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)