Everyone knows the story of the Restaurant Collection at the Time-Warner Center, right? Perhaps a brief recap is in order. The original idea was to gather the world’s greatest chefs under one roof, for a set of restaurants that would all vie for three or four stars from the Times. Two of the restaurants, Per Se and Masa, were clear hits, while Café Gray received mixed reviews. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s V Steakhouse bombed, and the fifth major tenant, Chicago’s Charlie Trotter, bowed out.
The main miscalculation was that none of these restaurants appealed to a shopping mall clientele. Someone looking for a casual bite isn’t going to pop into Café Gray for the $36 braised short ribs. Café Gray’s breakfast and lunch service fizzled. The mall needed a casual dining option, and none of these places fit the bill. Bouchon Bakery filled in somewhat, but there remained a huge void between it and Café Gray.
Porter House New York replaced V Steakhouse, and it appears to be a hit. While not exactly casual, it comes in at a gentler price point than Café Gray and offers a great bar menu for snacking. Landmarc, which opened last week in the old Charlie Trotter space, finally gives the mall the truly informal dining option that it needed.
Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center is a near-clone of the original Landmarc in TriBeCa, which I’ve reviewed twice (here, here). Among the differences, the new Landmarc is about double the size, with a seating capacity of 200, plus 90 in private dining rooms, and a large bar. The décor is similar to the TriBeCa location’s post-industrial chic, with the added bonus of a picture window facing Columbus Circle and Central Park.
It’s also open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., and serves breakfast. (TriBeCa doesn’t open till noon on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. on weekends). I’m a little skeptical that the weekday breakfast service will last. Except on weekends, most New Yorkers favor expediency over excellence at breakfast time. It’s hard for me to believe that Landmarc’s $12 pancakes are much better than anyone else’s, but you have to go to the third floor of a shopping mall to get to them.
At lunch and dinner, Landmarc’s virtues will shine. The menu is a mixture of French, Italian, New American, and steakhouse favorites, but not overly long, and focused on items where the kitchen excels. A few of the items, like the roasted marrow bones and goat cheese profiteroles, are already classics, as are the desserts at $3 apiece. There’s also the acclaimed wine program, with prices only slightly above retail, and an ample selection of half-bottles.
Appetizers are $8–13, salads $7–21 (most with two available portion sizes), entrées $21–26, steaks $21–34, daily pasta specials $10–22 (two portion sizes), raw bar items $15–27, and house specialties $19–30. That probably seems like a lot, but it all fits on one page—as in TriBeca, on a sheet folded in sixths and waiting under your napkin when you’re seated. There’s also a kids’ menu, with all items $6.
Last week was supposed to be a “soft opening,” but as the management quickly figured out, there are no soft openings in New York, especially for a well known place like Landmarc. The bloggers and chowhounds quickly get wind of it, and within hours the whole food community knows. I ambled in around 7:00 p.m. on Friday night, and the place was close to full. The hostess said at first that there would be a half-hour wait, but then they seated me immediately at a two-top with a terrific view of Central Park. (As in TriBeCa, reservations aren’t accepted for parties less than six.)
I ordered the marrow bones ($12) and the calf’s liver ($22), mainly because I was alone, and both dishes would gross out my girlfriend. The marrow bones (right) come with an onion marmelade and warm country bread. There are tiny wooden forks to prize the marrow out of the bones. It’s a rich, gooey mess, but well worth the trouble. The amount of bread provided is about double what you need.
The calf’s liver came with two thick lobes, grilled with a nice char on the outside, and a smooth, rich texture more tender than filet mignon. The accompanying veggies were too greasy, and tasted like they’d been in the frying pan too long. Blueberry crumble for dessert was forgettable, but at $3, who cares?
Best of all was a half-bottle of 2002 Saint-Georges Saint-Émilion at $26, which most restaurants wouldn’t even carry, and certainly not at that price.
The floor was amply staffed with servers and runners. Two different managers came over to inquire about my meal. There were a couple of very minor glitches, but for a place open for five days they were in pretty good shape. I suspect Landmarc is going to do very well indeed.
Update: I’ve now been back several times. My original rating of two stars seems too generous. Much of the menu seems phoned in—merely competent. I haven’t yet had a bad meal here, but the menu doesn’t change, and it’s designed to be turned out in volumes. The food is merely acceptable, but Landmarc deserves a star for the wine program.
Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center (10 Columbus Circle, 3rd floor)
Food (and Wine): *