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John Dory Bartender Alexis Sarandon Catches Customers Staring

Alexis Sarandon by the notorious fish tank at the John Dory.

Alexis Sarandon by the notorious fish tank at the John Dory.Photo: Melissa Hom

Alexis Sarandon (daughter of actor Chris, but not Susan) worked in restaurants throughout college at the New School. Now, as a post-grad, she's bartending at John Dory by night and creating a business plan by day. Her venture is an upstate farm co-up called A Movable Garden, where guests will garden, take produce home, and stay at a bed and breakfast on-site. In the meantime, we asked Sarandon to discuss the demands of working in a virtual aquarium and how to sell cod sperm with a straight face.

What do you think of the John Dory’s décor?
People come into the bar all the time and start freaking out about the fish tank. I’m there so often that I don’t even think about it. The other bartenders and I are always joking that we think people are staring at us, but they’re really just staring at the fish tank.

Does everyone at John Dory head to the Spotted Pig after service because it’s open until 4 a.m.?
They definitely take care of us if we go over there, and we do the same to them if they come over to the Dory. We are very much affiliated, but it’s not on a nightly basis that we go over there.

How do you sell people on cod milt, a.k.a. cod sperm?
You say it is male roe and it’s pan-fried in brown butter, so it’s really crispy on the outside and has a soft, briny interior and a delicious texture and flavor. Most people go one way or the other: Either they get super excited and order it right away or they cringe and I have to explain how it’s prepared and how delicious it is. I’ve been surprised how many people have been into it. I didn’t think I would like it, but it’s really good.

Did staff recognize Frank Bruni when he came in recently?
People did, of course. In the beginning, people are on the lookout for him. But the manager stressed to us to give the same service that we would give to Bruni to other customers, because those are the people making sure we’re a profitable restaurant.

There was word that April Bloomfield was disappointed the restaurant got two stars instead of three. Why do you think the restaurant should have three stars?
When I saw her, she was really happy about it. I think there was a lot of stress, and it was definitely nice to feel like we could breathe again. I think that we’re giving fine-dining service. Of course we deserve the best, but the actual review itself was really positive, and that’s really what matters.

There has been a lot of criticism that the design is over-the-top. Does Friedman have regrets?
I don’t think Ken has any regrets. He goes all out and every day he’s bringing in new tchotchkes to put up in the restaurant. I don’t know where he finds them. All of us are in awe of the number of little cans and fish and trinkets that he finds.

What’s the last thing he added?
He actually stole some of our bar tins, which I was not happy about, and put some herbs in them and put them up above the door. That’s the latest installment.

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