Restaurant Vets Take Refuge in Chill New East Side Eatery
When Nish went under earlier this week, partner Joe Scalice didn’t have to look far for his next home: He simply walked two blocks over and took up residence as general manager at Solace, a one-week-old “American seasonal” restaurant created by David Regueiro of Aureole, Metrazur, and most recently the Water Club. (Given what Salice just went through at the late Nish, and Regueiro’s years under famously demanding taskmasters like Charlie Palmer and Michael “Buzzy” O’Keefe, Solace would seem to be just what the two men are seeking.) “We wanted to create a space where people would feel comfortable, with food they could understand,” the chef says. We can certainly see standards like salt cod and gnocchi ragout, butter braised lobster, and eggplant, goat cheese, and tomato terrine hitting the spot on a quiet night in the garden (open till 11 p.m.), with our own bottle in tow (Solace is still waiting on its liquor license).
Solace, 406 E. 64th St., at First Ave.; 212-750-0434.
Earlier: Nish, Felled by Its Own Best Efforts
Nish, Felled by Its Own Best Efforts
Sometimes you can’t win for losing. Take Nish: After years of making hay as high-end tablecloth restaurant March, last year Wayne Nish rechristened it Nish and lowered prices. The result? According to Joe Salice, Nish’s partner in the venture, that was the beginning of the end: “What with the location and the price point being lower, we no longer became a destination. And as a ‘just grab a bite to eat’ place, there’s only so much we can get from the local people.” And that wasn’t nearly enough. “We looked at the numbers for the last month, and we were working just to pay the payroll and the vendors … so we had to make a decision.” The decision was to pull the plug. And even though it was a long time coming, the closure still came as a shock, with longtime customers scratching their heads and the staff in disarray. “No restaurant closes gracefully,” Nish tells us.
Earlier: A Double Blow for Wayne Nish: First Varietal, Now Nish Closes
A Double Blow for Wayne Nish: First Varietal, Now Nish ClosesThis will have to go down as one of the worst months a major New York chef ever had: First Wayne Nish’s revamped menu at Varietal was unable to keep the place from shutting down its kitchen operations; now comes word that Nish’s long-running flagship, Nish (formerly March), has given up the ghost. A forwarded e-mail from the restaurant’s former wine director, Joe Scalice, says it all: “After so many years we have shuttered the doors of 405 East 58th Street; NISH (formerly March) is closed.” Scalice is now the GM at Solace, a new Italian restaurant in a refurbished townhouse at 406 East 64th Street. As for what happened, we will have to get that from the man himself. More as this story develops.
Earlier: ‘Speedy’ Wayne Nish Remakes Varietal in One Week Flat
‘Speedy’ Wayne Nish Remakes Varietal in One Week FlatGiven that Wayne Nish transformed March into Nish just three months ago, we were surprised when we learned last week that he’d been assigned the task of creating a new menu at Varietal in the wake of chefs Ed Witt and Jordan Kahn exiting. Capable dude that he is, Nish started serving his dishes over the weekend. He even took some time to hook us up with said menu and explain where Witt and Kahn had gone wrong.
Back of the House
Varietal Finds Its Man: Wayne NishWayne Nish, who already has a namesake venue with Nish, will now take over the kitchen at Varietal, too, replacing Ed Witt. Varietal owner Greg Hockenberry implied earlier that he’d fired Witt; Witt informs us that he left of his own accord — because the restaurant was going more “mainstream.” (Avant-garde dessert chef Jordan Kahn also quit, presumably under similar pressure. He declined to comment when we spoke with him.) Restaurant Girl, who broke news of the hire, reports that Nish will implement a $48 prix fixe menu — and serve as his own dessert maker. That sounds more mainstream to us, but the imaginative Nish no doubt has his own ambitions. Find out April 6, when he steps up to the plates.
Varietal - Bruni Aftershocks [Restaurant Girl]
The Other Critics
Anthos Broadsided, Gramercy Tavern HammeredBruni sympathetically reviews Nish, handing down two stars, but he seems less impressed than other critics (with the exception of Randall Lane). [NYT]
Peter Meehan enjoys the tapas at Ostia, but suggests that the trend may have played itself out. [NYT]
Alan Richman gives what may be the first totally negative write-up of Gramercy Tavern: Apparently the food is complicated and bland, the service undersupervised, and the room lacking in personality. A major blow to new chef Michael Anthony. [Bloomberg]
Related: Everything Topsy-Turvy at Gramercy Tavern
The Other Critics
Ssäm Bar Vindicated; Haute Cuisine Gets No LoveMomofuku Ssäm Bar wins two stars (!) from Bruni and completes a success story that seemed pretty unlikely a few months ago, when the place was selling Asian burritos to a handful of customers. The review is also a watershed in the changing culture of restaurants: Formal is now officially out, casual now officially legit. [NYT]
Related: The I Chang [NYM]
Meanwhile, Randall Lane is a lone dissenter, calling out Ssäm Bar for its unevenness, lack of focus, and the steep prices of some of its main dishes. On the whole, though, he seems to have missed the point — David Chang’s loose, unfettered approach to good cooking. [TONY]
Steve Cuozzo joins in the chorus of approval greeting Wayne Nish’s transformation of the stuffy March into the swinging, fusion-y Nish. The message: Remain formal at your own peril. (See reviews of Dennis Foy and Gordon Ramsay.) [NYP]
Related: Bedeviled [NYM]