What Chef Rides the Truffle Train for Free?Last we heard, white truffles were going for about $3,400 a pound. If we know, the chefs certainly do, which makes the following story so awful: It seems that a certain well-known chef came into one of the city’s top Italian restaurants recently and having announced himself, proceeded to order a tasting menu — with lots of truffles. Course after course came out, including several with the prized shavings on them, each one described in person by the restaurant’s equally famous chef. But when it came time to present the bill, the visitor wouldn’t pay it, claiming to be just a hardworking fellow cook. After much fury in the kitchen, and to avoid a further scene, the chef’s truffles were comped. He received a nominal bill of a $130 for the feast and tipped $20.
That’s all we can say, we’re afraid, but if you have any guesses as to who the parties involved might be, feel free to make them in the comments. If you get it right, we will nod knowingly here at our desk.
Earlier: Have White Truffles Finally Gone Too Far?
Who Is Le Cirque’s Mystery Ragamuffin?Brave is the man who strolls into Le Cirque without a jacket: Woody Allen once made the front page of the Post when he was turned away after doing just that, and Frank Zappa, upon being forced to wear one, famously told Sirio, “This better be the best fucking meal of my life … If I don’t like this meal, you’re paying for the suit.” (They went on to become buddies.) We were intrigued, then, when the subject of yesterday’s Ask a Waiter column, Elli Jafari, told us that to this day, just one man is allowed to break the rules. “He normally wears a sweater and a vest,” is all she would give us. “He’s one of the richest people in New York City.” Any Le Cirque regulars — or astute hypothesizers — want to speculate as to who this frowsy fat cat might be? Here’s a clue: We hear his personal life isn’t so perfect. Your guesses in the comments below, please.
Earlier: Elli Jafari Tells You How to Order Like a VIP at Le Cirque
Restaurant Titans Descend on Primehouse for a NightHere’s the thing about restaurateurs: They don’t really care about who has the best ramen in the East Village. They’re not really that interested in where Paul Liebrandt’s restaurant will be, and they find avant-garde desserts about as compelling as algebra. But when Steve Hanson opens a restaurant? That, that is something they’re interested in. The fine art of making money via replicable concept restaurants is one at which Hanson is an acknowledged master, and that helps to explain why the main room at Primehouse last Thursday looked like a who’s who of big-time restaurateurs.
Bartender Shown the (Unmarked) DoorOne of the marquee bartenders at a recently opened East Village luxury cocktail den has been given the boot. The reason? According to a source, the dapper dude was doling out too many top-shelf freebies to love interests and other moochers. One lucky lady received five free drinks one night and a bottle of primo bourbon the next. Lesson: If you’re going to go comp crazy, get a job at a place that smiles on it. The tips might not be as good over at Doc Holliday’s, but … —Daniel Maurer
Formerly Famous Restaurant Owner Goes AWOL OverseasIt seems that a certain famously urbane front-of-the-house type, who some years ago started his own Brooklyn restaurant to much acclaim, has recently lost his marbles, abandoning his wife, family, and restaurant to return to the country of his origin, where his whereabouts are completely unknown. The stricken staff and family are doing their best to downplay it and hoping he comes to his senses, but the outcome is in the hands of either God or Interpol.
Keller Cops to Using — No! — Frozen Fries
In his cookbook Bouchon, Thomas Keller explains how to make the perfect French fries, instructing readers to hand-cut and then refrigerate russet potatoes submerged in water for several hours. As it turns out, Keller isn’t going to quite so much trouble at his Bouchon Bistros: A tipster told us he uses Sysco fries, and though a rep from the restaurant didn’t offer the brand name, she did confirm, after speaking with Keller, that he favors frozens.
Steamed Customers Get Illegal Smokes in Hell’s Kitchen Italian JointIf you remember the Charlie Rose incident, the Underground Gourmet received a free mid-course of pasta when their chicken entrée was poached by the talk-show host. Generous, right? Now a tipster reports that the owner of a certain Italian restaurant on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen is placating steamed customers with something a bit more exotic.
Chef’s Desperate Plea: Nominate Me for an Award!
We recently came across a poignant email written by a prominent young chef whose flashy cooking has earned him much praise, including ours. Judging by the note, which you can find after the jump, those plaudits weren’t enough: The chef pleads with his friends to nominate him for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award (the organization takes suggestions on their Website, as we explained last week). Prepare to cringe. (Identifying details have been removed.)
Chef Forced to Choose Between Getting Sugar, Keeping JobWe’re told that a relatively new, critically successful restaurant (with a chic location and even some love from Grub Street in the past) has just lost its chef. Apparently, the toque’s insistence on having his life partner eat three or four times a week without paying precipitated a fiery battle that culminated in the split. The moral, as ever: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
BLT Burger on Notice: Gourmet Competition Soon to ComeThis may come as a shock to Laurent Tourondel, who just opened BLT Burger yesterday, but another one of the city’s top chefs is about enter burgerland. We’ve been expressly forbidden from going into details just yet, but this cook, who is known for deploying the highest-quality ingredients and a downtown restaurant of august repute, told us he’s planning on buying out a popular East Village eatery and reopening it as a hamburger joint. He intends to close the deal in the next two weeks and open six weeks after that. We sincerely hope the process doesn’t take much longer than those two months — these burgers will no doubt contend for the city’s top burger honors.
BLT Empire to Storm Burgerland [Grub Street]
Jovia Hawking Its Chandelier?Restaurants meet their ends a few different ways. Here are two (rumored) examples.
The Turnkey Sale
Avenue B’s Dynasty, a 24-hour diner catering to locals during the day and drunks at night, was recently remodeled and is doing boffo business. But word around the campfire is that it’s up for sale, at a can’t-lose price of just under $400,000. Given that the place is probably profitable, features a sidewalk café, and is positioned to make hay as the East Village continues to gentrify, we doubt it will be long before someone jumps on it. 600 E. 14th St., at Ave. B; 212-529-5449.
The other story is a sadder one: After six anti-climactic months on Eater’s “Deathwatch” list, Jovia may actually begin dismantling. Word is that the beautiful handblown Murano-glass chandeliers, one of the place’s most memorable features, are for sale — soon to go the way of chef Josh DeChellis, who left months ago.