If anyone ever doubts Michael Bauer’s enduring power in this town, doubt it no longer. It’s been less than 36 hours since Real Restaurants owner Bill Higgins would have been reading Michael Bauer’s negative review of Hutong, and the team has already decided to reverse course and return the restaurant to being Betelnut after just six weeks. They’re dubbing the Hutong thing an “experiment” now, and Higgins tells the Scoop that the decision was influenced by various friends and colleagues as well as Bauer, and perhaps also by the empty-ish dining room that Bauer spoke of in his review.
Given that the chef, Alex Ong, never changed, and elements of the menu were the same, the branding change won’t be too difficult, and Higgins says they’ll be “bringing sexy back” with the decor, and probably keeping some of the new menu items. “The correct thing to do is listen to what everyone, not just Michael Bauer, was saying. Betelnut is something that people know and love,” he says. But given the timing of the announcement — Bauer’s been known to pull a review from print in the past when a restaurant undergoes a major change after he’s visited it — it seems like the review had to play a significant role in this decision. Like, if he’d had given it three stars and said it was swell, this wouldn’t be happening. Staffers are already answering the phone as Betelnut, and the retro transformation should be complete by the weekend. [Scoop, Earlier, Earlier still]