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Montrachet


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A dish of braised tripe looked a lot like shreds of carpet in a brown sauce (how does one make tripe attractive?) but hit all the right notes. It was hearty and savory — a scattering of fava beans and chips of black truffle lurked within. The squab was equally well composed. Roasted pink, it was gamy and sweet, with the breast meat sliced and fanned and a leg there for gnawing. Atop a tangle of frisée, sharing the plate, was a quail egg cooked soft so that the yolk tamed the zesty dressing. But the squab also epitomized the problem at Montrachet. Much of the cooking is textbook-correct, yet you will not be awed. You will be fed well and sent home.

Montrachet (Amanda Hesser) (from today's NYTimes DIGEST update. You may have to scroll down for the appropriate link.)

The darling of Tribeca in the mid '80s is no longer a darling...at least according to Amanda's review. Whether it will rise to the occasion remains to be seen.

What have your experiences been like?

Soba

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A groundbreaking restaurant in its day. Still it's a place with lovely service, a cozy (if a bit long in the tooth) atmosphere, and one of the best lists of white Burgundy in the USA - for the very very few who can afford to pay restaurant prices for grand cru Burgundies.

Otherwise, I'd say the food is not up to par by current NYC standards. I haven't dined there in two years for a reason. Their prices put them in a range where I don't believe they belong in terms of food (i.e. Veritas, Cafe Boulud, Mix, L'Impero, Blue Hill, etc.). Given the competition, I see no reason to dine there other than the wine list.

I'd be curious to know who their regulars are these days, outside of Tribeca neighbors with deep pockets.

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In terms of the media aspect of the review, why no mention of Ruth Reichl's three-star review? It's written as though there has been no discussion of Montrachet in the Times since the Bryan Miller review -- that's misleading or at least incomplete. In any event, Hesser is right about the restaurant: Montrachet is barely hanging on to its last few shreds of credibility.

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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Hesser hits the mark with this comment.....

"Before me stood a dining room with sponge-painted walls and self-consciously modern paintings. It felt like a scene from "Wall Street." I could picture Michael Douglas sitting at a red banquette, bellowing into a first-generation cellphone the size of a shoe."
Edited by Felonius (log)
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I have to say, I hadn't eaten at Montrachet since I lived in Tribeca, oh...decades ago! But then they started that darned corkage-free Mondays and all of the wine geeks in town figured it was worth a look again. We all know that geeks will go just about ANYWHERE to grab a decent meal and still be able to bring their own juice, right? Look how many of us were hiking to the Upper West Side to eat upstairs at Fairway for a "passable" steak dinner...has anybody gone there since they stopped allowing BYO?!! Anyway, whilst I have had good meals at Montrachet on these Monday night geek-fests, I certainly can't argue with the "You will be fed well and sent home" statement. I've had both the tasting menu and a la carte and it's been...good! The room is feeling a bit dated (but not as dated as say, Le Perigord!) but that's not so bad. The staff always makes you feel welcome, the service has always been very good, and for what us geeks are using it for, a way to get "good" food to accompany our juice, it's a lot better than most NYC BYO's!

Of course, after yesterdays review, I imagine there will be a "For Rent" sign in the window of a certain restaurant on West Broadway within the year...

BeeT's

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I recall being impressed when Bouley was there and then just moving on myself as a fickle New Yorker. At some point we accompanied friends who felt it was worthy and we were disappointed. I was unable to communicate with the waiter about how I wanted my kidneys cooked. I'm sure it was my fault, but no matter whose fault it was, it left me feeling it wasn't my kind of restaurant.

A while back, with Harold Moore in the kitchen, I heard it was reaching another peak. Unfortunately, we never made it there to taste the food. I also Moore's departure as a negative sign.

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  • 4 months later...

In March, Amanda Hesser made a stir when she demoted Montrachet, a long-time three-star standout, to two stars. Whether Montrachet deserved the slap-down may be debated, but the review stood out for its soul-lessness.

I had a chance to find out for myself last night. Hesser's comments about the décor seemed to me completely wacky. She wrote:

Entering the restaurant is a bit like stepping through the looking glass. There is no coat room in the tiny foyer. A small portable heater set on top of a wine cask buzzed at the coat checker, who took my coat, hung it on a metal rack in the dining room, then looked up my reservation. She was polite, warm even.

Before me stood a dining room with sponge-painted walls and self-consciously modern paintings. It felt like a scene from "Wall Street." I could picture Michael Douglas sitting at a red banquette, bellowing into a first-generation cellphone the size of a shoe.

I hadn't been to Montrachet in years, and I suddenly felt the disappointment of returning to a childhood home and finding that the backyard is not so big as you remembered, that the curtains are kind of shabby. Montrachet even smells old.

I can't comment on the coat rack and space heater — it being high summer, these accoutrements were entirely unnecessary. But the space itself seems elegant and refined. It didn't smell old.

I was there with a party of three. Two of us chose the appetizer of Marinated Sea Scallops with Gazpacho Sauce. This was a bit disappointing, as the gazpacho overwhelmed the scallops, leaving them flabby and dead to the taste. The third member of our party ordered a Wild Mushroom Bisque, which he pronounced a success.

We had three different main courses, which all were pleased with. Between us, we tried the Magret of Duck with Pistachios and Cherry Endive Compote, the Chilean Sea Bass "en Barigoule" with Parmigiano Reggiano, and the Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Morels, Texas Sweet Onions and Truffles.

Montrachet has one of the most revered wine lists in the city, and it takes a connoisseur (or the sommelier's guidance) to make sense of it. One of my companions knows his wines, and he chose a PlumpJack Cabernet Sauvignon —a brand previously unknown to me — that I found superb.

For the record, appetizers at Montrachet are $11-22, mains are $24-32, desserts $10-11. A cheese course runs to $16 per head. All three of us tried that, and I was gratified to find that it included good-sized samples of five contrasting cheeses, which is more than you get for the money at many restaurants in town.

Montrachet also offers four fixed menus. There are two three-course prix fixe options at $30 or $46, a six-course tasting for $79, or an eight-course tasting for $95. The latter is available only Monday to Friday.

Most of my dining out is at the one and two-star levels. Montrachet certainly seems to me superior to most two-star restaurants in New York. While one cannot judge fairly on a single visit, on this showing I would say that Hesser's demotion to two stars was an injustice.

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  • 2 years later...

In a post today, Eater asks, "What of Montrachet?" It has been "closed for renovations" since last May, with the re-opening date deferred several times. Elsewhere, it was reported that the celebrated wine cellar was liquidated—surely a sign that it is not re-opening anytime soon, at least not in its original form.

Will Montrachet ever open again? "Probably not," suggests Eater. The owner, Drew Nieporent, has been in talks with Paul Liebrandt, but the deal would require a significant investment from outside money, and the restaurant "will take perhaps as much as two years to be cash positive again."

The environment for such restaurants isn't favorable. Over and over again, places like the original Montrachet get two-star smackdowns from Frank Bruni. It has already happened to Paul Liebrandt once (at Gilt). Without a radical change of concept, three stars are highly unlikely at Montrachet.

Nieporent would probably be better off opening a casual restaurant that serves a great pork chop and meatball sliders — with two stars guaranteed.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The NYC dining world has changed considerably in the past 5 years, let alone the 20 or so years since Montrachet was in its heyday. The bar has been raised so many times that many once standard-setting restaurants are woefully obsolete in the current market. Of those still in business (RIP La Cote Basque, Lutece, etc.) I think that Montrachet and Chanterelle are leading the list of barely surviving dinosaurs. The fact that no one on this forum has entered a single post on Montrachet since 2004 speaks volumes....

If Montrachet intends to reopen and draw a crowd, their team should be at Bouley Upstairs taking notes as we speak. If the restaurant was on the Upper East Side it might have been thriving still (Aureole anyone?), but the Tribeca cognoscenti have moved on. Not many people in that crowd want an old school fine dining experience, with all the baggage that goes along with it. The new Montrachet could be a hit, if they can bring the food up to current standards in an environment that appeals to the new generation. Drew Nieporent is a smart cookie, and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with this time around.

Edited by Felonius (log)
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It's an interesting premise.

This interview with Jean George Vongerichten talks about how much money is needed just to start

a build up for a new place, real estate wise.

Maybe it's better to use that real estate to build on?

One thing Drew Nieporent doesn't have to worry about is start-up capital. I won't say more than this, as I'd be betraying a confidence, but he has been literally printing money at Nobu since the place started. It is one of the all-time greatest cash cows in NYC.

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The NYC dining world has changed considerably in the past 5 years, let alone the 20 or so years since Montrachet was in its heyday.  The bar has been raised so many times that many once standard-setting restaurants are woefully obsolete in the current market.  Of those still in business (RIP La Cote Basque, Lutece, etc.) I think that Montrachet and Chanterelle are leading the list of barely surviving dinosaurs. The fact that no one on this forum has entered a single post on Montrachet since 2004 speaks volumes....

If he's re-opening with Liebrandt, it's safe to guess that Nieporent realizes all this. Good or bad, Liebrandt won't be boring. The question is how much of the old Montrachet (the decor, the wine program) will survive the makeover.

By the way, there are many extremely fine restaurants that receive very few eGullet posts. We are a somewhat insular bunch. (See the recent thread about under-appreciated restaurants.)

If the restaurant was on the Upper East Side it might have been thriving still (Aureole anyone?), but the Tribeca cognoscenti have moved on.  Not many people in that crowd want an old school fine dining experience, with all the baggage that goes along with it.  The new Montrachet could be a hit, if they can bring the food up to current standards in an environment that appeals to the new generation.

Well, in terms of luxury, TriBeCa still has Chanterelle, Danube and Bouley, and all three continue to do very strong business, so I'm not sure the premise is accurate. I do agree that of the four (Bouley, Chanterelle, Danube, Montrachet), Montrachet was the least exciting, but the continuing success of the others shows that the market for that type of restaurant hasn't dried up. If Paul Liebrandt can generate the kind of excitement in that space that David Bouley originally did, Montrachet will be fine.

I also think the "TriBeCa cognoscenti" are a non-existent entity. That neighborhood couldn't sustain 1/4th of the restaurants it has, if there were a local cognoscenti keeping them going.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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The question is how much of the old Montrachet (the decor, the wine program) will survive the makeover.

It seems fairly safe to assume the old decor will not survive the makeover. If they're planning to keep the name Montrachet, it seems obvious the wine program will. Also, what else would they do with the wines? Sell them at auction? Hang on in the hopes of opening a more wine-focused restaurant in the future? Both seem unlikely to me.

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It's an interesting premise.

This interview with Jean George Vongerichten talks about how much money is needed just to start

a build up for a new place, real estate wise.

Maybe it's better to use that real estate to build on?

One thing Drew Nieporent doesn't have to worry about is start-up capital. I won't say more than this, as I'd be betraying a confidence, but he has been literally printing money at Nobu since the place started. It is one of the all-time greatest cash cows in NYC.

I'm sure DN has much money to spend but at that kind of buckage it seems that anybody would swallow hard?

I'm trying to remember that Cigar place/ rest. Nieporent had in that Tribeca-ish area, City Cigar or something??

I had some good meals there and apps in the bar there and was seriously bummed when it closed.

I also remember a friend who had claimed to have some seriously great meals at Montrechet.

2317/5000

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It's an interesting premise.

This interview with Jean George Vongerichten talks about how much money is needed just to start

a build up for a new place, real estate wise.

Maybe it's better to use that real estate to build on?

One thing Drew Nieporent doesn't have to worry about is start-up capital. I won't say more than this, as I'd be betraying a confidence, but he has been literally printing money at Nobu since the place started. It is one of the all-time greatest cash cows in NYC.

I'm sure DN has much money to spend but at that kind of buckage it seems that anybody would swallow hard?

I'm trying to remember that Cigar place/ rest. Nieporent had in that Tribeca-ish area, City Cigar or something??

I had some good meals there and apps in the bar there and was seriously bummed when it closed.

I also remember a friend who had claimed to have some seriously great meals at Montrechet.

The last time I dined at Montrachet was in 2004, and the two meals I had there were at best mediocre in terms of food. I also thought the dining room was looking tired and in need of a rehab. The service was excellent though, and the wine list of course was exceptional (albeit expensive).

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The NYC dining world has changed considerably in the past 5 years, let alone the 20 or so years since Montrachet was in its heyday.  The bar has been raised so many times that many once standard-setting restaurants are woefully obsolete in the current market.  Of those still in business (RIP La Cote Basque, Lutece, etc.) I think that Montrachet and Chanterelle are leading the list of barely surviving dinosaurs. The fact that no one on this forum has entered a single post on Montrachet since 2004 speaks volumes....

If he's re-opening with Liebrandt, it's safe to guess that Nieporent realizes all this. Good or bad, Liebrandt won't be boring. The question is how much of the old Montrachet (the decor, the wine program) will survive the makeover.

By the way, there are many extremely fine restaurants that receive very few eGullet posts. We are a somewhat insular bunch. (See the recent thread about under-appreciated restaurants.)

If the restaurant was on the Upper East Side it might have been thriving still (Aureole anyone?), but the Tribeca cognoscenti have moved on.  Not many people in that crowd want an old school fine dining experience, with all the baggage that goes along with it.  The new Montrachet could be a hit, if they can bring the food up to current standards in an environment that appeals to the new generation.

Well, in terms of luxury, TriBeCa still has Chanterelle, Danube and Bouley, and all three continue to do very strong business, so I'm not sure the premise is accurate. I do agree that of the four (Bouley, Chanterelle, Danube, Montrachet), Montrachet was the least exciting, but the continuing success of the others shows that the market for that type of restaurant hasn't dried up. If Paul Liebrandt can generate the kind of excitement in that space that David Bouley originally did, Montrachet will be fine.

I also think the "TriBeCa cognoscenti" are a non-existent entity. That neighborhood couldn't sustain 1/4th of the restaurants it has, if there were a local cognoscenti keeping them going.

In terms of "tribeca cognoscenti", I was referring to the neighborhood locals. In my experience they are mostly people in the late thirties to early fifties age range who have achieved considerable financial success and dine out several nights a week. They also tend to gravitate towards less formal dining options (in terms of ambience, not quality or sophistication of cuisine). None of them dine very often (if at all) at Montrachet and Chanterelle. Instead, they are regulars at places like Bouley Upstairs and Landmark.

I got the feeling that Montrachet was more of a destination restaurant for tourists or New Yorkers from other neighborhoods out for a special occasion. I may be wrong on this, but I think it's difficult to be really successful as a "destination" or "special occasion" restaurant unless you're towards the top of the food chain (i.e. Babbo, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Daniel, etc.). You may be able to fill tables on Friday and Saturday night, but it's tough to draw a crowd on weeknights without the support of well-heeled locals. Cafe Boulud is a prime example of this. Their weekends are booked with special occasion diners, but they are packed Monday through Wednesday, and at lunch, with regulars from the neighborhood.

Montrachet could indeed reestablish itself as a destination spot, but they would have to seriously up the ante in quality of food and atmosphere to do so. There is a lot more competition at the high end of the market in present day NYC than there was 10 years ago.

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If they're planning to keep the name Montrachet, it seems obvious the wine program will. Also, what else would they do with the wines? Sell them at auction?

I can't find the reference, but I believe I read somewhere that the wines were auctioned off.

Interesting and somewhat unfortunate. (Not that I was ever likely to be ordering any of the reserve bottles there.) Still, I can't find any reference to this, and it seems like it would attract some attention if it were a substantial portion of the Montrachet cellar. Maybe they are selling some at Crush?

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One thing Drew Nieporent doesn't have to worry about is start-up capital.

I'm sure DN has much money to spend but at that kind of buckage it seems that anybody would swallow hard?

Although he can afford it, Drew didn't get rich investing in fools' errands. Opening a restaurant isn't a philanthropic exercise, like underwriting a wing at the Metropolitan Museum. He opens restaurants to make money.

I agree that opening a top-tier restaurant at the old Montrachet's price level with Liebrandt as chef has to be a significant risk, since Liebrandt has already failed more than once. But if the news reports are true, this is exactly what Nieporent is doing.

In terms of "tribeca cognoscenti", I was referring to the neighborhood locals.  In my experience they are mostly people in the late thirties to early fifties age range who have achieved considerable financial success and dine out several nights a week.  They also tend to gravitate towards less formal dining options (in terms of ambience, not quality or sophistication of cuisine).

In just about any neighborhood, there are very few people who dine out several nights a week at places like Bouley or Chanterelle, unless they are doing so to entertain clients. I don't think it has anything to do with being in TriBeCa, or being part of the cognoscenti.
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I don't know if "failed" is the correct term but I believe Liebrandt's previous efforts were somewhat unsuccessful because he was in the wrong locations where expectations were such that he did not deliver.

There is a reason Wylie Dufresne has been successful--location. He has also met the expectations of his audience (they also find him).

Liebrandt may be better off downtown much more accessible to a more adventurous dining crowd.

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In terms of "tribeca cognoscenti", I was referring to the neighborhood locals.  In my experience they are mostly people in the late thirties to early fifties age range who have achieved considerable financial success and dine out several nights a week.  They also tend to gravitate towards less formal dining options (in terms of ambience, not quality or sophistication of cuisine).

In just about any neighborhood, there are very few people who dine out several nights a week at places like Bouley or Chanterelle, unless they are doing so to entertain clients. I don't think it has anything to do with being in TriBeCa, or being part of the cognoscenti.

I think you're underestimating the extent to which restaurants need to be "of" the neighborhoods in which they're located to succeed.

First, most places in residential areas need local support to succeed. In the "Neighborhood Place" thread, a lot of people noted that, to well-heeled people who live in the neighborhood, Daniel is a neighborhood place. I'll go one further. Do you think that Daniel would be as spectacularly successful as it is if, instead of being located on the UES, it were in Tribeca? I don't think so. Wrong vibe. It would get much less local support.

To take it further, I'd expect that DavidBurke & Donatella wouldn't be successful at all if it were located in Tribeca. Way wrong vibe. I think that place, expensive as it is, caters largely to a neighborhood crowd. And it has the real feel of its neighborhood.

Or think of Onera. Psilakis pretty much closed it down, only to reopen it under another name in a diferent neighborhood. He's obviously betting that, while the UWS wouldn't support a place like that, East Midtown will. Do you think he's wrong?

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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