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Cocktails at Tailor


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

Most restaurants go through an adjustment period after they open, as chefs figure out what works, and what doesn’t. Those adjustments were somewhat more dramatic at Tailor, where chef Sam Mason had to eat a huge helping of humble pie, after his restaurant was roasted and pilloried by every critic in town.

In an early visit, I found the restaurant promising, but the menu didn’t have enough choices, and the lack of a serious wine list was a serious drawback. Mason has rectified both. The current menu offers about a half-dozen each of appetizers ($15–17), entrées ($24–27) and desserts ($12), though it must be noted that portion sizes remain small, and hearty eaters may need to order more than three courses to go home full. A seven-course chef’s tasting menu is $90, which seems exorbitant when you consider that Momofuku Ko serves ten courses for $85.

tailor_bar.pngThe wine list has been fleshed out too. Early on, Mason conceded that “Wine’s a little beyond me,” but he finally figured out that customers want wine with food. From the beginning, Eben Freeman’s cocktails won high praise, but I still think they pair poorly with food. They need to be enjoyed on their own.

Last night, I dropped in for a couple of cocktails before heading uptown for dinner. The bar area is downstairs, and it is one of the loveliest bar spaces in town. Both of my visits have been quite early (around 5:30 p.m.), when it is still relatively empty, and the bartenders have time to chat.

tailor01a.jpg tailor01b.jpg

One feature of Eben Freeman’s cocktail menu is that almost every item has ingredients you never heard of. I asked for something “not too sweet,” and the bartender recommended the Mate Sour ($13), which is made from Yerba Mate, Queberante Pisco, Lime Juice, Honey, Egg Whites, and Angostura. Half of those ingredients are as unfamiliar to me as they probably are to you. But it had a nice cool, bracing taste.

Freeman also serves a tasting of three “solid cocktails” ($12), captioned Cuba Libre, Ramos Gin Fizz, and White Russian. The menu is unhelpful—it lists only the short names—and I wasn’t about to give the bartender the third degree. I’d describe them as interesting, rather than good, and they disappear awfully quickly.

tailor02.jpgI asked the bartender about a mysterious unlabeled bottle, which he said was tobacco-infused bourbon. None of the cocktails on the printed menu actually uses that ingredient, so I asked him to make one up for me. So he put some tobacco-infused bourbon, Jim Beam, and a couple of different bitters into a mixing vessel, and voila! Out came the drink shown on the left, which resembled an Old Fashioned.

Last week’s Time Out New York named Tailor “Best restaurant you were sick of before it opened.” That captures the contradiction, which is that Tailor is very good, but suffered badly from early over-exposure. I didn’t eat any of the food this time, but it looks like Tailor has matured. Those who were sick of it should consider a second look.

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

Food & Drink: **
Ambiance: **
Service: **
Overall: **

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