Some restaurant gossip just can’t survive the hype
- Last Updated: 1:22 AM, April 19, 2012
- Posted: 10:10 PM, April 17, 2012
Restaurant world baloney comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. The Web and social media let the hype machine spew propaganda as if with a bilge hose. So what if it’s wrong? Tomorrow’s another day of online inanities.
This season has seen more than its share of wishful thinking, deception and outright lies. Here are food phenomena that, after tons of buzz, failed to show up:
* ATERA’S SQUAB CLAW. As if Matthew Lightner’s 15-seat, $150 prix-fixe “forager” temple needed more coverage, an obscure blogger (aren’t they all?) wrote a gushing (aren’t they always?) “review” that included a photo of a scary-looking cut of squab with claw attached. Eater.com spotted it and posted the image on March 29. The “menacing,” hook-like appendage accelerated overnight Atera’s mystique as a destination for all things wild and cutting-edge.
“Did you see that claw?” foodie friends asked me everywhere I went. “Aren’t you afraid to eat it?”
I had my first meal at Atera last week. Squab was on the menu. Pickled wild onion — check. Aged 21 days — check. But no claw. The boneless squab looked as threatening as a sardine.
The claw “didn’t work out,” one of the chefs explained. So the item which did more to put Atera on the map than anything no longer exists.
* TAVERN ON THE GREEN RESCUERS. When City Hall put out a new request for proposals last winter, scores of prominent restaurant companies checked out what remains of the site.
Drew Nieporent, Bill Telepan, Peter and Penny Glazier, as well as executives of ‘21,’ Torrisi Italian Specialties and even Los Angeles-based Lawry’s prime-rib joints “kicked the tires” at a city-run photo-op. A Parks Department official gushed that the new, downsized Tavern would “celebrate the park.”
But there’s bupkis to celebrate. Once the wind machine conked out, only two companies made offers — a Philadelphia bistro and a Yankee Stadium caterer. Good luck making a deal with the union, guys! New Yorkers who hoped for even a shrunken Tavern will be out of luck, too.
* PLAZA OAK ROOM AND OAK BAR. The hotel’s reps say they’re in talks with dozens of would-be operators to reopen the shuttered landmark venues. But they can’t even get the bar open?
It doesn’t bode well that the Edwardian Room, where chefs such as Alain Sailhac and David Burke once worked, has reopened as a boutique for an obscure designer my fashion-aware real estate friend called a “made-up Italian.” Come to think of it, all that fine oak will make an ideal backdrop for size-40 regular off the rack.
* RYAN SKEEN. The city’s most mercurial chef did show up — for about five minutes — to helm the new Pera Soho. Well, actually, for two months at the new downtown outpost of Midtown’s delightful Turkish-Mediterranean Pera.
Then, the owners and Skeen laid the quickie divorce on “disparate operational and culinary styles that made a continued association untenable.”
Why do owners keep hiring a guy who’s been through 10 joints in Manhattan and Brooklyn in five years, including Allen & Delancey, 5 Ninth, Fishtag and the General Greene?
Duh — for attention. Skeen is one of those moderately talented culinary characters whose name generates instant buzz. It gets the media whipped up before a place even opens, even if there’s hell to pay later. Isn’t that a smart way to run a business?