For the past month, we’ve heard from sources that John Fraser of Dovetail has taken over the former Le Jardin space for a nine-month-long pop-up. Fraser hasn’t wanted to go public with the project, but he’s now posted a video on Kickstarter soliciting donations. What Happens When, as the experiment is being called, will change themes every month, based on suggestions from contributors. Fraser tells the Times that the 65-seat restaurant will open on January 25, probably with a $58 prix fixe offering entrees such as a pork cheek, a veal shank, and Dover sole for two.
When Le Jardin closed after fifteen years, we worried that a high-profile operator would take over the space (given its proximity to Osteria Morini), and it would no longer house a casual neighborhood spot. But Fraser’s Kickstarter pitch asks, “What happens when you’re tired of money ruling creativity?” and promises to explore “new ways of sharing creativity so it becomes less about me and more about us?” So this’ll be a populist endeavor after all!
The Times reports that Fraser is opening on a shoestring budget of $100,000 (compare that to the $2 million cost of opening Dovetail). Half of that will be from his own pocket, and he hopes to raise between $20,000 and $45,000 via Kickstarter. He’ll cut costs by (among other things) having diners set their own tables and serving drinks from a rolling cart.
This is very much a win for downtowners who’ve wanted to try Fraser’s well-regarded cuisine, but can’t be bothered to hoof it to the Upper West. After this, maybe Bill Telepan can take over the space!