships Insieme

Frank Bruni gives Bar Stuzzichini one star, praising its small plates (which give him his obligatory Zeitgeist paragraphs at the top) and then pointing out that the room and service are basically that of a “midtown mess hall.” The moral? Aim low, price right, and execute, and the critics will give you the guarded praise you need to stay open. [NYT] Here's one we never would have predicted in a million years: Insieme getting the panegyric it deserves from Robert “horsehead soup in the Bronx” Sietsema. Interestingly, the one thing he didn't like was the lasagne, which was the place's proudest boast when it first opened. [VV] We predicted recently that it was just a matter of time before someone came down on Wakiya, but we never dreamed it would be Danyelle Freeman. She hits the place hard, mostly for the “dull” and “skimpy” food but, not a killer at heart, gives them credit for service, cocktails, and soup dumplings. But it won't be long before another, meaner critic really lets it fly. [NYND]

Richman Flings Feces at Monkey Bar; Soto Drops the Sushi Ball

Alan Richman gives it to Monkey Bar, and means it to stick. He gets that the place is supposed to be fun, but the bottom line is that the food sucks: “The dishes are incoherent and the food is thuddingly heavy. No focus. No finesse. Lots of salt.” [Bloomberg] Soto seems to have shot itself in the foot, dazzling Frank Bruni with its composed dishes, “vibrantly seasoned and intricately composed works of culinary and visual art,” but disappointing with the sushi, and screwing up the service (proof that lack of anonymity doesn’t matter). Now they have to settle for the same catchall two-star rating as Franny’s. [NYT] Randall Lane seems to have bestowed four (of six) stars on Wakiya more out of a sense of duty than anything else — the restaurant described in his review sounds infuriatingly stuck-up, and the food, by his account, spotty at best. Wakiya is still getting the benefit of the doubt, but it can’t hold up for long. Something tells us that a slam is coming. [TONY] Related: We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street

Cuozzo Likes Wakiya; Bruni, Platt Agree on Rayuela

Steve Cuozzo bucks the early bad buzz on Wakiya, praising the place but cautioning that the chef will only be around one week a month. [NYP] Related: We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street Alan Richman submits a rare rave review for Soto, saying of its hot dishes “not one was less than wonderful. This is cooked food on a par with the most ingenious in New York.” Soto-san has to be pretty happy with that. [Bloomberg] Restaurant Girl’s debut in the Daily News takes the form of a mixed review on Gemma: She liked the branzino and the atmosphere, the other dishes not so much. Nothing in the write-up suggests that they were unduly influenced by knowing who she was. [NYDN] Related: Restaurant Girl Has a Face For Reviewing

Wakiya’s Only Slightly Japanese Bang Bang Chicken

Although Wakiya, the new high-end Chinese restaurant in Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel, is staffed almost entirely by Japanese chefs, the food is traditional Chinese, only slightly modernized. A good example is this “Bang Bang Chicken,” a classic Szechuan recipe in which, historically, a stick was used to soften the meat (hence the name). As prepared by Yuji Wakiya’s able chef de cuisine, Koji Hagihara, there are some hidden Japanese elements as well, but none that the eye can easily detect. As always, mouse over the different elements to see them described in Hagihara’s own words. Related: We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street

We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street

Ian Schrager’s Wakiya opened last night, bringing a much-awaited conclusion to the search for a luxury restaurant for the Gramercy Park Hotel. After an aborted engagement with Allen Yau, Schrager was able to bring over famed Japanese chef Yuji Wakiya to create a Chinese restaurant in the hotel. Grub Street correspondent Alexandra Vallis was on the spot to see what guests thought – including, we were happy to see, none other than Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, who noted approvingly that “this is what American people want.” Did the other diners agree? Check out the video and see.

Latin Flavor to Bring Spice Back to the Porn Emporium in Clinton Hill

Clinton Hill: Residents glad to see Tamboril Latin restaurant replacing a porn emporium, assuming the space is properly sanitized. [Clinton Hill Blog] An Italian restaurant with an exposed-brick interior will open in the space next to Joseph Tyler Salon on Myrtle Avenue. [Clinton Hill Blog] Coney Island: Not all attendees of Nathan’s hot-dog binge yesterday were there to bask in the gluttony of the contest; costumed protesters encouraged meat eaters to “Give Peas a Chance.” [Gowanus Lounge] Flatiron: Pixar’s latest film got you hungry? Borough Food & Drink is among the city’s restaurants now serving ratatouille, and its version is topped with cheese from Joe’s Dairy. [NYDN] Gowanus: The 60-year-old Italian-foods market on President Street has closed and may make way for a café from the owners of neighboring Canal Bar. [Gowanus Lounge] Gramercy: Ian Schrager’s high-end Asian restaurant Wakiya in the Gramercy Park Hotel is now taking reservations from July 24 onward. [Eater] Harlem: From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, Uptown Vets will host this month’s man-and-beast coffee mingle at St. Nick’s Dog Park. [Uptown Flavor] Prospect Park: The Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket accepts credit cards. [NYT]