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.

Upper West Side Blues


Felonius
 Share

Recommended Posts

balthazar vs the UWS!! we had the steak frites, chicken spaetzle, nantucket bay scallops risotto + a bourgogne rouge '00 vs the menu's '01, whether it makes any difference or not. the 1st two were typical, the risotto was excellent.

the point? the place was booked from 5:00 - 10:00!! we arrived at 5:30, had a glass of wine at the bar, & seated at 6, as walk-ins. every table was filled, every table had a wine bottle, there were no kids, everyone seemed dressed appropiately; it had that buzzy loudness. how many were native to SoHo? how many were native to NYC? but, i imagine, when you are tallying up the night's receipts, you don't really care.

as much as i love the UWS, & as much as i would love to see something similar, even i, must admit, it probably just would not work for the reasons enumerated above. UWS Blues - u bet'cha!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

in addition to the above, walked past the future site of jacques IMO at 77th & columbus, although a feb opening, looked dormant inside???

I have a call in for Jack and will try to let you city dwellers know what is going on with Jacques Imo's later today. My understanding is that the place is going ahead full steam and will open sometime this spring (but I was told that around Christmas, so plans may have changed).

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stash, I may be obtuse, but I don't understand what you mean. Would you please elaborate?

There was a thread somewhere (I have to do a search for it) that pretty much summed up the UWS restaurant mentality in a nutshell.

To wit, the basic elements are these:

1. People want to be able to bring their kids, their dog and the kitchen sink if at all possible, heedless of other people who might want to enjoy their dinner without tripping over a beagle's plush toy. (The UWS is primarily a residential neighborhood. I call it "Land of Infinite Soccer Moms".)

2. People want to be able to have a nice, three-course meal at a regular neighborhood place they can count on....for $19.95. (In other words, at prices that they can afford, not necessarily prices that a restaurant that serves meals of the quality and price point we're talking about can sustain on a long-term basis without hemorraghing profit.)

There are other aspects, but those are the two main elements.

Blovatrix, if the conventional wisdom no longer holds true, this thread wouldn't exist. Of course, the phrase "good restaurants" means different things to different people, and I'll make some allowance for individual variation.

Soba

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stash, I may be obtuse, but I don't understand what you mean. Would you please elaborate?

There was a thread somewhere (I have to do a search for it) that pretty much summed up the UWS restaurant mentality in a nutshell. edit by Soba: see below.

To wit, the basic elements are these:

1. People want to be able to bring their kids, their dog and the kitchen sink if at all possible, heedless of other people who might want to enjoy their dinner without tripping over a beagle's plush toy. (The UWS is primarily a residential neighborhood. I call it "Land of Infinite Soccer Moms".)

2. People want to be able to have a nice, three-course meal at a regular neighborhood place they can count on....for $19.95. (In other words, at prices that they can afford, not necessarily prices that a restaurant that serves meals of the quality and price point we're talking about can sustain on a long-term basis without hemorraghing profit.)

There are other aspects, but those are the two main elements.

There are plenty of Upper West Siders who genuinely know good food and want good food. Or, rather, want the option of good food. But on the whole they're not willing to take neighborhood restaurants seriously. If all of a sudden the clientely at Gramercy Tavern started behaving like the clientele at SQC, Gramercy Tavern couldn't stay in business using its current model. Wine sales would plummet, not enough people would be willing to shell out for the three-course prix-fixe, 2/3 of the customers would skip dessert, people would bring kids, they'd resent needing reservations, they'd want a different meal pace, etc. And plenty of those people at Gramercy Tavern live on the Upper West Side. But they don't treat their local restaurants the way they treat the downtown destination places.
Ultimately the place can't totally escape UWS restaurant syndrome, which seems to affect even the best restaurants and chefs: UWSiders claim they want nice restaurants in the 'hood, but they're unwilling to behave in such a way as to support those restaurants; they won't spend money on weekday lunch, they want to be able to bring their kids, they want to be able to order just an entree, they want everything on the side, etc. But SQC put out a really good meal last night, and I'll definitely want to give it another try.

The rest of the thread on SQC can be found here.

Soba

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Blovatrix, if the conventional wisdom no longer holds true, this thread wouldn't exist. Of course, the phrase "good restaurants" means different things to different people, and I'll make some allowance for individual variation.

Soba, maybe I'm not being clear, but my point is that the perception of the UWS as a land of people who are cheap and don't care about quality food is considerably out-of-date. Valenti and Virot were on to something when they decided to open restaurants on the UWS.

I don't disagree that there are a paucity of quality places to eat -- hence this thread. But, it's the "if they build it, they will come" concept. The UWS is a neighborhood dying for these types of places, and when someone actually opens a good place, it will do excellent business. The problem is the restarateurs haven't caught on that the UWS is a viable place to do business.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Which is more expensive: Gramercy Tavern, or Jean Georges?

J-G is in the neighborhood. Do you see J-G as a place that UWSiders frequent?

Perhaps the perception is out of the date...but as you know, restaurants are chancy businesses to start up, especially in these economic times.

I guess my next question is, what can an established UWS restauranteur do -- apart from doing well in the neighborhood -- to help pave the way for others who might want to "build it so that others will come"?

Soba

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing that I can definitely say about the UWS restaurant scene is that practically every halfway decent middlebrowor higher restaurant to upen there in the last 5 years or so has been a huge success. This, I think, speaks to the desire of UWSers to have a better dining experience nearby.

Now, that said, I do think it's true that UWSers -- especially those with money -- are used to traveling to "destination" restaurants, and this may color their receptiveness to such places in the 'hood.

What I think the UWS really wants is more places like SQC and Aix, not so much places like Daniel or Mix.

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, makes me think back to the good old days (around 20 years ago) when the space currently occupied by Metisse was a little Italian restaurant called Santerello. B'way and 105th was pretty funky back then and Santerello was a beacon of genility in the neighborhood. Santerello was where I took my wife on our first date -- actually she took me. It's where I proposed, and also the last restaurant we went to before we moved to Nashville in 1992. Alas, when we returned to Manhattan at the end of 1998 it had changed to Metisse. Everything changes in this city.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

when i asked my favorite upper e. side bistro, quartorze bis, why he did not open on UWS:

no business lunch crowd; UWS'er's too cheap to CONSISTENTLY support more upscale restaurants/bistros, i.e., could not get the price needed to offer the type of food, decor, service, ambience; no respect for semi-casual eating, i.e., shorts & sneakers vs. reasonable decent dress; uws'er's tendency to bring young kids without proper supervision.

All I can say to Jgould's initial post on this thread is "Amen!".

You bring up a good point in that there is basically zero lunch business on the UWS. This neighborhood is one of the few completely residential areas in Manhattan. With the exception of service businesses (dry cleaners, delis, etc.) no one works up here, and hence there is no upscale lunch business. This probably makes the economics difficult for a restaurant. On the other hand, mediocre places like Ouest and Nice Matin have been packed to the gills every time I've dropped in for dinner, so there must be a way to make a living selling good French bistro food on the UWS.

As for the soccer moms with strollers running rampant in restaurants, don't even get me started....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Felonious, you found the portions at Ouest small? I eat there a lot (two-three times a month, always at the bar) and have found their portion sizes fairly large. I have heard this criticism before and have always been confused. Can you tell me what you ate? The portion sizes have been getting noticably bigger, by the way.

I haven't been to Ouest in nearly a year, so my thoughts are not up to date. I remember a scallop appetizer that consisted of two scallops. This would have been fine it was on a tasting menu, but not as a regular appetizer in the $10-15 range.

Otherwise, I really can't speak of Ouest with any authority. I went three times not long after they opened and never had a desire to go back. Too much hype without much substance in my opinion. In that price range, I'd gladly walk 10 blocks South of my apartment to Nougatine.

Should I go back to Ouest for meal now that the hype has died down a bit?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Felonious, you found the portions at Ouest small?  I eat there a lot (two-three times a month, always at the bar) and have found their portion sizes fairly large.  I have heard this criticism before and have always been confused.  Can you tell me what you ate?  The portion sizes have been getting noticably bigger, by the way.

I haven't been to Ouest in nearly a year, so my thoughts are not up to date. I remember a scallop appetizer that consisted of two scallops. This would have been fine it was on a tasting menu, but not as a regular appetizer in the $10-15 range.

Otherwise, I really can't speak of Ouest with any authority. I went three times not long after they opened and never had a desire to go back. Too much hype without much substance in my opinion. In that price range, I'd gladly walk 10 blocks South of my apartment to Nougatine.

Should I go back to Ouest for meal now that the hype has died down a bit?

quite simply - NO!! spend either less or more than @ ouest. it has now become valenti's stepchild to his true calling represented by the italian 'cesca.

as for portion size, & to be honest, i also have never experienced a problem with the portion sizes at ouest. then again, i am a fan of small portion sizes in general. would rather have small, exquisite, flavor-filled entree, main course, dessert vs. the typical american-expected "value" portion sized meals. no wonder we are the most obese country "tout le monde"!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

as for portion size, & to be honest, i also have never experienced a problem with the portion sizes at ouest. then again, i am a fan of small portion sizes in general. would rather have small, exquisite, flavor-filled entree, main course, dessert vs. the typical american-expected "value" portion sized meals. no wonder we are the most obese country "tout le monde"!

Clearly then my memory fails me or my experience was unusual at Ouest. I too favor smaller portions and better quality.

Having said that, the two scallop plate was pushing the limits even for me, and must have been an anomaly given the comments from more experienced Ouest diners.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Metisse has been there for a long time, at least since I was in college if not high school. Are you sure that's just 20 years ago?  :biggrin:

From http://www.menupages.com/restaurantdetails...staurantid=1750: Metisse French, Bistro 239 W 105th St, New York 10025

From http://www.allny.com/ct/ressh/restaurants/italian.htm: Santerello Italian Restaurant - 239 W 105th St. NY, 212-749-7044. Note: the copyright on this page is 1997.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember a scallop appetizer that consisted of two scallops.  This would have been fine it was on a tasting menu, but not as a regular appetizer  in the $10-15 range.

Funny, I had that exact experience at Compass last year! And the same reaction, although intensified a bit because, as I recall, the appetizer was not just in the $10-15 range, but in excess of it (could be wrong, but it was damned expensive for two scallops!).

This was followed by an incompetently cooked veal chop. Add sub-standard service (particularly for a restaurant this expensive) to the mix and I was longing for SQC.

My one meal at Ouest had similar "issues"--miniscule portions, food of no particularly outstanding quality (at least the dishes here were competently executed), and somewhat less-than-attentive service. Yes, I have a somewhat larger-than-normal appetite (no comments from the peanut gallery!), but there was nothing about either of the above meals that imparted to me any desire whatsoever to return.

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't know when Metisse took over the space. The last time I ate at Santerello was in June 1992. I'd like to try Metisse for old time's sake, sort of.

I'd go with you. And I KNOW I could talk SarahD into going...and maybe slkinsey as well...Eric Malson? What do YOU think?

By the way, Métisse has been there as long as I've lived in NYC, and I hit seven years this past October.

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't know when Metisse took over the space.  The last time I ate at Santerello was in June 1992.  I'd like to try Metisse for old time's sake, sort of.

I'd go with you. And I KNOW I could talk SarahD into going...and maybe slkinsey as well...Eric Malson? What do YOU think?

By the way, Métisse has been there as long as I've lived in NYC, and I hit seven years this past October.

K

Sounds good to me.

Is this the beginning of the UWS Bistro Club? I can just see it now. Scorecards for coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet and pear tatin. :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...