Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Varietal


chefAZ
 Share

Recommended Posts

Did any one see this?:

[Grub Street asked Sam about the firing of Jordan Kahn, the avant-garde pastry chef at Varietal.]

“You can’t be ignorant of the fact that the transition from savory to dessert has to be seamless. The jarring difference between the entrées and his desserts set Jordan up for failure from jump street. I know that a couple of critics attacked him, but I don’t think the public disliked what he was doing. It’s really too bad, but he’ll recover.”

And looks like they are liking what Nish is doing with Varietal.....

http://nymag.com/daily/food/2007/04/wayne_...al_in.html#more

Check out the Menu:

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/varietal/menu1.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By coincidence, I happened to have tickets to a dance performance near Varietal Friday night. The very night Wayne Nish's new menu was to debut.

Based on this one meal, I consider the Varietal makeover a complete success. The food isn't the best in New York, but it's well worth the modest price they charge for it ($48 prix fixe for a three-course meal in the dining room) (a la carte at the bar is more expensive in toto -- although you can have fewer than three courses there).

I walked in. When I was told the prix fixe wasn't available at the bar (only the same menu a la carte), I asked if I could be seated in the dining room. Owner Gregory Hockenberry made a great show of checking whether any tables were available, and then seated me with a flourish -- odd, since the dining room wasn't even a third full. Nevertheless, Hockenberry was friendly and communicative throughout my stay.

I started with a delicioius if expensive item from the notorious Grower Champagne card. Then on to the food.

Nish's food is much more conventional than Ed Witt's was. Witt, in his menu here, gave the appearance of a conventional cook straining for effect. Nish, on the other hand, appears completely within his comfort zone. And the eater's. Nothing here is particularly challenging or unfamiliar. But it's all delicious.

I started with an appetizer of rabbit schnitzel with quail egg. I fell in love with a fried rabbit dish at Il Buco a few weeks ago. Imagine my delight in finding another one that's even better. This is the kind of dish I find myself craving days after eating it.

Then, the slow-roasted salmon over faro with (among other things) duck cracklings. Nothing unique or wildly original about this dish. But again, it tasted very good.

I frankly can't remember what dessert was (although I remember enjoying it). (Nish is apparently doing the desserts as well as the savories.)

This food was all very wine-friendly. In fact, engaging with my waiter over wine choices for each course was one of the most fun aspects of the meal.

This isn't great food. But at $48 for three courses, it needn't be. This is good, solid food, fairly priced, with a very interesting wine program.

So this isn't a big, go-to, special occassion restaurant. But it's great for a fun night out.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

By coincidence, I happened to have tickets to a dance performance near Varietal Friday night.  The very night Wayne Nish's new menu was to debut.

Based on this one meal, I consider the Varietal makeover a complete success.  The food isn't the best in New York, but it's well worth the modest price they charge for it ($48 prix fixe for a three-course meal in the dining room) (a la carte at the bar is more expensive in toto -- although you can have fewer than three courses there).

I walked in.  When I was told the prix fixe wasn't available at the bar (only the same menu a la carte), I asked if I could be seated in the dining room.  Owner Gregory Hockenberry made a great show of checking whether any tables were available, and then seated me with a flourish -- odd, since the dining room wasn't even a third full.  Nevertheless, Hockenberry was friendly and communicative throughout my stay.

I started with a delicioius if expensive item from the notorious Grower Champagne card.  Then on to the food.

Nish's food is much more conventional than Ed Witt's was.  Witt, in his menu here, gave the appearance of a conventional cook straining for effect.  Nish, on the other hand, appears completely within his comfort zone.  And the eater's.  Nothing here is particularly challenging or unfamiliar.  But it's all delicious.

I started with an appetizer of rabbit schnitzel with quail egg.  I fell in love with a fried rabbit dish at Il Buco a few weeks ago.  Imagine my delight in finding another one that's even better.  This is the kind of dish I find myself craving days after eating it.

Then, the slow-cooked salmon over farro with (among other things) duck cracklings.  Nothing unique or wildly original about this dish.  But again, it tasted very good.

I frankly can't remember what dessert was (although I remember enjoying it).  (Nish is apparently doing the desserts as well as the savories.)

This food was all very wine-friendly.  In fact, engaging with my waiter over wine choices for each course was one of the most fun aspects of the meal.

This isn't great food.  But at $48 for three courses, it needn't be.  This is good, solid food, fairly priced, with a very interesting wine program.

So this isn't a big, go-to, special occassion restaurant.  But it's great for a fun night out.

SE I saw a photo of the rabbit. It looks like chopped meat, coated with panko and then fried. Is that close?

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd say more shredded than chopped. Otherwise, yeah. (At least seemed like panko.)

(It's sort of funny that using panko to coat fried foods has become so common now that it hardly even registers anymore.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

damn, that rabbit schnitzel looked GOOOOD, definitely somehting that caught my eye. great to know it was as good as it looked.

eta: lots of other promising items on the menu - or perhaps i'm just dying for some spring asparagus, peas, etc.

Edited by madziast (log)

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SE, is it safe to now describe Varietal as an exemplary, cutting edge international wine bar with above average and affordable food service?

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the food is very eatable, if you know what I mean.

i thought that you were being very cautious in your post, maybe even selling the food a bit short ("this isn't great food" - although it was quite good,right?). simple stuff done well can hit the right spot :smile:

i'm tempted to give it a try although March was probably one of the worst meals i ever had. if i like it, i may even go to Nish :shock:

Edited by madziast (log)

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SE, is it safe to now describe Varietal as an exemplary, cutting edge international wine bar with above average and affordable food service?

It's not "exemplary". The wine program is still a bit too clever for its own good, with some strange holes in the central, mainstream stuff. It IS very interesting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SE, is it safe to now describe Varietal as an exemplary, cutting edge international wine bar with above average and affordable food service?

"Affordable" is relative. A $48 prix fixe could be called a bargain, bearing in mind that Wayne Nish is the chef. But it also means a couple can't get out of there for under $96, before beverages, tax, and tip.

Given that the restaurant isn't full, and has basically never been full, I think it would have been smarter to offer an à la carte menu, to accommodate people who don't want 3 courses. I realize that ALC is available in the bar, but the dining room is a lot more spacious & comfortable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i agree - it's not the best choice to only offer prix fixe in the dining room. at least offr two and there course options. obviously, they are trying to ensure a certain level of revenue but these things always backfire. Varietal was always busier in the bar on the few occasions i was there - looks like it may remain this way?

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Finally got around to Varietal last night. First off, the location isn't happy: hidden away on a nondescript, sunless street with nothing to drive traffic. That's a shame: the list of wines by the glass at the bar is worth the trip, and the wine flight idea is, I think, terrific. (I didn't avail myself of it, though.) Not surprisingly, at 6:30 on a warm, beautiful Monday night the place was deserted, which hadn't really changed by the time we left around 9 -- only 4 people at the bar and no one in the dining room.

Not having been during it's earlier, Adria-outpost days, I can't compare the previous food to the current offering. The present menu skews heavily on fish, which I still prefer to avoid on Mondays, urban myth or not. Happily there were no mishaps. Starters were the escargot lasagna, a deconstruction featuring a long thin strip of fresh pasta topped with a melange of escargot, mushrooms, and stuff. Nice, rich, well executed idea. I had the rabbit schnitzel: three disks of breaded meat fried to a perfect crisp, topped with a poached quail egg and accompanied by dots of dijon mustard. A real winner. Entrees were the quail with latkes, and my salmon. The fish was a good deal pinker than i would have liked, but as i was never asked how i wanted it done it never occurred to me mention it. Again, no mishaps, but an interesting point. I basically don't get quail: teeny tiny birds that are a lot of work for little result. These were perfectly fine, no more flavor than you'd find in a standard chicken, nothing about the dish to change my opinion. The little triangles of latkes were nicely done, very crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, good flavor.

For dessert we split the molton chocolate pudding cake. This thing has Nigella Lawon written all over it: oozing and unctious and luscious and basic and simple -- a little too simple for my taste. I would have preferred a higher grade of chocolate, and darker. This was essentially kiddie food, but fine for what it was.

$90 a person with tax and tip. The bar is definitely worth going to if you're in the neighborhood for the range and quality of wines by the glass, and the food is certainly a fine accompaniement, but nothing I'd recommend going out of your way for.

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For dessert we split the molton chocolate pudding cake.  This thing has Nigella Lawon written all over it: oozing and unctious and luscious and basic and simple -- a little too simple for my taste.  I would have preferred a higher grade of chocolate, and darker.  This was essentially kiddie food, but fine for what it was.

Part of my soul just died. This past winter I promised Chef Kahn I would be back in May to try everything on what would be his new menu. Kind of like I vowed to return to Gilt under Liebrandt. Oh cruel world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Finally got around to Varietal last night.  First off, the location isn't happy: hidden away on a nondescript, sunless street with nothing to drive traffic.

I agree about the block, but I don't think this particularly matters for restaurants in Varietal's class. Generally, people don't "just happen" to be walking by a $90-a-person restaurant, and drop in on the spur of the moment. If you've got a good buzz (which Varietal doesn't, and sadly never did), it's irrelevant which particular block in Chelsea you're on.
Not surprisingly, at 6:30 on a warm, beautiful Monday night the place was deserted, which hadn't really changed by the time we left around 9 -- only 4 people at the bar and no one in the dining room.
This was also the case on wintertime Saturday nights, too. Edited by oakapple (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure it is prix fixe any more, we ordered a la carte and the whole menu was priced per item. Then again, we ate at the bar, not in the dining room, I don't know if that makes a difference.

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

The kitchen is apparently closed, while the bar remains open. It seems that the Wayne Nish era of Varietal is over. Whether the kitchen with or without Nish will re-open is not clear.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...