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ADNY (Alain Ducasse @ Essex House)


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I don't know that either restaurant is a money loser either individually or in the grand scheme of things. The latter, especially, is a complex calculation that involves a number of factors and dependencies.

Is the latter you're referring to ADNY? And is this due to its being a hotel restaurant?

We know that French Laundry is a highly profitable restaurant, and that Ducasse has a global track record of adding value to hotel properties by operating restaurants on premises. Both ADNY and Per Se have what I understand to be favorable lease conditions, yet each brings something -- prestige, traffic, whatever -- to the property owner that may be more valuable than the straight monetary loss of leasing the space to ADNY or Per Se as opposed to Gap Kids.

I was under the impression that Per Se was operating at a loss or that it cost so much to open that it would see no profit for 20 years (if it can last that long).

I wonder how potential beneficiaries of these projects -- those who profit from the success of the Time Warner Building and Essex House -- quantify the value added by the restaurants. It's not, I assume, a matter of an increase in property value as it would relate to a sale of that property, because the real estate market in these types of properties doesn't have high turnover. And in both cases I don't see either of the two restaurant bringing more business to either the hotel or the mall. ("Let's get to Per Se early, so we can browse the shops before our anniversary dinner.") Or does this prestige filter slowly into our minds as consumers, logic being: If Essex House houses a restaurant like ADNY, it must be a pretty fine hotel itself?

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

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"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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By the latter I was referring to "the grand scheme of things" as opposed to the individual profitability of an establishment viewed from an isolated balance-sheet-type perspective. Just as many retailers lose money on a flagship store, in order to bring prestige to the company, some fine-dining restaurants act as flagships or other variants of the loss leader concept in the context of a hotel, restaurant empire, or real estate undertaking.

The simplest example is a real estate development in a remote area, where services must be provided in order to make the development habitable by the target audience. Thus, the developer subsidizes the building of a supermarket, some restaurants, a health club, and in the larger developments maybe even schools and medical facilities, so that people will buy houses in the development. Building nicer supermarkets, health clubs, and restaurants is one way that a nicer development distinguishes itself and is able to charge more money (other ways might be proximity to a beach, quality of construction, etc.). Most hotels, likewise, lose money on a range of services because those services as a whole package benefit the hotel and its brand image in various ways, ultimately contributing to a broader profit picture. You look at Central Park South and it's hotel after hotel. These hotels need to do things to distinguish themselves from one another, from hotels elsewhere in the city, and within the international luxury hotel pack. Having ADNY in the Essex House is one such thing that the Essex House does to distinguish itself. To a certain well-heeled, sought-after-by-hotels set of international travelers, having a Ducasse restaurant in your hotel means a lot. The exact same hotel, with a lesser restaurant, could be perceived as a lesser hotel.

On the individual point: I don't have any special access to Per Se's numbers -- I only know what I've read in New York magazine -- and to some extent we've gone over this ground before, but if Per Se can make what French Laundry makes on the dining room, and if it can have the increased business from banquets (French Laundry does not have banquet rooms) and from liquor sales (French Laundry can't get a permit for hard liquor so it has no bar) and from Bouchon bakery and other ancillary businesses (such as perhaps a chocolate shop) the it can make millions of dollars in profit a year. Maybe it will take a long time to pay back the startup costs, but it can be done. I also don't know the numbers at ADNY, and I know the place has been hit hard by union issues and by various business challenges, but Delouvrier has told me that the place is "making money." A vague statement, but when he was at Lespinasse he never hesitated to tell me how much they were losing, so if he says they're making money it must be a good sign.

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 was under the impression that Per Se was operating at a loss or that it cost so much to open that it would see no profit for 20 years (if it can last that long).

When Jamie Oliver opened his place in London, he announced that it would take at least 8 years before they had paid it off.

A year and a half later - voila, they've paid it in full.

Bistro math - it will get you every time.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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It's interesting to me that in speaking of the success of restaurants at this high level -- the ADNY-Per Se level you've been speaking of -- there is little talk about profit. I've read on eG in the past that both Per Se and ADNY are serious money losers; there's no way Boulud is going to blow money or time on a new, higher level restaurant, or even turn Daniel into such a restaurant, when his flagship is a great money maker. This seems to me the most significant impediment to opening a restaurant that will compete at the highest level.

But then again it still amazes me that there is enough money floating around to support the restaurants out there now. I might be naive about how much investors would throw behind DB, JV, or Adria, even if the resulting restaurant was a money loser.

Could one say that a restaurant single-mindedly devoted to the pursuit of perfection and experience, damned all costs and possibility of profit, that Per Se and ADNY are "attempting" qualify them as a restaurant? I know that sounds silly but it seems as if it is almost a performance art piece that places it in a completely different category than a profit generating business with an eye on the bottom line i.e. staying open and offering a ROI.

I think FG has it correct though with evaluations of these two ****+ places that

Ducasse has the hotel value added in and Per Se is certainly equiped in the kitchen to run several satellites (bakery, chocolates, banquets, etc.) once they hit full long range and term stride. And,Ducasse has never been afraid of making money...

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I don't know that a diner coming or going to Per Se is going to linger long enough to ever look into a shop window, but the free publicity about that "mall" that came from the number of times that group of restaurants has been mentioned in the press is worth a pretty penny if the owner had any retail space to rent or apartments to sell.

My guess is that few name chefs are going to open a new restaurant unless they can get some deal in terms of rent. It's still a risky business to open a restaurant.

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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well, i had a pretty cool day.

went on up to adny by appointment and am going to stage at adny on monday.

i'm so very excited.........i was very nervous but am dleighted to be given a 'day'.

how do you spell the word when you shout out loud with sheer joy??? that's the word that should fill these past two sentences.

:smile::smile::smile::smile::smile::smile::biggrin:

must sharpen those knives, clean those whites, remember to take a pen and notepad, be before time and enjoy!!!!

what a pleasant fellow

any tips anyone?

Edited by intraining (log)
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DutchMuse, as luck would have it I tasted some of the dishes from the white truffle menu last night and, even better, I have photographs.

Thinking that perhaps the eGullet crew would enjoy some photographs of the food at ADNY, I arranged to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen last night. Christian Delouvrier and his brigade were very accommodating, allowing me to wander around the kitchen and photograph whatever I wanted. I also got to do some serious snacking. The conditions were somewhat challenging, with a swarm of cooks whirling around me all armed with sizzling skillets and saucepots, and I felt that one false move at any time could land me in a 50 gallon steam jacket kettle. But I was able to get a few snapshots that I'd like to share with you all here.

It may take me some time to process all of these. I've just returned from two months in China and Tibet and have several thousand photos to go through from that trip. But I'll post the ADNY photos as I get to them.

For this post let's start with the first dish on the menu tartufi di Alba: farm egg "en cocotte" with mousseline of sunchokes and tartufi di Alba. I have to say I am a bit uncomfortable talking about white truffles. This menu costs $320, or you can get truffle dishes from the carte for a $70 per dish supplement. It is a bit obscene. Yes, yes, I know the "children are starving in Africa" argument is wrong as a matter of logic, but still just the economic conditions I grew up under make it borderline horrifying to me that people spend this kind of money on food.

But I would also love for every one of you to taste ADNY's egg en cocotte with white truffles before you die. It's that good.

The eggs are cracked into a pool of sunchoke puree and cooked in miniature Staub cast iron pots in a water bath on the stovetop.

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When the egg is just shy of setting, it is removed from the heat and a white Alba truffle the size of a baby's fist is brought into play.

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The finished dish:

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While photographing the dish in the "aquarium" adjacent to the kitchen, I saw on the bookshelf that the title of Christian Delouvrier's cookbook is Mastering Simplicity. This dish, I would say, represents true mastery of simplicity.

More later.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Ellen, I am duly salivating!

Congratulations, intraining! How long is your staige for?

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

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I believe ADNY gets its poulardes and eggs from Sylvia and Stephen Pryzant's Four Story Hill Farm in Honesdale, PA. If you happen to have a copy of Harvesting Excellence, it's on page 148. There's also an obscure and Byzantine way to navigate to the same information online, which I'll write up at some point. There may be other suppliers as well.

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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Ellen, I can smell that dish from your photographs.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Ellen, I can smell that dish from your photographs.

Were I to know what exactly sunchokes are, so would I.

(yes, yes, I read the thing about Jerusalem, sunflowers and bulbs. But that makes the whole thing more intriguing)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Pedro, sunchokes are very versatile. Like potatoes, they have some flavor of their own but are great vehicles for other flavors. In this dish they were creamy and velvety in the mouth, and had a slight sweetness like squash with a slight earthiness like potatoes. I've had them cooked other ways where they were more sweet and crunchy and they sometimes taste a little like artichoke hearts but not much.

This is another truffle menu dish that I was able to photograph while it was being plated on the pass. The truffles are shaved in the dining room at the table, so what you will see here is pre-addition of truffles. These are the foie gras ravioli.

gallery_122_337_1099797730.jpg

gallery_122_337_1099797765.jpg

The really nice thing about this dish, if you happen to be hanging out in the ADNY kitchen on any given night, is that every time they cook an order of these ravioli they make one extra just in case one of them falls apart during cooking and plating. But it never does! So there's always one extra piece to snack on!

The foie gras ravioli are not my favorite foie gras dish at ADNY, though. I like the terrine and the sauteed foie a lot more. Not that I'd say no to foie gras ravioli with white truffles, but it's not the dish I'd recommend for the big splurge. The next dish I'll post a photo of, though, is another story . . .

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Ellen, a thousand thank you's for allowing us to live/eat vicariously through your breathtaking photos and commentary.

Truffled eggs & foie gras ravioli!?! Oh. My. God. I don't know if I could handle more photos of your evening there. (But somehow I know I can and will :shock::raz: )

Swoonfully yours,

Yetty

Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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Probably the most oft-repeated quote from Alain Ducasse is his quip that "turbot without genius is better than genius without turbot." Luckily, you don't have to make that choice at ADNY. You can have both. And that's not all you get! You also get white truffles!

This is the last of the three white truffle dishes that I was able to photograph (and taste). This is turbot from Brittany "au Champagne" with a Spanish prawn and white truffles. The dish was being served with crayfish Nantua until a few days ago when the supply of good crayfish dried up. The prawn seems so right for the dish, though, that Delouvrier might never go back.

Some of these truffle dishes are built tableside with some drama, so this here is the initial minimalist setup: just a piece of turbot with the Champagne sauce, plus that big red prawn. This is a split portion, by the way.

gallery_122_337_1099801942.jpg

Then a sauce is added.

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And finally the white truffles are shaved over the plate to complete the composition.

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The turbot is on the bone, as it should be, because all that gelatin in the turbot's unique bones gives added flavor, and the bones have the benefit of being some of the easiest of all fish bones to handle; the flesh slides right off. That prawn from Spain is just barely cooked through and so moist, not at all like a the dried out lousy shrimp you get most places. It reminded me of the "royal red" shrimp we had in Gulf Shores, Alabama. With the addition of the truffles, this dish becomes something very special.

Much more to come but I'm turning in for the night.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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None of those three dishes appeared on our menu last week, although we did taste a sample of the foie gras ravioli (which was in a different shape). I think I posted above that I thought I'd had the egg dish in the past, but that turns out to be wrong -- the egg and truffle dish I had awhile back (pre-Delouvrier) was totally different. The two white truffle dishes we had at that dinner last week were the Scottish pheasant with Albufera sauce (and white truffles), and the lobster with cardoon gratin (and white truffles). The pheasant was especially good.

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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Ellen - thank you again.

If I may, I have some gacky (like geeky, but far more respectable) cooking questions:

1. How did they cook that prawn?

2. D'you think we could take a guess at what went into that champagne sauce? - Shallot, champagne, champagne vinegar, fish stock, cream ???? Maybe some mushrooms? FG, Ellen, what do you think?

3. And that nantua sauce seems almost marbled - how was that achieved?

Edited by MobyP (log)

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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This is the last of the three white truffle dishes that I was able to photograph (and taste). This is turbot from Brittany "au Champagne" with a Spanish prawn and white truffles. The dish was being served with crayfish Nantua until a few days ago when the supply of good crayfish dried up. The prawn seems so right for the dish, though, that Delouvrier might never go back.

That Spanish Prawn is Aristeus antennatus, referred in Spanish as carabinero or gamba roja, crevette rouge in French and risso in Italian.

(according to Davidson's "Mediterranean Seafood", Prospect Books)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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