For the second time, a hugely ambitious restaurant from New York in the same space has shuttered in a matter of months, reports Eater. BLT American Brasserie follows the previous Brasserie Ruhlmann in having been developed by BLT’s Laurent Tourondel, but bombing in the location at 500 W. Superior. But where Brasserie Ruhlmann may have simply suffered from being too posh a spot for an economic downturn, BLT American Brasserie was perhaps done in by cruelly accurate reviews which skewered its pizza-to-sushi lack of focus, mediocre execution, and an undercurrent of unwitting condescension to the Chicago dining scene.
Not that owner Laurent Tourondel, who blames the closing on size and location, apparently sees it that way. And it is true that it had one high-profile satisfied customer in Phil Vettel. But the reviews from most of the other critics around town suggested an ongoing disaster of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark proportions. Time Out:
Why, then, was I punished with a veggie burger so wrought with what I assume was cayenne pepper that I could take only one bite? Why did my phenomenally flavorless French dip sandwich arrive without the dip? Why was I victim to the riddle that is this restaurant’s Negroni, which, having neither gin nor Campari, tastes nothing like a Negroni?
A silver embossed relief over the bar featuring horses and a flying shirtless dude flying around a compass rose is Michelangeloesque, at least in its grand ambition, and ultimately redeems the space. That is until you recognize that the direction of north on that compass rose points directly east toward Lake Michigan. This is not a metaphor. It is exactly the kind of detail that BLT, especially its servers and cooks, miss all the time.
BLT is for the ditherers, inflexible eaters whose best expressions of compromise amount to social tyranny. You know, those killjoys everyone must accommodate on group dinners, whose dietary pickiness is such that they’ll only be satisfied at the one place that makes everyone else miserable? Them.
We don’t buy the size problem, though the location is awkward and it might have limped along longer closer to touristville. But there are plenty of big, dumb all-American spots in the River North/Mag Mile area which do okay there; BLT American Brasserie apparently achieved rare distinction in really blowing it on so many levels— an incoherent something for everyone menu that excelled at nothing, crazy high prices, poor execution, pompous make-me-want-to-hate-you decor. Nick Kokonas of Alinea/Next tweeted a damning epitaph:
If anyone wants to give us this space for free I’ll prove that it’s not the location that’s a problem.
In the meantime, look at what might have been in our handsome slideshow, taken before anyone ate the food.