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When a Cru Becomes a Vin de Pays

Update: Sure enough, and as we suspected, Cru’s strategy for re-making itself failed. We take no pleasure in this; it was just so obviously desperate. Cru closed in the summer of 2010. Its replacement is Lotus of Siam.


Cru, one of the few unabashedly old-school restaurants to have opened within the last five years, has finally decided how to replace Chef Shea Gallante, who left in June.

The Times reports that Todd Macdonald is the new chef. He had been with the restaurant in 2004, when it opened, but left two years ago to join a catering firm. Robert Bohr, one of the owners, said, “We wanted food that was easier, simpler, faster, cheaper and definitely tastier, which is what we think Todd will do.”

He added that they’ll consider remodeling after the new year, “to make the place less fancy.” In the meantime, prices on what is probably the city’s best wine list have been slashed by 30 percent across the board.

When we visited in last year, we noted that Cru was one of the few restaurants that actually got fancier. Servers’ all-black uniforms were replaced with suits; an à la carte menu was replaced with an $84 prix fixe, and the tasting menu nearly doubled in price, from $65 to $125.

This is by no means a crazy strategy. Eleven Madison Park did the same, and its reward was four stars from Frank Bruni. Just try getting a last-minute reservation these days. But at Cru, for whatever reason, that strategy did not survive the recession.

We understand why Cru has decided to go downscale. The reasons are obvious enough to not require explanation.

At the same time, we have our doubts. Even with a 30 percent discount, Cru’s wine list has hundreds of bottles with three and four-digit prices. Most people willing to spend that kind of money want food of a certain quality.

If you can afford a $400 Bordeaux, do you really care if the entrées are five bucks cheaper?

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