Entries in Allen & Delancey (3)


The Payoff: Allen & Delancey

Today, Neil Ferguson wins vindication, in the form of a rave two-star review from Frank Bruni:

In its unusual marriage of setting and style, his new restaurant, Allen & Delancey, makes a striking bid for attention. But that’s not all it has going for it.

It’s easily one of the prettiest, most comfortable places I’ve been introduced to in a while, a reminder of how crucial to an evening’s enjoyment the right visual trappings, the right amount of elbowroom and the ability to have a conversation without shouting can be…

And the food at Allen & Delancey is at once sophisticated and accessible, reliant on fail-safe luxuries deployed in a modestly creative and occasionally playful manner. It’s not entirely unlike what Mr. Ferguson was doing uptown, but context is everything.

While his approach seemed too tame and uneventful in one milieu, at one price point, it plays differently in another. At Allen & Delancey the vibe is relaxed, and all the entrees are under $30. You don’t typically get polish like this at prices like these.

We win $4, while Eater loses $1, on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $59.50   $73.67
Gain/Loss –1.00   +4.00
Total $58.50   $77.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 25–11   27–9



Rolling the Dice: Allen & Delancey

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Allen & Delancey, the place where Neil Ferguson re-surfaced after getting canned by Gordon Ramsay. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 5-1
One Star: 2-1
Two Stars: 4-1
Three Stars: 7-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: Bruni awarded two stars to Gordon Ramsay at The London, with Ferguson running the kitchen. For a restaurant of that calibre, it was a serious smackdown. If we take that review as a general indictment of Ferguson’s talent, then it doesn’t bode well for Allen & Delancey, where the overall mise en scène can’t compete with Ramsay’s uptown palace.

But I didn’t read the Ramsay review that way. The Times star system, particularly as Bruni interprets it, weighs price very heavily. All Bruni was saying was that, at these prices (among the highest in town), he expected more culinary fireworks. Now, I thought that Bruni missed the boat at GR, even allowing for his price-weighted grading curve. But even allowing for that, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Ferguson will get slammed at Allen & Delancey.

The other way of seeing it is that, at a much gentler price point, you get a chef whom Gordon Ramsay thought was capable of earning four stars—for there is no doubt that Ramsay intended his New York restaurant to compete with the city’s very best. All of the entrées at A&D are below $30, which in this era is practically bargain pricing for a chef with Ferguson’s pedigree. Of course, that’s still no guarantee that Bruni will like it, but I’m betting that A&D’s hearty rusticity will appeal to him.

At any rate, I liked it, and while Bruni’s tastes and mine don’t always coincide, I can’t help using my own reviews as a tie-breaker—clearly not a fool-proof betting strategy!!

The Bet: It’s a close call, but we predict that Frank Bruni will award two stars to Allen & Delancey.


Allen & Delancey

[Kalina via Eater]

Note: Allen & Delancey closed in March 2010, after something like five chefs in three years. A Scottish-themed restaurant, Mary Queen of Scots, from the Highlands team, opened in November 2010.

The new restaurant Allen & Delancey had one of those star-crossed births that give restaurant owners nightmares. It was announced for the Fall of 2006 with former Craftbar chef Akhtar Nawab at the helm. Then, an investor pulled out, and the project seemed dead…or was it?

A year later, Allen & Delancey has finally opened, with Neil Ferguson in the kitchen. Ferguson is the chef that was canned after the critics demolished Gordon Ramsay at the London. Ramsay is still alive and kicking with a new chef de cuisine, while at A&D you can enjoy, at less than half the price, the chef whom Gordon Ramsay thought was capable of earning four stars.

The space has been beautifully decked out, but it’s so dark you should bring a flashlight to read the menu. Ferguson keeps things simple, with just seven appetizers ($12–18) and seven entrées ($22–29). The similarity to the menu at Gordon Ramsay is striking: not a lot of fireworks, but simple things are done well.

allendelancey01a.jpg allendelancey01b.jpg
Terrine of Guinea Hen (left); Cabbage, Beef and Onion (right)

My girlfriend and I both started with the Terrine of Guinea Hen, Smoked Ham Knuckle, Foie Gras, and Beetroot ($18). It takes a sure hand to make all of those ingredients work, but Ferguson managed it.

I probably wouldn’t have chosen Cabbage, Beef and Onion ($29), had not the server recommended it. This is the kind of dish that got Ferguson in trouble at Gordon Ramsay. It’s a technically impeccable presentation that doesn’t have much oomph. I was pleased with it, but perhaps some people will say that it doesn’t deserve to be a nearly $30 entrée.

The major critics have yet to weigh in on Allen & Delancey. The staff, who are all excited about the restaurant, mentioned that both Adam Platt and Frank Bruni visited earlier in the week. I can only hope that Ferguson gets a fair shake this time. Allen & Delancey deserves to succeed.

Allen & Delancey (115 Allen Street at Delancey Street, Lower East Side)

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