Note: This is a review under founding chef Floyd Cardoz, who left the restaurant in July 2015. We weren’t impressed with his work here, and other critics weren’t either. The new chef is Jason Lawless. Meanwhile, in Cardoz’s next project (as yet unnamed), he’ll return to the Indian cuisine in which he is best known.
Can someone find the right restaurant for Floyd Cardoz? Perhaps White Street is the one, but I am not so sure.
Cardoz first came to widespread acclaim with Tabla, the modern Indian restaurant he opened with Danny Meyer in 1998. It got three stars from Ruch Reichl right out of the gate. We thought it was still in top form the first time we tried it, in 2006.
But by then, Tabla had fallen off the city’s culinary radar. Meyer and Cardoz must have recognized that: by 2009, the formal dining room menu was discontinued, which only put off the inevitable. Tabla closed in late 2010.
Just over a year later, Cardoz re-appeared in another Meyer place, North End Grill in Battery Park City. We liked it, and so did most critics, but it built up a reputation as an expensive cafeteria for Goldman Sachs next door. Once again, the chef was doing respectable work, totally off the culinary radar.
Cardoz left North End Grill in April 2014, saying that he wanted to open another Indian restaurant in New York. By July he’d changed his mind, or perhaps had it changed for him by investors who couldn’t make the numbers work. So White Street was announced, promising “American [cuisine] with global touches.” Those investors include Dan Abrams and Dave Zinczenko, backers of John DeLucie’s The Lion, a precedent that hardly inspires much confidence.
They’ve gutted the former Churrascaria Plataforma in Tribeca. In the front of the L-shaped space, near the entrance, there’s a curvy marble bar and lounge tables. In back, there’s comfortable dining room, with white tablecloths, cushy banquettes, elaborate chandeliers, glowing sconces, and a coffered ceiling painted in gold.
We’ve no objection to old-school elegance, which is in short supply these days, but it clashes with the bustling lounge, especially in the first part of the evening, when it’s two deep at the bar. I’ve no idea if this occurred to anyone else. We grabbed two adjacent stools at the bar, and decided to remain there when the dining room couldn’t seat us right way.
There are separate lounge and dining room menus. Most of the lounge items (“bar snacks”) are offered as appetizers in the dining room, either at the same price or for a dollar more. But you can have the dining room menu in the lounge, if you want it. Confused? Perhaps the owners are hedging their bets.
Anyhow, appetizers are $12–21, mains generally $25–38 (an aged ribeye is $66), side dishes $8–14. If you wondered about sourcing, there is printed at the bottom of the menu a list of local farms the restaurant is “proud to be working with.”
The “global touches” promised in the marketing pitch seem mainly confined to garnishes. There are cameos from the likes of Thai basil, wasabi, spiced yogurt, and tamarind broth, but the cuisine isn’t anchored to a particular approach that I can identify. Mostly, it consists of dishes that remind you of better versions you’ve had elsewhere.
I can’t level any complaint with Fluke Crudo ($14; above left) or Roasted Red & Yellow Beets ($14; above right), but neither dish registered much of an impression.
Short Ribs ($34; above left) were served with shoestring potatoes, on a bed of grits, all technically correct and without much passion (or flavor). Grilled Quail ($16; above right) is one of the more impressive appetizers: Cardoz prepares it with barley, bacon, mustard, and a cider glaze.
We had no complaints with a Sticky Toffee Pudding ($12; left), served with a crème fraiche sorbet, pecan macaroon, and coconut tuille.
There isn’t a wine list online, but I’ve noted that a 2011 Domaine Laurent Martray Beaujolais was $48, which is about three times retail. The online cocktail list is no longer accurate, but if you like egg white cocktails, a current offering called the Dorsey ($15) is worthwhile.
Should you choose to dine at the bar, as we did, you’ll be well taken care of.
President Obama recently held a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at White Street, which is enough buzz to assure full houses for months to come. Long-term, I wonder about the longevity of a restaurant where the chef’s culinary soul was sublimated to accountants’ spreadsheets.
Someone free Floyd Cardoz, before it’s too late.
White Street (221 W. Broadway at White Street, TriBeCa)
Food: American cuisine with indistinct global touches
Service: Friendly and attentive
Ambiance: An elegant dining room with a noisy lounge bolted on