Breaking: Aix to Close, and SoonWe’re told by a source close to the restaurant that Aix Brasserie, Philip Kirsch’s Upper West Side French restaurant, is closing after service on Sunday. Apparently, the costs and complexities of running the place have become too much for Kirsch to bear, particularly as he struggles to maintain FR.OG. The staff is to be told today.
Oak Room Gets New Operators; Illegal Fish Trade GrowsNight Sky Holdings, which formerly operated Windows on the World at the World Trade Center as well as the Rainbow Room, has signed a contract to run the Oak Room and the Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel. Also, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s former sous-chef Didier Virot will be helming the kitchen at the hotel’s other eatery, the Palm Court. [NYP]
Sushi chef Hiroshi Nakahara has left New York’s BondSt to run the kitchen at a new outpost in Beverly Hills. [PR Newswire]
Chipotle will be serving 200 million meals using naturally raised meat this year, a 40 percent increase from 2007. [The Grinder/Chow]
FR.OG Had to Choose Between Death and DidierHere’s what we know about the departure of Didier Virot from FR.OG. The fact that he’s gone and the restaurant is still there may just prove something we had heard and only half-believed: that the chef was in fact an employee and not a partner. A source tells us that that the restaurant had been struggling (not helped by its name, which every food writer with an Internet connection had sport with). Rather than just close shop — a real consideration, we’re told – owner Philip Kirsh let the chef, who made a very significant salary, go to his next job, a cushy gig at the Palm Court. Currently, the menu is being produced by the line cooks. Efforts to reach Virot haven’t been successful, but should he be up for talking about the endgame at FR.OG, we’ll let you know the score.
Leaping From FR.OG [NYT]
Citywide Truffle Shortage; A New Eastside Fro-Yo FoeA citywide truffle shortage can explain why “the Waverly Inn jacked up the price of its infamous truffle-topped mac & cheese from $55 to $85. The dish was an amusing punch line at $55; at $85, it’s just obscene.” [NYP]
Related: Le Cirque Bids High for Monster Truffle
Bruni eschews all the courtesies one suffers at the dinner table, which he refers to as restaurantspeak: “Would I ‘enjoy coffee with dessert?’ I don’t know; it depends how good the coffee is. I’ll have some, yes, then we’ll see.” [NYT]
FR.OG has now lost Jean Georges alum chef Didier Virot to the Plaza’s new restaurant-to-be, the Palm Court, set to open later this year. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
The Other Critics
P*ONG Found to Be Small and Uneven; Monkey Bar Gets HammeredFrank Bruni appreciates Pichet Ong’s skill and creativity but finds his restaurant, P*ONG, in what will probably be a defining review, unequal to his talent: “Mr. Ong is an enterprising cook, but he doesn’t seem to be a seasoned restaurateur, and P*ong points out the difference.” [NYT]
Similarly, Paul Adams grants that FR.OG chef Didier Virot has “has a virtuosic ability with flavors,” but was less than thrilled with the restaurant. That’s about in keeping with most other reviews the place has had, which call out a few dishes but give it an “eh” otherwise. [NYS]
Randall Lane disliked the Monkey Bar so much that it’s amazing that he gave it two stars (out of six). “More often, though, the dishes were so unsuccessful that I had difficulty finishing them.” Eek. Not what you want to hear after a huge, expensive relaunch.[TONY]
Unzipping Our Flies at FR.OG
Philip Kirsh and Didier Virot probably fancied themselves the Mac to Balthazar’s PC when they opened up their new place FR.OG just a hop away from the grand ol’ dame. Still, they knew that a slick design scheme and cutesy punctuation wouldn’t cut it: Had they gone up against the ’Zar without proper hardware — meaning, the restrooms — they would’ve been up shit’s creek. But we can assure you the bathrooms won’t be the reason if this place croaks.
In the Magazine
FR.OG Finds the French Influence Everywhere
Sure, France is a minor power now, but from Saigon to Casablanca, it once held sway over a broad swath of the globe, and it still lives on in much of the world’s cooking. That’s the key to understanding FR.OG, whose opening Rob and Robin announced this week. Co-owner and chef Didier Virot sees the French soul in Vietnamese, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern cookery, and so his menu, which we now release to the world, is a study in unforced fusion: foie gras with ginger crust and mango coulis, a classical roast chicken served alongside green papaya salad, a braised lamb shank served with roasted duck breast. Add to that an equally eclectic cocktail program and a location on a very fashionable corner of Soho and FR.OG seems bound to succeed — even to diners without a sense of history.
Restaurant Openings: FR.OG, Suba, Móle, and Paradou Marché. [NYM]