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Lespinasse (Closed)


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I am sure that this is true of many places. I am off to MOMO in London tonight ( not my first choice but needs must as the date demands ) and I know they are very guilty of the two tier schtick.

However, that was not my experience in Lespinnasse where, on both occasions the service was excellent.

On another note, the single best dish I can ever recall was served there, rabbit and lobster in a gewurztraminer sauce. Quite wonderful

S

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One of the problems with Lespinasse and similar places in their heyday was that they had a very clear 'two-tiered'ystem. Regulars and 'the glitterati' were treated with overwhelming attention and 'the general public' were treated with contempt.

I'm not sure exactly how to reply. I have followed Delouvrier since his days at Maurice, and ate about 5 or 6 times a year at his restaurants. I don't know if that made me a "regular", but I never had any complaints about the service and Chef Delouvrier always found the time to stop by my table for a chat at the end of the meal (as he did at many tables).

While I am shocked to hear that you were treated with contempt, based on my experiences at Lespinasse, I hold out hope that this was an abberation and not the rule. For a long time, I thought that my experience at Babbo (rude and inept service, there) was unique, until I read similar posts on this and other boards.

Any like experiences from others?

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One of the problems with Lespinasse and similar places in their heyday was that they had a very clear 'two-tiered'ystem. Regulars and 'the glitterati' were treated with overwhelming attention and 'the general public' were treated with contempt. I say this because my experience was far from satisfactory. Food varied from excellent to pathetic. Service varied from poor to very poor.

My first two visits under Kunz were as a guest of a complete unknown. I was even more unknown. No one at the table was known at our first visits and not only was the food excellent, but I recall finding little fault with the service. As I recall, there was one waiter who had an annoying habit of reaching across the table. Never saw him again, but I was not a regular and don't know how long he lasted. My third visit was with someone who had recently met Kunz professionally and we had one of the best meals ever. We didn't order and splendid food just arrived at our table. Most interesting to me was that the spicing was much tamer than when we ordered from the menu. Early on under Delouvrier, we experienced miserable uncoordinated and condescending service in spite of being known to staff that I wondered if the restaurant was having labor problems again. Food was generally good, although not always what we ordered.

My suspicion, espressed elsewhere, is that the closing has as much to do with room vacancies at the hotel than it does directly with the restaurant, but there's no denying these are not the best of times for haute cuisine.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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From the NYT article: "Tim Zagat, founder of the restaurant guide, said he was not shocked at the announcement of Lespinasse's closing. "The food was very, very good," he said, "but the décor was a bit too ornate, and the furnishings were outdated and heavy." "

You know, fuck Tim Zagat.  :angry:  He has no formal training that I know of that would qualify him to opine as an expert on dining and his publications are based on the most unscientific form of statistical survey.  The fact that the NYT would even consider, let alone publish, Zagat's "expert" opinion is testimony to the decline of the Grey Lady, which now teeters slightly above the NY Post and USA Today is journalistic standards.

The Zagats could better contribute to the world of gastronomy by slow-roasting themselves over an open fire.

seems like it was just the opinion of a well-known food-type guy who thought the place looked outdated and oldschool. an opinion shared, no doubt, by countless other non-experts.

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Still, I think it strains credibility to the breaking point to attribute Lespinasse's closing to ornate decor and outdated furnishings. The furnishings are supposed to be outdated: it's a Louis XV design scheme -- that's 18th Century if memory serves. So the furnishings have been outdated since at least the early 1990s, when the restaurant opened. And it's not like the furnishings are shabby -- they've done plenty of renovations and facelifts to keep the room and everything in it ship-shape. As for ornate decor being the problem, I just don't buy it: look at Daniel's dining room, which is in my opinion far more ornate and arguably downright gaudy. No, Zagat's explanation makes no sense.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've been to Lespinasse a number of times during both the Kunz and Delouvrier periods and never had a serious service problem. I find that Delouvier is an excellent cook, but not a brilliant chef. I don't believe that he would have made any impact if he had stayed in Paris. He particularly excelled at the heavier cold weather dishes such as a wild fowl with a brown truffle sauce. His Achilles heal was kitchen management. This was even more evident at Les Celebrites where the dishes could be wildly inconsistent. At Lespinasse, he must have had some help, because it had better consistency, although not enough. Overall, this chef and this restaurant, although capable of very good output, always left you feeling just slightly disappointed, even when you couldn't quite put your finger on exactly why. I believe that the accumulation of these disappointments ultimately contributed the falloff in business led to its closing.

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Whether or not there was a falloff in business at Lespinasse that exceeded the falloff in business at other fine dining restaurants is a question I can't answer. My guess is that the falloff was in the normal range for restaurants at that price point and that what we're looking at is a hotel management decision driven by factors unrelated to the restaurant's performance. The restaurant has always been a money-loser. The most likely explanation for the closing is that the hotel's owners don't have a surplus right now, so the prestige of having a four-star restaurant in the hotel isn't worth a million or two dollars a year to them.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Still, I think it strains credibility to the breaking point to attribute Lespinasse's closing to ornate decor and outdated furnishings.

seems like the fault could lie with the Times for quoting that bit suggesting that Zagat was suggesting that the decor was the downfall of the restaurant. damned journalists. roast 'em all. :angry:

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I don't agree. Daniel, Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin are still running, if not at 100%, still very close to that, along with Craft and Grammercy Tavern. The significant dropoff in business at Lespinasse has been noted on these boards quite a number of times over the past year. I do agree that the decor argument is fallacious.

Edited by marcus (log)
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I wonder how representative eGullet is, but it occurs to me that users post reports of dinners at Daniel, Jean-Georges and even ADNY with some frequency here. How many reports of dinner at Lespinasse? Just going on my fallible memory, I can recall two in over a year. Doesn't seem to have been a destination restaurant among our esteemed circle (one fears the same is true of Lutece).

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I'm sure FG got it right with

The restaurant has always been a money-loser. The most likely explanation for the closing is that the hotel's owners don't have a surplus right now, so the prestige of having a four-star restaurant in the hotel isn't worth a million or two dollars a year to them.
Business is business. (Hey, btw, where's Plotz??)

My one visit there was a lunch in 1996 (in the era of Kunz). The service was superb. The food was so-so (no discernible mustard flavor in the mustard-sauced rabbit). The room was gorgeous but oppressive: I felt as though I were the middle layer of a wedding cake.

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I've at least heard Lespinasse's name mentioned in the same breath as that of Daniel and Jean Geroges. When was the last time Lutece was mentioned that way?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I wonder how representative eGullet is, but it occurs to me that users post reports of dinners at Daniel, Jean-Georges and even ADNY with some frequency here.  How many reports of dinner at Lespinasse?  Just going on my fallible memory, I can recall two in over a year.  Doesn't seem to have been a destination restaurant among our esteemed circle (one fears the same is true of Lutece).

Lespinasse was for tourists

Nick

Edited by ngatti (log)
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I've at least heard Lespinasse's name mentioned in the same breath as that of Daniel and Jean Geroges. When was the last time Lutece was mentioned that way?

Fair point. I was just pondering that it's probably bad news for upscale restaurants (and Lutece is at least that still) when they don't get much attention for compulsive-obsessives like us.

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Certainly, Zagat's survey participants have always been fond of Lespinasse. I think in one recent edition Lespinasse had top overall combined score. In the 2003 Zagat, Lespinasse ranks 27 for food (same as Ducasse and Bouley), 27 for decor, and 26 for service. Apparently Tim Zagat's readers do not agree with his assessment of Lespinasse's decor: there are only three restaurants with a 28: Rainbow Room, Daniel, and Danube. Lespinasse ranks ahead of Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, and Ducasse, each of which gets 26 for decor. The service comments speak of "'flawless' service from a 'staff with ESP'."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Let's talk food here. Of the umpteen million courses we shared that night, fellas, how many were memorable? How many were better than decent? How many were innovative, or elegant renditions of classics, or...delicious???

Or service: the famous "we've put it away" cheese incident, and the meals brought to and then sitting on the table when one diner left between courses to powder her nose.

Or price: a tasting menu with adaquate wines for $360 per person. THREE HUNDRED SIXTY DOLLARS PER PERSON FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD AND FLAWED AMATUERISH SERVICE.

No wonder the dining room was empty that night, and no wonder the place is shuttered.

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