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The exterior, clearly unfinished. Across the street, the no-photo rule clearly doesn’t apply!!

Note: Click here for a more recent review of Tailor.

Sam Mason is the latest pastry chef to open his own restaurant, following in the footsteps of Will Goldfarb at Room 4 Dessert (now closed) and Pichet Ong  of p*ong. Mason’s solo act is called Tailor. The website says that it’s “named as an ode to the skills of a seasoned craftsman.” Tailor shares with R4D and p*ong a creative approach to desserts. This is no cherry pie and vanilla ice cream place. Mason’s former gig was as at the avant-garde WD–50, of which Tailor’s cuisine is strongly reminiscent.

For a while, I wondered if Tailor would open in my lifetime. Grub Street had a recurring feature called The Launch, chronicling Mason’s pre-opening adventures. As of last December, Tailor’s debut was expected in “late February or the beginning of March.” After a while, the delays became almost comical, and Mason wisely stopped posting. Well, Tailor is finally here, and eGullet is ecstatic.

I was happy to find that Tailor is only about 5 minutes’ walk from the subway station I use to get home, so I thought I’d drop in after work. The bi-level space is modern chic, but nicely done. There is an ample bar area downstairs with a dining room on the ground level. The dining room is arguably more comfortable than WD–50, and it is certainly more so than p*ong or the late lamented Room 4 Dessert.

Service was as polished as at just about any three-star restaurant. Although there are no tablecloths, there are cloth  napkins. Silverware was promptly replaced. Empty glasses and finished plates were promptly whisked away. My bar tab was transferred to my table without complaint. And when I asked the bartender about an unusual pear cider in one of the specialty drinks, he volunteered a free taste of it.

The food has three-star potential, but with some serious limitations. At the moment, only six savory courses and six desserts are on offer, making Tailor’s menu the skimpiest of any comparable establishment. None of the items individually is very expensive (sweets $11; savories $12–15), but as the servings are small, the costs can mount in a hurry.

Mason made a considered decision to feature cocktails, rather than wine. The cocktail menu features twelve very clever selections by mixologist Eben Freeman, but only five wines by the glass (none by the bottle). Freeman’s offerings ($12–15 each) are excellent in their own right, but they are small, and they overpowered the food.

Frank Bruni thrives on the unpredictable, but if he is unwilling to award three stars to WD–50, it seems unlikely he’ll do so here, as Tailor is in many ways far more limited. Two stars seems to me about the best Tailor could expect, unless the menu choices expand and a real wine list is added. It seems almost a crime to have such a polished service brigade, and so little to serve.

Although the dining room was empty, the staff insisted that I not take photographs. Why Thomas Keller can permit this with a full dining room at Per Se, while Mason won’t allow it in an empty one, is beyond me. Apparently he wants to keep the food a secret. I will therefore accommodate him by not describing what I had. I’ll say that there was an amuse-bouche. Of the two dishes I paid for, one was very close to the best thing I’ve had all year; the other one wasn’t.

I had planned to order more, but after the no-photography edict I decided to go home. What’s the deal with the no-photo rule? Gordon Ramsay was the last jerk to pull that stunt, and look where it got him?

Tailor (525 Broome Street between Sullivan & Thompson Streets, SoHo)

Food: **
Ambiance: **
Service: ***
Overall: **

Reader Comments (12)

Jean Georges forbids photography as well. I was with ulterior epicure when he was asked to desist.

September 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

Chika Tillman of Chikalicious was the first Pastry Chef in America to have opened her own place way back in 2003. Difference is that she did it "herself", unlike the gentlemen you mention. Four years later, it remains the #1 choice for most. Zagat.

September 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPan E

Having been to all of the "dessert" places in the City, Chikalicious is the only one doing "dessert". Also the only one which SMELLS like dessert. The smell of pork belly (and not "butter") is more prevalent at the other places. THANK YOU, CHIKA!

September 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMMRuthie

actually, there was a dessert bar in Philadelphia long before chikalicious. not that you idiots would know that.

September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

what are you, paparazzi? why should he let you or anyone take photos? the guy is trying to carve out a new genre - and you complain that its not like other places (full menu/full wine list) and bitch that he wont let you behave like a bridge and tunnel tourist snapping picts. bloggers have been running around town terrorizing hardworking, inventive restuarants with inept "reviews" based on one time dining, often without sampling more than a few things, and sometimes during the first few days of service, all things that no real food critic worth his/her salt would ever do. who are you people?

September 25, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterpk

Well, pk, the reality is that the blogosphere exists, and the reviews are going to be written. Ninety-nine percent of chefs seem to recognize this. Whether they like it I'm not sure. When the reviews are favorable, they tend to like it.

I have no illusions about the influence or expertise of what I write. Those who don't see value in this blog are welcome to look elsewhere for dining information. But whatever the merits of it, I doubt that Sam Mason considers himself "terrorized" by a little old blogger like me.

My position is that if a restaurant is open to the public and charging full price (as Tailor is, and was at the time of my visit), then it is fair game to be reviewed. I was certainly not the first on-line reviewer to do so.

As far as the skimpy menu and wine list, those clearly are factors that deserve to be mentioned. No one who follows this blog could possibly suggest that I only like conventional things. But at the same time, just because an idea is new, doesn't mean it's necessarily good.

September 26, 2007 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

They don't have a no photography rule. They have a no flash photography rule, not to keep the food secret but for the comfort of patrons.

September 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWilfrid

The host asked me not to take photographs of any kind, flash or not, which a server separately confirmed. They may well have been confused, or they may have changed their minds afterwards. I have indeed seen photos on other blogs and message boards, but one never knows if it was expressly permitted, or if those photographers simply managed to evade the host's eye.

September 27, 2007 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

who takes photos in restaurants? very tacky.

September 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterrd

Do you browse the Internet very much? You might as well ask who *doesn't* take photos in restaurants?

September 30, 2007 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

There are photos in my review at www.pinkpignyc.com. I was permitted to continue taking photos without the flash, but we were almost finished by then. The pork belly picture wasn't bright enough to be worth publishing.

Yes, sounds like different rules on different nights.

As you probably know, ulterior epicure has posted pictures of just about every dish they serve.

October 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWilfrid

I took pictures of everything on the menu (at the time of my visit). I did not use flash, and was not asked to desist.

See my photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulteriorepicure/sets/72157601979930342/

You can click on each individual icon for a larger version (and my comments).

November 6, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterulterior epicure

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