Entries in Brad Farmerie (5)


The Burger at Saxon + Parole

Earlier this year, AvroKO Hospitality Group and chef Brad Farmerie decided to close their three-year-old Asian-themed restaurant, Double Crown. Farmerie told The Times, “I want to take a fresh approach, innovate on familiar dishes with touches of North Africa and the Mediterranean.”

If there is anything fresh or innovative about its replacement, Saxon + Parole, it is lost on me. The menu offers the likes of seafood towers, a beet and feta cheese salad, a foie gras terrine, steaks, chops, lobster, chicken, a whole branzino, and so forth. It’s a generic upscale suburban restaurant, transplanted to the Bowery, with the kind of easily replicated fare that can be churned out on auto-pilot while Farmerie tends to his Michelin-starred flagship, Public.

The design department at AvroKO, which was once hailed for innovative designs at Public and Park Avenue, has fallen pray to repetition. This exact idea (named for two nineteenth-century race horses) hasn’t been used before, but there is nothing clever in its realization. The firm has become a world-class accumulator of tchotchkes.

In a one-star review earlier this week, Eric Asimov of The Times praised the burger ($17), so I ordered that. It gets a wonderful kick from a gooey fried egg, Havarti cheese, and maple bacon. The beef has a strong fatty flavor, but probably wouldn’t hold up on its own without all of the extra toppings. The fries ($6 if ordered separately) come with two dipping sauces, chili ketchup and blue cheese mayo. To my taste they were too greasy, but perhaps some people like them that way.

I dined at the bar, where getting a server’s attention was a chore. Whatever you may want—to get a menu, to order, to get a check—you’ll be waving your arms wildly before you’re noticed.

They do a brisk bar business here. I had two tequila-based drinks, the Bowery Fx and the Beetnik (both $14). The tables appeared to be about half full at 7:00 p.m., but that’s early by East Village standards. With tables spaced fairly close together and plenty of hard, exposed surfaces, it’ll get loud later on. I didn’t stick around to find out.

In a neighborhood chock full of restaurants with personality, I’m hard press to see the point of Saxon + Parole, which seems to revel in its very ordinariness. I suppose another AvroKO creation will replace it in a few years.

Saxon + Parole (316 Bowery at Bleecker Street, East Village)


Double Crown

Note: Double Crown closed in August 2011. It was replaced by Saxon & Parole with the same chef (Brad Farmerie), focusing on game and domestic meats.


This has happened to all of us: you get to the restaurant, and the host asks you to wait at the bar until your party is complete.

What happened last night at Double Crown took arrogance and audacity to new heights. When I arrived, the host said:

Your guest is here. She went to the ladies’ room. When she gets back, I’ll take you to your table. Feel free to wait at the bar.

This was in a practically empty dining room.

In a busy, casual restaurant, I respect the policy of not seating incomplete parties. Why should the host keep someone else waiting, while I sit at a half-empty table, waiting for guests who may never show up, or who could be considerably delayed?

But Double Crown wasn’t busy, and my date had arrived. Asking me to wait at the bar in that situation is beyond absurd.

Beyond that was a loud sound track that made pleasant conversation difficult; a hackneyed faux Asian décor phoned in by the folks of AvroKO, who’ve done better work elsewhere; and a Vongerichten lite fusion menu that seems to have lost its focus since Frank Bruni awarded two grade-inflated stars in 2008.

The website claims that, “Double Crown explores the aesthetic and culinary dualities arising from the British Empire’s forays into Southeast Asia.” The British influences have disappeared, assuming they existed in the first place. What we have now is pan-Asian miscellany, filtered through an East Village twenty-something comfort food lens.

At least it is not terribly expensive. Most appetizers are $13 or less, most entrées $27 or less. Cocktails were $12, including a great chipotle sour made with three kinds of whisky. That passes for a bargain in Manhattan these days. Bread service (below left) was pretty good too, with two kinds of rolls and soft butter.

A whole braised short rib for two, served on the bone ($44; above right), and coated with an unspecified spice mix, was tender and flavorful, but short rib is hard to mess up if you braise it long enough. I realize that braised meats are prepared long in advance, but this came out literally five minutes after we ordered it—before the wine was poured, in fact. It came with a decent Asian mushroom salad.

The wine list, printed on the back of the menu, is a grab bag with no particular focus. There’s an ample selection of inexpensive bottles, or you can go into the triple digits for bottles that I couldn’t imagine drinking with this food. A 2007 Weninger Zweigelt at $36 was one of the more enjoyable inexpensive bottles I’ve seen in quite some time.

The server kept the wine on a counter away from the table, and I wondered if she’d be attentive enough to keep our glasses charged. Surprisingly, she was. But after the wine was finished, and we wanted our bill, she was nowhere to be seen.

When Double Crown opened, the Bowery was just beginning to sow its oats as a dining destination. Nowadays, if you’re in the area, Pulino’s, DBGB, or Peels are all better bets. And if you have a hankering for Chef Brad Farmerie’s best work, Michelin-starred Public and The Monday Room aren’t far away.

Those are all better options than Double Crown.

Double Crown (316 Bowery at Bleecker Street, NoLIta/East VIllage)

Food: Satisfactory
Service: Uneven
Ambiance: Loud and Hackneyed
Overall: No Stars


The Monday Room


Note: The Monday Room closed in March 2012. A cocktail lounge, The Daisy, is set to replace it.


The Monday Room is a wine bar/small-plates room adjoined to the NoLIta restaurant Public. It has its own website and is separately reservable, but you enter through the same door as Public, and the food is prepared in the Public kitchen, by the same chef.

The space was used, at various times, as a gallery, as a retail shop, and as a private dining room. A shade over two years ago, it was converted permanently into a dining/bar room. The AvroKO décor features plush chairs, throw rugs, and dark wood paneling.

It is normally a much quieter space than Public, or so we understand. Unfortunately, a large party who’d had far too much to drink was carrying on in one of the big booths. We thought they should have been asked to leave, but it’s a tough call when a group is too loud, but hasn’t actually broken any rules yet. The staff were clearly getting annoyed, but when we left the party was still there, and had just ordered another round.

Fortunately, the food offered recompense in plenty. This comes as a surprise, as both of our visits to Public (1 2) left us underwhelmed. In fact, I will probably never eat there again, unless someone else insists. But in the Monday Room, chef Brad Farmerie hits one home run after another. If you didn’t know otherwise, you would doubt it was the same guy.

The menu, which changes frequently, consists entirely of small places ($6–19), which you’re encouraged to share. We ordered five of these, which was about right. There wasn’t a dud among them.

Sea Trout ($11.50; above left) was lovely. It came with a “three-slice pile-up” (above right), an order of bread so addictive that it ought to be served on its own.

Dashi Custerd ($9.50; above left) came topped with a salad of lobster, lime and caviar. We ordered two of these, as we were advised that it wasn’t suitable for sharing. Besides, who would want to share such a sublime dish.

Monday Meats ($15; above right) is a recent addition to the menu, including house-cured wild boar, a chicken mousse brûlée, and a chicken liver foie gras terrine, along with the usual accompaniments.

Pan-seared foie gras ($19; above left) was an excellent preparation, with french toast, maple glaze, pineapple chutney, and a slice of crisp bacon. Grilled venison mini-burgers ($7; above right) had a wonderful funky taste that wasn’t at all gamey, along with a tomato chili jam and shallot rings.

The mostly-European wine list offers ample variety by the half-glass, glass, half-bottle, or bottle. We spent $48 total on two half-bottles (one Spanish, the other Italian), enjoying a flexibility not available at most places.

Service was excellent, with fresh serving utensils brought for every course. All of the staff we interacted with were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the food and the wine. Their ordering advice can be trusted.

We had heard that the Monday Room was better than Public, but we weren’t prepared for just how much better it is. Actually, it is remarkable.


Public (210 Elizabeth St. between Spring St. & Prince St., NoLIta)

Food: **½
Service: **
Overall: **




I first visited Public about three years ago, when it was still relatively new. My impression then was that the food didn’t quite live up to the high-concept ambiance. Last night, I decided to give it another try. My verdict remains the same: Public is more about the “scene” than it is about the food.

To be sure, it’s no mean feat to remain relevant three years later. That’s more than enough time for fickle diners to find a new favorite. Just as it always did, Public still seems to fill up, at least on weekends. We had no trouble getting a 7:15 p.m. reservation on Saturday night, but the next available was past 10:00 p.m. By the time we left, it seemed every inch of space was occupied.

Typical of restaurants in its genre, Public would not seat me until my dining companion had arrived—either a sensible strategy for managing tables in demand, or a cynical way to run up the bar tab. So I went to the bar, where I struggled to get a server’s attention. Once I did, I enjoyed both of the infused vodkas that I tried. Naturally, the tab wasn’t transferable to our table.

Public offers an Australian/New Zealand fusion menu that is really difficult to categorize.

Cured wild boar with Garrotxa cheese, marinated olives, caper berries and crostini

Cured wild boar ($13) sounded interesting, but was probably a waste of a good wild boar, as it didn’t taste particularly distinctive. With the cheese and crostini, it was at least a tasty snack. My girlfriend had the lentil salad, which was just fine, but didn’t launch any culinary fireworks.

Manuka braised lamb shank and truffled swede mash with watercress, poached pear and pickled onion salad

We both had the braised lamb shank ($25.50), which was satisfying comfort-food, though as my girlfriend pointed out, the degree of difficulty is low. It’s hard to screw up a braised meat. I thought that both the swede mash and accompanying salad were boring.

Service was inconsistent, and one server spilled wine on my shirt. The décor, a public library cum post office circa 1940s, is one of design firm AvroKO’s most stunning creations. The new-age sound track is too loud, and the exposed brick tends to amplify the sound.

You won’t eat badly at Public, but you won’t be wowed either. Perhaps the best bet is to come for a drink, admire the design, then try somewhere else for dinner.

Public (210 Elizabeth St. between Spring St. & Prince St., NoLIta)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *



Note: For a more recent review of Public, click here.

Public is a double James Beard award winner for both restaurant design and restaurant graphics. The motif is that of a public library circa 1964. Who knew that card catalogs and leaded glass restroom doors would be modern chic? Even the menu comes on a clipboard that looks like it’s been pulled from manilla card stock.

Unfortunately, you can’t eat décor. When it comes to food, Public’s catalog entry is: almost, but not quite. My friend’s Grilled Mayan Prawns with asparagus were very good, but she thought the chef was too parsimonious with the ingredients, especially the asparagus. My sister-in-law’s Tasmanian Sea Trout was very good, but a tad too spicy. My brother’s Roast New Zealand Venison Loin was “very good, but not great,” for reasons he didn’t specify. My Roast Lamb Chump was stringy, and in fact not as good as the accompanying vegetables.

So we had a happy evening, for which we had no regrets, but no one in our party of four felt that the food quite lived up to the design. Luckily Public is very reasonably priced for a high-concept place, with mains in the $18-25 range. However, they do clean up on the appetizers (we weren’t that hungry, and didn’t order any), which are expensive compared to the rest of the menu at $8-19. Desserts are $8.50-$11.50; we shared two between us and were satisfied without being overwhelmed.

Public (210 Elizabeth St. between Spring St. & Prince St., NoLIta)

Food: *
Service: **
Ambiance: **½
Overall: *½