The Last Days of Café Gray?Café Gray’s days at the Time Warner Center may be numbered, sources tell us. It’s not clear whether the move, if it comes, stems from the building’s sky-high rent (which doomed Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s V Steakhouse) or because the chef has something else planned. Kunz, for his part, denies that he is going anywhere. “This rumor is completely unfounded,” he says, “and business has been brisk.” So if Café Gray does vacate, who can handle the tower? We hear a prominent Italian restaurant will fill the Café Gray space. You’ll know more when we do.
The Other Critics
Barbuto Saved by a Chicken; Fiamma Comes Up ShortThe wildly uneven Barbuto earns a single star from Frank Bruni, almost entirely on the strength of a well-roasted Bell & Evans chicken. To quote Winston Churchill, “Some chicken!” [NYT]
Alan Richman was appalled by how small the portions were at Grayz, how much they cost, and how shady most of them were, except for the magnificent, world-beating short rib: “In complexity and satisfaction, this dish reminded me most of the Gray Kunz of Lespinasse, the chef we miss so much.” [Bloomberg]
Randall Lane gets that Fiamma’s Fabio Trachocchi is cooking in a grand, Continental style and doesn’t hold that against him, but the food is too rich and the service too sloppy to give him the five or six stars the place would have liked And so they have to settle for four. [TONY]
The Annotated Dish
A Quartet of High-End Bar Treats at GrayzGray Kunz is one of the giants of New York gastronomy; his pioneering work in fusing global flavors made Lespinasse one of the world’s great restaurants. Today, Café Gray carries his flag in New York. His newest venture, Grayz, is a bar and lounge with a finger-food menu that emulates its Time Warner cousin in some dishes and goes its own way with others. Here are four dishes from the Grayz menu: As always, mouse over the anchor arrows to see the dish described in the chef’s own words.
The Lenox Room Re-creates Itself As T-Bar
Now that the Lenox Room has remade itself as T-Bar, a highly polished steakhouse on the Upper East Side, let’s have a moment of silence for its former identity. The Lenox Room was one of those very grown-up New York places. Opened in 1995, it wasn’t one of the top restaurants in town, but it was pure New York Establishment, thanks to owner Tony Fortuna, former manager of Lafayette (when Jean-Georges made his New York name) and Lespinasse (under the original stellar stewardship of Gray Kunz). Fortuna is one of those guys who really know how to run a restaurant, and although the times have called for a more casual, steak-centric approach, the restaurant still has something of the old cool. The food, a modern steakhouse menu with extensive fish, veal, and chicken selections, is as solid as before, no accident since the chef, Ben Zwicker, is still in place. But, as Fortuna says: “The Upper East Side is changing; it’s not where your father lives now. It’s gotten younger, and we needed a new vibe.” We liked the old one, but we understand.
It Isn’t Easy Being Green; Grayz on the Stun LineThere are a few basic steps that restaurants and bars can follow to be considered “green,” but they don’t happen automatically.[TONY]
Steve Cuozzo leads Gray Kunz’s new cash cow to the slaughter, calling Grayz a draw “for suits wanting a slicker sandbox for babe-wrangling than nearby Connolly’s.” [NYP]
Related: Gray Kunz Finds a Sweet New Business Model
The Frankies of Spuntino fame have a third restaurant planned in Brooklyn and a new cookbook on the way. [Eater]
Café Gray Back in the Lunch Game on the Upper West SideCarroll Gardens: Carniceria, the attempted replacement for Porchetta, has gone down for the dirt nap. [Eater]
Meatpacking District: Paradou will kick off its fall menu on October 10. [Grub Street]
Tribeca: Ceci-Cela on Chambers Street will close up shop near the end of December because their landlord tried to impose an “unacceptable” rent increase. [Grub Street]
Upper East Side: Saucy on York Avenue at 75th Street will offer a (what else?) sauce-driven tasting menu from October 8 through 14. [Grub Street]
Upper West Side: Gray Kunz has reinstated lunch at Café Gray with an Indian-Summer Prix Fixe that includes dishes like sweet-corn ravioli and skate schnitzel with fingerlings and brown butter. [Grub Street]
Your First Look Inside of Grayz — Opening in Mere Dayz!
A couple of days ago, we assured you that after a year’s delay, Grayz is finally throwing open its doors on Monday. For once, that doesn’t mean “Monday as long as the construction workers pop enough Provigil,” it means Monday Monday. Don’t believe us? Take a look inside.
Exclusive: Grayz Will Open Monday, With BoozeDespite recent rumors that Gray Kunz’s new spot Grayz wouldn’t secure a liquor license until October, further delaying its much anticipated opening, the man himself told us that the license is in, and he expects to have a “very soft opening” on Monday. So soft, in fact, that Kunz won’t even give us an early look at the menu (beyond the calamari that Rob and Robin wrote about this week). “It’s evolving still almost every week,” he tells us. “The wine list or menu is something people are going to have to see when they come in.” For those of you eager to take him up on that, take note that reservations won’t be accepted for dinner (served from 5 p.m. to midnight; lunch is from noon to 2 p.m.), but here’s your number for securing a seat for lunch: 212-262-4600.
Related: Gray Kunz Finds a Sweet New Business Model
Secret Ingredient: Honey Grayz [NYM]
Best of the Rest: Food (Fall Preview 2007) [NYM]
In the Magazine
After the Catwalk, a Bagel for Wakiya, and More
The desks at Grub Street are covered with high-heeled shoes, empty gift bags, and other detritus from Fashion Week, and only a laserlike focus could allow us to catch the disparate restaurant intelligence floating around in this week’s issue. Adam Platt visits Wakiya, the much-hyped Chinese restaurant in the Gramercy Hotel, and hands them a bagel in his restaurant review. The crown jewel of the B.R. Guest restaurant empire, Fiamma, has reopened with one of the most celebrated Italian chefs you’ve never heard of. Baby cucumbers and tomatillos get a close appreciation from Rob and Robin. Add in Gray Kunz’s secret ingredient, and you can see why the latest lines from Milan had but little effect on us.
DiFara Fans All at Sea; Gray Kunz Enters the Small-Plate WarsBrooklyn held hostage, day four: DiFara fans reeling from this latest, pointless blow from the Department of Health. “It hurts. It’s the best pizza in my life, ever.” [NYT]
SliceNY uses the DiFara time-out to point out that, in recent months, the Saint of Avenue J has been burning his pizzas pretty badly around the edges. [SliceNY]
Gray Kunz’s new small-plates restaurant, Grayz, joins a growing number of such restaurants run by lesser beings. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Back of the House
Time to Fill Out Our James Beard BracketsThe nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.
Café Gray Loses Its LunchHow do you usually spend your lunches? If you’re anything like us, it’s hunched over your desk, scarfing down scrapple you brought from home in a Tupperware tub. Gone, in other words, are the glory days of the leisurely workweek lunch. And so this slow change has claimed another victim: Café Gray. After March 5, you’ll no longer be able to flex your expense account during the midday hours at what Platt calls “probably the most fun” of the “self-important” food-court establishments at Time Warner Center.
A Restaurant Week Guide to the Forgotten and UnderappreciatedThe Restaurant Week participants we’re about to endorse aren’t obscure, strictly speaking. You just wouldn’t find their names in the same sentence as the word “buzz” – not, at least, since the Clinton years. But they’re all more than worth the $24.07 you’ll pay for lunch ($35 for dinner) starting on Monday, and you might even beat the crowds.
Gray Kunz Finds a Sweet New Business ModelGray Kunz’s lavish dining space Grayz — at one time thought aborted — is back on again, this press release trumpets. Set in the former Rockefeller mansion, which was previously occupied by Aquavit, Grayz will be devoted to corporate catering and private dining events, but there will also be a big lounge area where the chef will be serving cocktails and “finger foods.” “The layout of the space on two different levels inspired me,” Kunz tells us. “When I thought about midtown, I realized there were too few private party spaces and even fewer great cocktail lounges.” Restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman sees a more practical advantage. “Private catering is a lot more profitable,” he tells us. “You can charge more per person than you would in a restaurant, and there’s very little waste because you know just how many people are coming.” And those finger foods? “They sell a higher proportion of alcohol, and they are a lot easier to plate and prepare than high-end composed dishes.”