Restaurants Feeling the Effects of Mercury ScareEarlier today we showed you a letter Takahachi is giving its customers. It’s not the only restaurant around town feeling the fallout. “We were very busy yesterday, but today is so quiet,” a sushi chef at Hatsuhana in midtown whispered the evening after the January 23 article was published. “Even customers that are coming in are asking for no tuna.” In the Village, celebrities usually wait patiently in line for a table at Japonica. “I don’t know whether it’s the article, the economy, or our customers are on vacation, but all of a sudden our business has fallen down 20 to 30 percent, and 15 percent of those who come in have changed their regular orders. It’s even worse for my friends who have restaurants in Westchester and Connecticut. There is a lot you can eat at sushi restaurants other than tuna,” said owner Shingo Yonezawa. “It’s a nightmare.” And not only Japanese restaurants are affected. “When we put tuna on the menu, it was such an easy sell,” said Danny Abrams, owner of The Mermaid Inn and others. “We were selling seventeen to twenty per night. After the article we were down to six or seven. Even our tuna tartare appetizer stopped selling. I was surprised it dropped as much as it did.” —Beth Landman
A Guide to Recognizing Your Restaurants: Smith’s v. The Smith
Ever since Smith’s opened in Greenwich Village late last year and The Smith opened in the East Village soon thereafter, foodies have been a little confused. Both spots have achieved some popularity, which makes this a far more befuddling case than the one of B. Smith versus Smith’s in Hell’s Kitchen. To help you tell one from the other (we’re aware the above photos don’t do that), we’ve broken it down in a handy chart.
Bar Boulud’s Wine-Tasting Table, Chop Suey’s Dining Room Both Half-Full
The first time we dropped in on a batch of new restaurants to take head counts, we hit the East Side. Then we threw it over to the West Side. Last Friday we took it uptown to see what’s doing above 42nd Street. It wasn’t easy hitting half a dozen spots between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., but luckily we were navigating familiar territory — Mermaid Inn? Magnolia Bakery? Blue Ribbon Sushi? Zak Pelaccio’s new spot? It’s like we never left downtown.
Abrams Brothers Have Always Loved the UWS; Gay Talese Will Eat BBQ on the UESChelsea: The owner of the Cuban restaurant that replaced Havana Chelsea says he’s not trying to copy the former tenant: “It took years of grease to get on those walls and the smell of rotten wood and mice and stale water and dirt. We gutted the entire place, not even a tooth pick was worth saving.” [Eat for Victory/VV]
Clinton Hill: Greene Grape Provisions has opened with fresh fish and meats, and if you bring a receipt to their nearby wine store, the owners will take 5 percent off your purchase of their recommended pairings. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Midtown East: Chocolatier Charbonnel Et Walker on the eighth floor of Saks sells a rich chocolate cupcake drenched in sticky toffee, which is well worth its $6 price tag and still “way cheaper than a pair of Chanel pumps” sold nearby. [NewYorkology]
Midtown West: Brasserie Cognac is coming to 55th Street and Broadway. [Grub Street]
Tribeca: Dekk seems closed indefinitely. [Grub Street]
Union Square: In an unsurprising conclusion, Bruni finds that Indian and Italian restaurants are better equipped to satisfy vegetarians. Dévi is one example where even meat eaters may want to eat those vegetable-based dishes. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Upper East Side: Barbejew Steven Levy hopes his new BBQ joint, Smokin’ Q, which opens this week at 206 East 63rd Street, will succeed where twelve restaurants have failed since 1977. Levy may have an edge against predecessors, however, since writer Gay Talese, who included the doomed space in his memoir, plans to be the writer-in-residence. [NYT]
Upper West Side: The Magnolia and Mermaid Inn uptown aren’t the first companies the Abrams brothers have introduced to the nabe; cupcake guru Steve owns “a construction company, high-end residential construction, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous sort of stuff. My clients are Samuel Jackson, Annie Leibovitz, Jeff Gordon.” [NYO]
The Other Critics
Chicken to the Rescue at Blue Ribbon Sushi; The Smith Hit HardThe latest Blue Ribbon Sushi gets a whopping two stars from Frank Bruni, despite its titular sushi being not that great. No, it’s the souped-up fried chicken that added a star, making this two weeks in a row that poultry has saved the day. [NYT]
Paul Adams hits new East Village comfort-food zone the Smith with one of his rare bad reviews — generally, he finds the food clumsy and gross: “A main course of lamb schnitzel ($17) shows what the kitchen can do at its best: not particularly much.” Ouch! [NYS]
Nor was Danyelle Freeman especially enthralled with Brasserie 44, which got one and a half stars out of four. Her recollections of its food seem highly detailed, suggesting that she didn’t leave her notebook behind. [NYDN]
Related: So the Critic Left Her (?) Notes. So What?
Fort Greene Restaurant Scene’s Crescendo; De Niro Hotel So Close You Can Book ItAstoria: The Southwest restaurant that’s been under construction near the Ditmars stop on 31st Street is named Mojave and opens tonight. [Joey in Astoria via Astorians]
East Village: The Mermaid Inn reopens tomorrow after a one-week renovation, which may have been inspired by Time Out‘s mouse sightings. [Eater]
Fort Greene: New restaurants the Smoke Joint and 67 Burger have joined older favorites like iCi and Thomas Beisl to build a thriving restaurant scene near the Brooklyn Academy of Music. [NYT]
Tribeca: De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel is now taking reservations for the spring. [NewYorkology via Eater]
Naked Chef Returns to Food Network; Starbucks’ ‘Skinny’ IssueAt long last, Jamie Oliver is returning to Food Network; catch him battling Mario Batali on Iron Chef America Sunday night, and then stay tuned for a preview of his new show, Jamie at Home. [Eat for Victory/VV]
If anyone’s going to see mice in your restaurant, food writers are the worst-case scenario. Right, Mermaid Inn? [The Feed/TONY]
One man who’s had enough of unsolicited menus showing up under his door has designed a wannabe deterrent. [BoingBoing via Gothamist]
The Other Critics
One Star Seals the Deal for Irving Mill; Ilili Surprises in a Good WayThe story on Irving Mill was written before Frank Bruni delivered the coup de grâce — an ambivalent one-star review that pointed out the restaurant’s odd inconsistencies. At this point, a one star was probably a best-case scenario for the place. [NYT]
Speaking of best-case scenarios, we bet that Gordon Ramsay had higher hopes for Bruni’s rereview of his big restaurant than the one that runs in Dining Briefs. Bruni finds Gordon Ramsay at the London still excellent but boring, and Peter Meehan isn’t too crazy about Bun. [NYT]
We heard that Ilili was a disaster, with bad service and worse food. So did Paul Adams, who was surprised to find that the word on the street was dead wrong. Adams even calls the food was “far, far better than it needs to be.” [NYS]
Gordo Casting Restaurateurs; Thomas Keller Feels for Celebrity ChefsGordo’s back on Fox TV for another season of Kitchen Nightmares, and he’s looking for a floundering restaurateur to belittle on national TV. [Eater]
It’s hard out there for a chef, according to Thomas Keller: “No longer are critically-acclaimed chefs allowed — as they might have been even ten years ago — to call it a day after opening a single successful restaurant. Instead, he said, food wizards like him are … expected to pen best-sellers, give lectures, judge reality TV shows and host benefits like the one he gave last night.” [NYO]
The massive, multistory Pop Burger at 14 East 58th Street will start serving baby crab cakes and grilled filet mignon in addition to burger boxes by mid-November. [Strong Buzz]
Related: Massive New Pop Burger Popping Up in Midtown
Danny Meyer Appoints Female Sommelier at the Modern; Pichet Ong Will Show YouBrighton Beach: Brooklyn firefighter Jeffrey Scotto won the sixth-annual World Cares Center Iron Skillet Cook Off this week with this recipe for boneless rib-eye braciola and escarole salad. [NYDN]
Chinatown: Zagat might recommend the soup dumplings at Goodies, but you’re in for a treat if you opt for something the staff is eating like “winter melon soup and a plate of stir-fried pork liver and stomach.” [VV]
Midtown West: Danny Meyer has appointed a new executive sommelier, Belinda Chang, to oversee the wine program at the Modern and his restaurants in the Met. [NYS]
Tribeca: Apparently Craig Béro has opened a Tribeca Time Machine called the Cosmopolitan Cafe around the corner from his other restaurant, the Soda Shop. [NYT]
Union Square: From Quattro’s Game Farm’s stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays, “you can place an order, leave a deposit, and pick up your fresh bird on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.” [NYS]
Upper West Side: Danny Abrams’s second outlet of the East Village’s Mermaid Inn has opened on 568 Amsterdam Avenue near 88th Street, and you get a free cup of puddin’ with dinner. [NYT]
West Village: Pichet Ong will give a demonstration at the next 4foodies, tasting on November 19. [4foodies]
Havana Chelsea, R.I.P.; Pigs Feet Run Amok in West VillageChelsea: Havana Chelsea, one of the city’s top cubano sandwich spots, is no more. It will be replaced by Casa Havana. [Eat for Victory]
Flatiron: Hampton Smoker blogger and barbecue savant Matt Fisher will be the pitmaster at Wildwood BBQ [White Trash BBQ]
Lower East Side: ZoZos, Pizzeria De Santos give up the ghost. It’s a noodle bar town now. [American Madness]
Related: Happy Valley Owners to Launch Pizza Empire
Red Hook: Layla’s, the replacement for the late, lamented Lillie’s, is coming along. [Citysearch]
SoHo: Provence has instituted happy hour, with $8 champagne and, more to the point, $2 oysters. [Strong Buzz]
West Village: It’s all about pig feet at Hakata Tonton: “It’s as if chef/owner Himi Okajima watched the Bubba scene in Forrest Gump one day and replaced all mention of the word shrimp with pigs feet. Tonsoku carbonara, tonsoku rice ball, tonsoku consommé, sweet and sour pork with tonsoku…” [Gothamist]
Mermaid Inn UWS to Open Late Fall; Garifunan Cuisine Has Arrived … in theChelsea: Candy Camp confectionary classes for kids start Saturday at Sapa. [Cakehead]
Clinton Hill: A confused source says the former Bodegas space will become Clinton Hill Bistro, but that’s what Bodegas had painted on its windows when it was open. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Harlem: Doug E. Fresh talks chicken and waffles and the late-night feel of his second restaurant: “Hot Pot, the Caribbean spot I’m opening in December … Harlem’s always been known for its late-night style.” [Uptown Flavor]
Long Island City: Big Easy landmark Jacques-Imo’s New York branch has lost its uptown lease and will take refuge in Queens. [Joey in Astoria via Eater]
South Bronx: If you’ve been craving Garifunan food (the cuisine of “Coastal Caribbeans of African and Native American descent”), head to newly opened and possibly only-one-of-its-kind Garifuna Star at 640 Prospect Avenue for “curry-esque soup and a fufu-esque plantain dish.” [Eat for Victory/VV]
Upper West Side: Danny Abrams plans to open his second Mermaid Inn by the end of the fall. [Eater]
Tony Nominee Justin Bond Has Cucumber Cocktails With Tilda Swinton
Performance artist Justin Bond is perhaps best known for playing half of Kiki and Herb — their show, Kiki and Herb: Alive on Broadway, is up for a Tony on Sunday. What will he be prowling for during the after-party? “I’m a connoisseur of crab cakes,” says the Maryland native. “I haven’t really found one that’s completely satisfying.” He’s also a lover of oysters, prosecco, and dropping the names of his dining companions Rufus, Maggie, and Tilda — or so we discovered when we asked him about his recent meals.
Back of the House
Red Cat Owner Betting on Ilan to Win ‘Top Chef’Immediately following the penultimate episode of Top Chef, we instant-messaged with Jimmy Bradley, the chef and restaurateur behind the Red Cat, the Mermaid Inn, and the Harrison, and the co-author of The Red Cat Cookbook. Last year’s winner, Harold Dieterle, was a sous-chef at the Harrison, so we thought Jimmy might have an interesting angle on the battle between Ilan, Sam, Elia, and the much-maligned Marcel.
My Kid Could Design That Restaurant Logo!
For every high-profile restaurant architect like David Rockwell or AvroKO, there’s an underappreciated artisan like Louise Fili. One of several people whose work is being honored by the Society of Illustrators at an exhibition opening tonight at the Museum of Illustration, Fili creates restaurant logos. Her elegant, Art Nouveau– and Art Deco–inspired designs give the Mermaid Inn, Artisanal, Pigalle, and Sfoglia, whose logo is exceptionally lovely and ornate, their trademark markings. A collection of her work can be viewed here; the museum exhibit runs through the 27th.
“Letter as Image, Image as Letter,” Museum of Illustration, 128 E. 63rd St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 212-838-2560.
In the Magazine
New Year’s Eve: Where to Eat Before You Get HammeredThe usual New Year’s Eve drill, of course, is to get hammered at a party while noshing away at whatever happens to be put out. This year, why not preface the evening with a real meal, sending out the old with one last act of gluttony? In one of this week’s Short Lists —
“Out With a Bang” — Rob and Robin suggest the most extravagant NYE dinner options. For those of us who have made resolutions to spend something less than $650 on holiday meals, there are some other possibilities more likely to fall within your credit limit.