Gary Robins to Try His Hand at ‘Rustic Elegance’ at Sheridan SquareThe mystery of Gary Robins’s new West Village restaurant has been solved. The former Biltmore Room and Russian Tea Room chef tells us that his new place, in the space that formerly housed Café Rafaella and Central Kitchen, will be a New American restaurant called Sheridan Square. There will be a wood-burning oven and a wood grill, and the menu, though something of a departure from Robins’s usual luxe style, will have “a little bit of rustic elegance to it.”
Russian Tea Room Hires Marc Taxiera As ChefThe Russian Tea Room has found itself a new chef: former Beppe boss Marc Taxiera. Only in his first few weeks there, Taxiera is already revamping the menu, which has been in a state of suspended animation since former chef Gary Robins got the mitten in February. Taxiera has flown under the radar a little but is actually one of the more talented young chefs in town: Despite having no experience other than an ICE externship at Felidia and a job on the line at Baldoria, he did so well at Beppe that he was promoted from within when chef Cesare Casella left the restaurant to concentrate his energies on Maremma. Even though it’s on what is usually thought of as a cursed street, Beppe continued to flourish, owing largely to Taxiera’s smart, muscular menu. Whether all that translates into Russian is another story, but it’s a smart move for the embattled Russian Tea Room.
Related: Russian Tea Room Fires Gary Robins, and Robins Fires Back
A (Near) Gary Robins Sighting Nothing against the articles, but it’s the ads in the Times dining section that we’re obsessed with. First there was Jeffrey Chodorow’s “Dear Mr. Wells” rant, followed by Jeffrey Chodorow’s “Dear Frank” letter, and now this intriguing tidbit buried at the bottom of an ad for a Macy’s Cellar cooking event in the August 29 edition:
Thursday, September 27, Executive Chef Gary Robins from the legendary and romantic restaurant One if By Land, Two if By Sea, prepares a perfect meal for special occasions!
This Is Why New York’s Not HotThe question the Gobbler gets asked more than any other is “What’s hot?” And for a several months now, the Gobbler has answered, with tedious regularity, “Nothing.” People are still clawing their way into Waverly Inn, and if you enjoy offal products done up in an elegant, Asian-fusion style, Momofuku Ssäm Bar is the place for you. But the grandiose cycle of openings which began with the arrival of Masa and Per Se at the Time Warner Center four years ago and reached a crescendo early last year with the giant Meat District extravaganzas like Buddakan and Del Posto has more or less petered out. Sure, there have a been a few tepid revivals (the Russian Tea Room), and bigfoot out-of-town chefs like Joël Robuchon and Gordon Ramsay have opened franchise outlets. There are plenty of restaurants in town, and plenty of them are busy. But this most recent boom may have run its course. Here are some possible reasons why.
Is There a Warrant Out on Jason Neroni?The owner of Porchetta claims that not only was Jason Neroni fired but that the termination was for misappropriation of funds — and there’s a warrant out for his arrest. (If so, the Desperate Chef is hiding in plain sight, as we just saw him last night at the TONY awards.) [Eater]
Nearly everyone got an award at last night’s Time Out New York food awards, including Per Se for Best Splurge and A Voce for New Restaurant of the Year. But the Russian Tea Room for Best Reopening? Those manipulated blurbs must be working. [TONY]
Talk about gross dereliction: The Department of Health, it turns out, ignored complaints about that KFC–Taco Bell for two months before sending an inspector — who did such a bad job that she would have been fired had she not just quit. [NYP]
Neroni Gives Lame Reason for Leaving PorchettaNeroni’s reason for leaving Porchetta: They wanted to open for lunch and start serving sandwiches. And here we thought he was a prima donna. [Eat for Victory/VV]
The Russian Tea Room, taking a page from straight-to-DVD movies, pulls misleading blurbs from bad reviews to try to get some desperately-needed positive press. [Page Six]
Sullivan Street Bakery’s Jim Lahey is said to be opening a pizzeria in Chelsea. [Food and Wine]
Back of the House
Inside the Troubled Russian Tea Room; Meyer and Others on Media ScrutinyThe fullest account yet of the debacle that is the new Russian Tea Room. Gary Robins comes out looking far more sinned against than sinning, and the owner comes out looking like a jerk. [NYP]
A blue-ribbon panel including Mario Batali, Bill Telepan, and Danny Meyer study the question of whether it’s possible to open a restaurant under the radar. The near unanimous answer is no. Will Goldfarb suggests one way: “Do it in Queens.” [Snack]
Pichet Ong formerly of Spice Market is the first of the hot pastry chefs to open his own restaurant, the eponymous P*ong. Rivals Sam Mason and Jehangir Mehta (formerly of Aix) are close behind. [NYS]
Related: The Launch [Grub Street]
Back of the House
Russian Tea Room Fires Gary Robins, and Robins Fires BackWhen a restaurant gets off to a shaky start the way the Russian Tea Room has, a high-priced chef is often the first to go. And sure enough, after running into trouble — which became apparent early on, when we noted a less “than a quarter-capacity crowd at 9 p.m. on Saturday night” — the Tea Room has just given chef Gary Robins his walking papers. But Robins didn’t take his dismissal lying down, giving the Eater boys a detailed insider’s account of the near-chaos engulfing the place — not to mention a long passage from an e-mail he wrote to owner Hasan Biberaj, calling his behavior “deceitful and wrong.”
Robins on Russian Tea Room: ‘Opened Without Being Ready, Understaffed in All Areas’ [Eater]
The Other Critics
Russian Tea Room Slammed; Einstein’s Theory Applied to Cambodian FoodChristmas comes in January for Danny Meyer, as Bruni awards both Eleven Madison Park and the Bar Room at the Modern three stars. [NYT]
Using the Theory of Relativity, Sietsema explains why Kampuchea is special without really being special at all. [VV]
Alan Richman jumps on the Russian Tea Room with both feet. Key words: “gummy,” “inedible,” and “your grocer’s freezer.” [Bloomberg]
The Other Critics
Debacle at the Russian Tea Room; Neroni Wins a RaveThe Russian Tea Room must be sorry they hassled Frank Bruni over a bottle of wine. [NYT]
Peter Meehan finds the ribs at the Smoke Joint “passable.” [NYT]
A rave for Grub Street pen pal Jason Neroni at Porchetta — “thought-provoking but mouthwatering as well.” [NYS]
Not a review, strictly speaking, but Cuozzo slams Varietal for their use of a toxic bean, finds the wine list “heavy on obscure and mediocre selections, like sour-tasting Tasmanian pinot noir.” [NYP]
Best sardines ever at Brooklyn’s Sample, “a geography class for gourmands.” [NYDN]
Chez Lola is an “incredibly sexy, glamorous and inventive melding of an art deco bar and eclectic antique shop,” and the food is pretty good too. [New York Press]
The Other Critics
Two Angles on Cafe Cluny; Meehan Devours ‘Avian Oddities’Loud, crowded and unimaginative, Cafe Cluny still hews closely enough to the Balthazar mold in both the front and back of the house to earn one star from Bruni. [NYT]
Paul Adams likes Cluny even better, calling the food “impressive,” and laying off the cultural context. He’s just here for the duck. [NYS]
Meanwhile, Peter Meehan is fascinated by the “avian oddities” served at all-chicken spot Yakitori Torys and writes enthusiastically, though not exactly convincingly, of the joys of eating chicken bones and necks. [NYT]
Latest Intel on the Russian Tea Room
Our first, tentative outing to the newly reborn Russian Tea Room (those gilded Phoenix bas-reliefs on the walls now take on a whole new meaning) revealed the following:
• Less than a quarter-capacity crowd at 9 p.m. on Saturday night.
• Straight-off-the-boat willowy model types manning the front of the house.
• A surprising preponderance of actual Russians, probably on their way to or from buying up every piece of art there is at Sotheby’s.
• And, last but not least, this nugget of intel: Only the restaurant’s relatively plain, low-ceilinged ground floor is actually open for business. The infinitely more spectacular halls on upper floors are still in need of some touching-up; as the hostess put it, “One or two eggs are still unlit on the Faberge tree … But the crystal bear is already loaded with fish. We’ll just give them a couple more weeks to acclimate.” Free of context, this sounds like a phrase from an absinthe nightmare. In the Tea Room’s case, however, it’s business as usual.
— Michael Idov
First Look Inside the Russian Tea Room
First Look Inside the Russian Tea Room
We’ve been hearing for a couple of weeks now that the Russian Tea Room is about to reopen in its old location. (Read Gael Greene’s account of the institution here.) Outside of a few rumors and a U2-like spy photo on Eater, there hasn’t been much info on what to expect from the new iteration. But in a glasnostlike gesture, the restaurant has thrown open its doors to Grub Street and our cameras.
Russian Tea Room Back From the DeadNot that we remember ever eating there — who does? — but New York has never seemed the same without the Russian Tea Room, which closed in 2002. (A lone dividend: Former RTR chef Muhammed Rahman went on to launch his famous midtown lunch cart, Kwik Meal.) Now, however, Restaurant Girl reports that the Tea Room will reopen in late October or early November. They’re taking on former Biltmore Room chef Gary Robins but losing the chandeliers. The new Russian Tea Room will be a lot like the old one, in spirit anyway, with 40 vodkas (some making their New York debut) and four sommeliers. Now if only they could get Rahman back!