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.
How did you feel about the early wave of criticism Wakiya received?
I understood the backlash because people were expecting a new revolution in Chinese food and what they got was a very good restaurant without a lot of bells and whistles. People were a little unfair.
Do diners get upset, as Adam Platt did, about the small plates relative to the price point?
If anyone has a problem with things on the floor, we automatically take it back or get them something different or give them more if they want.
What dishes give you the most bang for your buck?
We have excellent soup dumplings. The Shanghainese fried noodles are great to end the meal. And our XO omelette — pork fried rice wrapped in an omelette.
What’s the ethnic makeup of the kitchen?
It’s the first kitchen I’ve worked in where it’s mostly Chinese and Japanese — there’s one man of color and one Jewish guy.
Do people make a mess or burned themselves with the soup dumplings?
[Partner] Richie Notar has in the past. We give people a bib if requested, and we warn people.
You must get a lot of jaded fashion types. Are they hard to serve?
They’re a little harder to tame. They like to have their drinks — they’ll order food, but they don’t really eat that much.
Have you served Anna Wintour?
She’s been here. [Laughs.] All I can say about that is she [pauses to phrase carefully] seems to be quite a perfectionist. Let me put it this way — if her napkin falls on the ground, don’t try to replace it.
Does eating there give you a better shot at getting into the hotel’s Rose Bar?
We’re independent. People are always trying to get into the Rose Bar once they’ve had dinner here. It’s difficult — we really cant help them.