Fiamma Prices Drop After Bruni PostWhen Frank Bruni decided to confront Fiamma about its price increases, we knew it wouldn’t take long for Team Hanson to get on the problem. Fiamma is the group’s flagship restaurant, and the critical pile-on about high prices and missing ingredients must have stung B.R. Guest. Today, the group announced the inevitable price cuts to tasting menus. Prices are dropping from $92 to $85 for the standard prix fixe menu, and the five-course dinner has been cut to $105 from $120. Fiamma has also reintroduced its full-bore seven-course menu, which will come in at $125.
Fiamma Says the Luxe Ingredients Never Went AwayFiamma got a fair amount of heat last week, from Grub Street and other food sites, about a reduced menu. But B.R. Guest — which did not respond to Grub Street’s requests for comments on the menu until yesterday — vehemently disagrees. “No one had updated the Website,” says owner Steve Hanson. “They just got lazy.” We’d hate to be in their shoes now! Fiamma chef Fabio Trabocchi, meanwhile, explains that the confusion also lay in the fact that the Website wasn’t showing his daily specials or updating the tasting menu. “If you came in and ordered here, it’s the same amount of selections; you can choose from any part of the menu. It’s the same amount of dishes, just listed in a different way,” Trabocchi says. And those luxe ingredients we thought were missing from the menu? Not so, says Trabocchi. “We are using foie gras, truffles, Wagyu beef, ossabaw pig, and Grimaud Farm duck.” (The langoustines, which we also mentioned as having gone missing, are out of season, Trabocchi explains.) Unfortunately for Fiamma, even a full menu can’t sate complaining diners like Nick Paumgarten of The New Yorker.
Earlier: Fiamma’s Menu a Fraction of Its Former Self
Fiamma’s Menu a Fraction of Its Former SelfWe’re told that Fiamma has sprung into action, using all the powers of the B.R. Guest machine, to try to ferret out what went so catastrophically wrong with Nick Paumgarten’s meal. “We are all disappointed in the service. We take this very seriously and have everyone looking into the problems,” B.R. Guest chieftain Steve Hanson tells us. But all the negative attention Fiamma has gotten over the last day or so obscures a larger, thornier question about the restaurant: What has happened to the sprawling, lavish, ambitious menu that Fabio Trabocchi launched his administration with?
Live Poultry Not Live for Long in Woodside; Champagne at ParadouDumbo: The Japanese publication Mapple released a guide to the nabe and recommends Jacques Torres Chocolate, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, and Grimaldi’s as top picks. [Dumbo NYC]
East Village: You don’t need to hunt down any Danish to track Frank Bruni; he’s a huge fan of Death & Co (and hopes the bar’s not really in trouble). [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Meatpacking District: A $25 Champagne tasting at Paradou next Tuesday also comes with snacks. [Paradou NYC]
Midtown: A rare bottle of scotch fetched $54,000 at Christie’s liquor auction last night. The Rob Roys we made with it were great. [Food and Wine]
Woodside: For a truly hands-on holiday meal, you can head to Bismillah Live Poultry market in the warehouse quarter; choose your “turkey out of a flock of around 30, and off it went in a shopping cart to be slaughtered, scalded in hot water, and plucked by the staff. Fifteen minutes later it emerged in a bag, warm to the touch, its fat tail sticking out.” [The Grinder/Chow]
The Other Critics
Fiamma Earns Its Third Star; Love for Kenny ShopsinFiamma hits the three-star jackpot, tickling Frank Bruni in his sweet spot and earning itself the critical credibility Steve Hanson wanted when he hired Fabio Trabocchi. Bruni admits the place isn’t Italian, but he is in love with the ultrarich, ultracomposed food. [NYT]
Market Table took over the space that was Shopsin’s, and this gave the Randall Lane the good idea of reviewing both restaurants at the same time. Market Table earns four stars (out of six, mind you) for its solid food and gracious service. Kenny, in his new digs at Essex Street Market, gets three for his still terrific food and his not-so-gracious service. [TONY]
The Fiamma review should wash away any melancholy caused by Alan Richman’s lukewarm number on Primehouse, Fiamma’s sister. Richman likes the steaks pretty well and singles out crab cake for enthusiastic praise, but he casts a skeptical eye on pretty much everything else, from its resident bull-god to the Himalayan salt aging room. [Bloomberg]
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.
Big Lou Elrose Hired as Wildwood Pitmaster
When Steve Hanson decided to launch a major barbecue restaurant (as we told you about in August), he didn’t have to look far for a pitmaster. He turned to the most critically acclaimed new barbecue in the city’s history, Hill Country. Big Lou Elrose, ex-cop, ex–competition barbecuer, and now ex–deputy pitmaster at Hill Country, will lead the pit team at Wildwood BBQ when it opens in December. The six-foot-five ex-policeman will also help develop operations for subsequent restaurants. “Lou has a lot of passion,” the B.R. Guest bigwig told us. “And he really knows pork. He’s truly gotten into the culture of barbecue, and he’s going to be one of our main guys.” Elrose, for his part, has a simpler ambition. “I just want to cook good barbecue,” he says.
Related: B.R. Guest’s New BBQ: Will Wildwood Succeed?
B.R. Guest to Hop the Barbecue Gravy Train?Now that barbecue has utterly conquered New York, the coast is clear for even the most conservative of restaurant companies to move in and fire up their pits. Even B.R. Guest, the massive company behind such ultrasafe properties as Dos Caminos, Vento, and Ruby Foo’s has one in the works, we hear from one of our best restaurant-industry sources, a businessman with ties to the group.
The Other Critics
Gramercy Keeps Its Third Star; Randall Lane Trips But Likes Insieme AnywayFrank Bruni joins Adam Platt in giving Gramercy Tavern three stars, validating the efforts of new chef Michael Anthony and the usual Danny Meyer service level. [NYT]
Related: Gramercy Rehab [NYM]
Time Out’s Randall Lane likes Insieme a lot, to the tune of four (out of six) stars. Though he praises the food as most reviewers have, he also agrees with them that although it was beautifully executed, it didn’t make him swoon. Also, he tripped on the step coming in. [TONY]
The Sun’s Paul Adams comes down on Landmarc, “less a dining destination and more a hearty refueling station for ravenous shoppers and tourists.” But it’s affordable and competent, and what else do you want in a mall restaurant? [NYS]
Related: Will Landmarc’s Downtown Cool Play Alongside Its Ritzy New Neighbors? [Grub Street]
Back of the House
Hanson, Now Inside Starwood, to Start Gobbling Other Restaurant GroupsYou didn’t think that Starwood Capital’s 50 percent purchase of B.R. Guest Restaurant Group (a story we broke here, as it happens) was the end of their plans, did you? In business as in evolution, bigness begets bigness, and now word comes, via this week’s issue of Crain’s, that a new group inside Starwood will go on a restaurant-group shopping spree. Hanson is said to already be sending candy and flowers to fellow moguls from coast to coast. But his, and Starwood’s criteria, are very clear: “Any business [Hanson] considers must be a chef-driven operation that owns multiple eateries and brings in revenues of at least $30 million,” the report says. The Craft empire is mentioned in passing as a possible target, and its ruler, Tom Colicchio, says he would listen if Hanson came calling. With the kind of cash Starwood commands, who wouldn’t? Money talks, and independent operations tend to walk.
B.R. Guest to acquire other restaurant groups [Crain’s]
Earlier: B.R. Guest and Buy Our Restaurant Group
Does David Burke Come With That Steakhouse?
Back of the House
Does David Burke Come With That Steakhouse?B.R. Guest, the mammoth restaurant group behind Dos Caminos, Ruby Foo’s, and a lot of other big-money operations, is installing a steakhouse in the old Park Avenue Country Club space. The question is, will it be a sister to their hugely successful David Burke Primehouse in Chicago, or just another run-of-the-mill meatery? Burke tells us that negotiations are ongoing (the company is currently giving the name as “Prime’s”). But what’s holding up the negotiation?
My Wife and I Demand to Know What Happened to Fiamma
Dear Grub Street,
My wife and I dined the other night at Fiamma in Soho. The big surprise was not the empty room but the mediocre food. I asked if Michael White, the chef we’ve followed over the years, was in the kitchen, and the waiter leaned in to say quietly that the chef had actually quit two weeks ago and that he had done so the week his Fiamma cookbook had been delivered. I have not read anything about this move anywhere.