Exit Interview: Ken Friedman on the Demise of the John Dory


Sitting in the lobby bar of the Ace Hotel, where his new restaurant, the Breslin, is slated to open next month, restaurateur Ken Friedman reflected on the recent (temporary) death of the John Dory, his Far West Side fine-dining fish restaurant. “It was my fault,” he admitted, sipping a glass of Chardonnay. “It should have been a bar, or at least a restaurant with a huge bar component, like a Spotted Pig/Rusty Knot–esque bar scene. Bar scenes are what we do well. The place was so small we needed every bar stool for people eating dinner.” Friedman picked up a clump of April Bloomfield’s caramel popcorn (available in the rooms of the Ace and at the bar) and added, “I wanted to show everybody April Bloomfield could cook. So we made it a restaurant.”

But the restaurant was on a bleak strip of Tenth Avenue already infested with them: Morimoto, Del Posto, and Craftsteak. “The Highline didn’t help at all. Everyone is struggling there,” said Friedman. “It was just impossible in that tiny space. The landlord tried to get us more space, lower our rent, tried to make us happy. But we just felt we needed to move.” With the John Dory in remission, Friedman managed to rescue almost all of the staff — they’ve moved en masse to the Breslin — and the fish — they’ve moved en masse to House of Fins in Greenwich, Connecticut, and now is biding his time. “April and I really, truly believe we will move early in the new year to a bigger space in a much busier neighborhood,” he explained. “If the John Dory fails there, we’ll know that it was just a dumb idea from the start.”