Entries in Chris Cannon (14)



Welcome back! It’s been far too long since Chris Jaeckle earned three stars at Ai Fiori, and since Chris Cannon ran what were arguably the best Italian restaurants in New York. Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich might disagree with me about that last statement, but if it comes down to pistols at dawn, I’ll take Cannon’s side.

Jaeckle and Cannon have now opened All’onda (named for a style of soupy risotto served in Venice) in a smart casual space near Union Square. The cuisine is dubbed Venetian, although most diners won’t know the difference. Early publicity mentioned Japanese influences (Jaeckle once worked at Morimoto), which have since (quite sensibly) receded.

For the record, restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow is an investor here, but his China Grill Management does not operate it, which is why it doesn’t suck. Let us all say a prayer that Chodorow will never operate another restaurant again.

To recite the history just briefly: Cannon was in partnership with the chef Michael White at two terrific Italian restaurants, Alto and L’Impero (later rechristened Convivio). At the height of the Great Recession, they brought in high-roller Ahmass Fakahany as an investment partner and opened Marea, taking a big bet on fine dining at a time when everyone else was running the opposite way.

Soon, they were rolling in dough and opened two more Italian restaurants, Ai Fiori and Osteria Morini. At about that time, and for reasons that have never been fully explained, Fakahany and White ditched Cannon, who was left with just his two original restaurants, Alto and Convivio. Shortly thereafter, both places closed suddenly—on the same day, in fact—and Cannon headed home to New Jersey.

For more than three years, Cannon didn’t say a word about the split, and a recent interview with the Village Voice still leaves many questions unanswered. It ought to be noted that Cannon is no stranger to culinary divorces, having suffered a similar split with the chef Scott Conant.

Jaeckle left Ai Fiori (which Cannon had helped open) in November 2011, and it wasn’t difficult to guess that he wanted his own place. All’onda was announced in September 2012, with Cannon on board as a consultant while his newest project, Jockey Hollow, remained under construction at the Vail Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey.

Originally announced for a November 2012 opening, All’onda endured all of the usual delays, and finally served its first risotto in early January 2014. A photographer with a tripod was shooting the space when we visited, so the first pro reviews will probably start to appear within the next week or so.

All’onda, as Chris Jaeckle told the Times, is “the most casual restaurant I’ve ever worked in.” That is probably almost true for Chris Cannon as well, at least since he became famous: except for Osteria Morini, opened in his dying days with White and Fakahany, he’s known almost exclusively for fine dining.

They probably could have aimed higher. With the Torrisi boys serving $30 pastas and $50 veal parmesan to packed houses at Carbone, All’onda is a steal, with no pasta above $19 and no entrée above $29.

The ten-page wine list, Cannon’s specialty, has plenty of drinkable bottles below $50, and about 90% of the list is below $100; they serve it in the right glassware. In a town where $15 cocktails are commonplace, and the Torrisi team gets $20 at ZZ’s Clam Bar, they’re just $12 here. I enjoyed the Basil Gimlet (photo above; with gin, lime, basil syrup), and they transferred the tab to our table. I splurged just slightly on the wine (a 2007 Travaglini, $65), ordered an after-dinner drink, and still kept the bill below $200 (before tip).

For a restaurant of this quality, All’onda is remarkable. Of course, if the reviews are as favorable as I believe they will be, these prices won’t last. They never do.


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Osteria Morini

What a wild rocket-ride Michael White has had. Four years ago, he was the relatively unheralded chef at Stephen Hanson’s Fiamma. The restaurant was a solid three-star, but the chef’s name didn’t roll off the tongue.

Today, White is as close to culinary royalty as any chef in this town who doesn’t have four New York Times stars. His three established places (Alto, Convivio, and Marea) have nine NYT stars, and also five Michelin stars. No other NYC chef has more than two Michelin-starred restaurants, nor more than four stars in total.

Mario Batali is a better known Italian chef than White, but Batali hasn’t actually cooked in years, except on television. White really works in his restaurants.

This fall brings a dual test, as Osteria Morini, his latest place, has just opened; another, Ai Fiori, is forthcoming in the new Setai Fifth Avenue.

The obvious questions are: 1) Is there such a thing as too much Michael White? And 2) Can his restaurants remain as good, when his time is split among five of them? To answer the second question, we’ll have to wait a while. For now, we can answer the first: when they’re as good as Morini, White can open as many restaurants as he wants.

The focus here is on the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region, known for hearty, uncomplicated fare. The word Osteria signals a more informal approach to Italian food: no tablecloths, no expensive prix fixe.

This was clearly meant to be the casual cousin to the chef’s earlier restaurants. As Frank Bruni noted in a blog post:

Its unvarnished sensibility will be reflected in its décor, which uses antiques and other materials plucked or salvaged from flea markets and farmhouses throughout Italy.

Still, with pastas priced at $17–19 and entrées $24–42, these aren’t cheap eats. It’s quite a bit more than White and his partner, Chris Cannon, told the Times just six months ago. At these prices, they could afford to ditch the paper napkins and the garish orange paper placemats. The loud rock sound track is probably the restaurant’s least authentic amenity; it ought to go, too.

But that is about all we would change at Osteria Morini, which is already a great restaurant after only a month in business.

Musseto ($13; above left) was a hearty stew of braised cockscombs, sweetbreads, calves feet, garlic croutons, and salsa verde. Nine out of ten diners would probably reject it for the “ick” factor alone, but I couldn’t actually distinguish the specific taste of any ingredient except the croutons.

Mozzarella ($11; above right) paired happily with figs and rosemary oil.

The pasta section of the menu is loaded with shapes and flavor combinations I have never seen before, all made in house. While Tortellini ($18; above right) may be common, the duck liver cream sauce it came with was not. It was an excellent dish, but it needed to be just a shade warmer.

White roasts Porchetta ($29; above right) with sage and rosemary on a spit for three hours, wrapped in thick, crackling skin. The pork was beautifully cooked, as tender as butter.

Petroniana ($27; above left), a crispy veal cutlet, is so rich that it could be dessert, putting the old classic to shame, with layers of prosciutto, parmigiano, and truffle cream, served on a bed of buttered spinach. We debated whether this dish was too heavy for its own good—it was certainly impossible to finish—but I would order it again.

Cavoletti Bruxelles & Pancetta ($9; above right), or Brussels Sprouts, were an excellent side dish, but honestly there was no need to order them, as the rest of the meal was already far too filling.

The wine list is excellent for this type of restaurant, with many unfamiliar wines (Talia Baiocchi published an overview last week). I checked in on foursquare, and within minutes a stranger directed my attention to a white wine fermented in its skin, in a section of the menu captioned “Vini Bianchi da Contemplazione.” These wines have a slightly orange hue and an arch, crisp flavor that pairs well with the cuisine. We had the Notte di Luna, which at $69 seemed to us a very good deal for something so unusual.

A restaurant in such high demand—and Morini is about as hot as any right now—could quickly become full of itself. There is none of that here. The staff volunteered without prompting to transfer our bar tab to the table (Ahem! Paging Jeffrey Chodorow). And when we stopped Chef White to ask how a dish was prepared (the Porchetta), he insisted on finding a piece of paper so that he could draw a diagram, and then took us into the kitchen to show us how it worked. (We are reasonably certain he did not recognize us as bloggers, because it was the end of the meal, and he had paid no attention to us before that point.)

Chef White is juggling four high-profile restaurants, soon to become five. To maintain quality at all of them will be a challenge. We can’t forecast how he’ll manage that. Right now, while Osteria Morini has his full attention, it’s everything we hoped it would be.

Osteria Morini (218 Lafayette Street between Broome & Spring Streets, Soho)

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



Note: Convivio closed in March 2011, along with its sister restaurant Alto on the same day, due to unspecified “business circumstances.”


Michael White is obviously not the only chef in this town with multiple restaurants. But the three he has are probably the most similar.

Alto, Convivio, and Marea are all upscale Italian New York Times three-star restaurants. There are slight differences in focus—northern Italian, southern Italian, and seafood respectively—but the menus share a strong stylistic similarity.

There is nothing like, for instance, the huge difference between Daniel and Café Boulud, or between Jean Georges and Perry St.

On the bill, however, there is a huge difference, with four-course prix fixes of $89, $79, and $59 at Marea, Alto, and Convivio respectively. Location has something to do with it—Central Park South for Marea, midtown for Alto, Tudor City for Convivio. The expensive seafood ingredients imported for Marea are clearly a factor.

But after four visits to Marea, I am not yet quite persuaded that you get your money’s worth for $89. It is clearly a very good restaurant, or I wouldn’t have returned. But for $40 less per person, we had a terrific meal at Convivio last week that was better than any one of my meals at Marea. The only drawback is that you have to traipse to Tudor City, which is a moderate inconvenience.

Convivio is in the space that had been L’Impero. Eric Asimov awarded three stars (when Scott Conant was the chef), but Frank Bruni demoted it to two, finding the food inconsistent, and complaining about “lugubrious” décor “evoking the upholstered interior of a very large coffin.” Ouch!

White and owner Chris Cannon took the critique to heart. If ever there were a makeover tailor-made to Bruni’s specifications, this was it. They brightened up the space, lowered the cost of the prix fixe, and added inexpensive tapas-like starters called sfizi.

Voila! Convivio was a three-star restaurant.

Convivio was never very high on our to-do list, mainly because we no longer trusted Bruni to evaulate Italian restaurants correctly. This time, perhaps he got it right.

You can order à la carte here, as at all of the Cannon–White restaurants. The sfizi are $4–7, antipasti $10–16, primi $23–25, secondi $26–35, desserts $11–15. But at $59 the prix fixe is a much better deal. There is only one dish that carries a supplement: the steak, which at $35 is the most expensive entrée. On the prix fixe, you’re basically getting the antipasto at half price and the dessert for free.

What can I say? We loved almost everything. Testa (above left), a deep-fried pork terrine, was complemented beautifully by a fried egg. Polipo (above right), or grilled octopus, was tender and smoky.

Garganelli (above left) came with a seppia & shrimp sausage, zucchini leeks, and peccorino; Gramigna (above right) with duck sausage, broccoli rabe, sage, and marsala.

Maiale (above left), or a pork chop, was large enough to feed all of Tudor City. As good as it was, I had no intention of sharing.

Grilled lamb chops (above right) were delightful, but they were undermined by salsa verde, escarole, tomato and beans, which were far too overbearing and unsubtle.

Heather Bertinetti, the young pastry chef at all three of the Cannon–White restaurants, is a real find. She hasn’t disappointed me yet. Crostata di Mela (above left) was an irresistible crumble of spiced apples, walnuts, and caramel gelato. Brasato d’Ananas (above right) made a hit out of vanilla braised pineapple, coconut custard, and mango sorbet.

Service was polished and professional. I especially appreciated the sommelier, who, when I asked for a recommendation at $60 or less, went all the way down to $45. It was a terrific choice too (the 2001 Majara), and on top of that he decanted it and offered us a copy of the label.

The restaurant wasn’t quite full, but business was certainly brisk. (When I called to confirm, a recording warned that our table would be forfeit if we were more than fifteen minutes late: ugh!) We may have lucked into one of the better tables, a two-top on the restaurant’s upper level, with no one nearby. Some of the tables are a bit more cramped than that.

No one doubts that Michael White is an elite chef. I’ve had my ups and downs at Marea, but I will likely return there somewhat regularly, as it is much more conveniently located, and I still have a lot of confidence in Chef White. But if you can get to Tudor City, Convivio may be the best way to experience his cuisine.

Convivio (45 Tudor City Place at 42nd Street, Tudor City)

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


Sea Urchin and Steak at Marea


I went back to Marea last week to sample two of the dishes mentioned in Sam Sifton’s three-star love letter.

I don’t know how Marea’s menu will evolve, but there is one item that will never come off. Not after this:

The very first item on the menu at Marea is ricci, a piece of warm toast slathered with sea urchin roe, blanketed in a thin sheet of lardo, and dotted with sea salt. It offers exactly the sensation as kissing an extremely attractive person for the first time — a bolt of surprise and pleasure combined. The salt and fat give way to primal sweetness and combine in deeply agreeable ways. The feeling lingers on the tongue and vibrates through the body. Not bad at $14 a throw — and there are two on each plate.

Well…I had it. Yes, it is very good. But no, it isn’t as good as a first kiss. My body did not vibrate in deeply agreeable ways.

Then came the steak, or perhaps I should say, the “Creekstone Farms 50-day dry-aged sirloin,” which according to Sifton, “would do epic battle with the beef at any steakhouse in town.”

Yes, it is an excellent slab of meat, served on the bone for good measure. What Marea lacks is the 2,000 degree ovens the better steakhouses have. So there is no exterior char, just the faint hint of cross-hatching. It’s a decent escape-hatch dish for the non-fish-eater in your party, but for $47 you’ll do better at restaurants that make their living at steak.

I’d thrown my diet to the wind anyway, so I figured one last cheat wouldn’t do much harm. Affogato ($13) doesn’t do much calorie damage—or so I imagined. It’s zabaglione gelato, espresso, and amaro: dessert and coffee combined in one glass.

I dined at the bar, where service is friendly. The bartenders told me they’d had plenty of laughs over Sifton’d description of the sea urchin toast, but everyone at the restaurant was relieved to have their three stars.

At some point I’ll be back to sample more of the pastas and fish. Sifton’s idea of visiting for the steak is just nutty. For now, we stand by the two stars we’ve awarded on two prior visits.

Marea (240 Central Park West between Seventh Avenue & Broadway, West Midtown)


Review Recap: Marea

Today, Sam Sifton drops the expected threespot on Marea, the posh Italian Seafooder on Central Park South. Prose this purple hasn’t been seen in the paper before:

The very first item on the menu at Marea is ricci, a piece of warm toast slathered with sea urchin roe, blanketed in a thin sheet of lardo, and dotted with sea salt. It offers exactly the sensation as kissing an extremely attractive person for the first time — a bolt of surprise and pleasure combined. The salt and fat give way to primal sweetness and combine in deeply agreeable ways. The feeling lingers on the tongue and vibrates through the body. Not bad at $14 a throw — and there are two on each plate.

I don’t know yet if that paragraph will be the Best of Sifton or the Worst of Sifton, but it’s sure to be one or the other.

It’s a dark and stormy night by the time Sifton gets to crudi:

There is as well a crudo menu — and a crudo bar along the restaurant’s east side, with seats for 20. It is not part of the prix fixe, but a geoduck clam with fresh chilies and lemon helps explain in one bite why men would dive amid huge swells to retrieve the things from the angry Pacific.

The restaurant gets three stars despite weak main courses. “Better to hit shore for the steak (or a crisp roast guinea hen with asparagus) or upgrade into the whole-fish treatments.”

I cringed when Sifton described it as “unfussy.” I had prayed that with Frank Bruni’s retirement, that word and its derivatives be banished from restaurant criticism.

Both we and Eater predicted a three-star review. We both win $1 at EVEN odds against our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll –$1.00   –$1.00
Gain/Loss $1.00   $1.00
Total $0.00   $0.00
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 1–1

Life-to-date, New York Journal is 71–26 (73%).


Review Preview: Marea

Tomorrow, Sam-I-Am Sifton reviews Marea, Chris Cannon & Michael White’s seafood stunner on Central Park South. The Eater oddsline is as follows: Sift Happens: 22-1; Three Stars: EVEN; Four: 20-1.

The Skinny: This was the restaurant that most of us were positive Frank Bruni would review before he left. The Brunz fawned over Italian restaurants in general, and none more so than Cannon & White’s two other places, Alto and Convivio, both of which received three stars. His reasons for taking a pass on Marea were never satisfactorily explained, but we believe he wasn’t quite sold on the place, but couldn’t bring himself to drop the hammer.

If Bruni was ambivalent, we can certainly understand his reasons. We were not impressed when we visited in June. In New York, Adam Platt was unhappy, but awarded three stars anyway, prompting an angry outburst from Michael White’s BFF, Josh Ozersky. Ryan Sutton in Bloomberg awarded four stars. Alan Richman in GQ doesn’t do stars, but if he did, said he’d award four, as well.

Notwithstanding our doubts, there seems to be a clear consensus for at least three stars. Besides, if DBGB is a two-star restaurant (as Sifton claimed it was a week ago), how could Marea get the same? Although Ozersky lobbied hard for a four-star review, we are assuming that Sifton isn’t that crazy.

The Bet: We agree with Eater’s Ben Leventhal that Sam Sifton will award three stars to Marea.



I have a perverse fascination with Marea. Our first visit was not exactly impressive. I went back with a colleague and had a meal that, if not stellar, was at least solid. Cooking the food without significant errors is progress.

But I have not yet seen anything that would justify the rapturous reviews given by critics I respect, like Alan Richman and Ryan Sutton. I keep wondering, “What have I missed?”

The other night, I was in the area and stopped in again for an appetizer, a couple of cocktails, and dessert. The cocktails were very well made; I particularly loved The Diplomat, an Italian re-interpretation of a Manhattan. A couple more of those, and they would have had to carry me home.

Getting a bartender’s attention was a consistently a challenge, except towards the end of the evening when the crowds had cleared out. They serve a full menu at the bar, but it doesn’t occur to them to offer the menu. A cocktail list is dropped off, and before you can blink the bartender has disappeared again.

Baccala ($18; above left) is a house-made salt cod, impeccably prepared in itself, but given little help by the heirloom tomatoes and watercress purée. I mean, why those vegetables with that fish? But I adored the Zuchine ($12; above right), a zucchini tort with lemon crema frozen yogurt, with which the bartender comped a glass of dessert wine. That’s what you want from a three-star restaurant—food you can’t get out of your head, even days after you’ve eaten it.

The à la carte menu structure at least means that one can dip into Marea periodically without committing to a four-course meal. And I suppose I will keep looking for the magic. Sam Sifton’s verdict for the Times awaits.

Marea (240 Central Park West between Seventh Avenue & Broadway, West Midtown)

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


Review Previews: DBGB, Marea, Eleven Madison Park

Record to date: 8–3

We’ll be away for the next two weeks, and most likely will not be able to post our Review Previews in real time, so we’re posting them now.

Bruni has three reviews remaining. What will they be?

  1. Marea is a definite: there’s no way Bruni would pass up an upscale Italian place that opened on his watch.
  2. Eater.com reported that Bruni has been spoted three times recently at Eleven Madison Park. He wouldn’t be there so often in the twilight of his tenure unless he’s working up a re-review.
  3. The last one’s something of a wild card, but among places that must be reviewed (and a Boulud restaurant clearly fits this description), we are fairly certain that DBGB is the oldest outstanding.

Bruni has already reviewed Eleven Madison Park twice (two stars; 2/23/2005 and three stars; 1/10/2007). A promotion to four is the only conceivable reason to review it again. He has not named a new four-star restaurant since Masa in December 2004. The 4½-year gap is the longest in Times history, a record he set in the middle of last year. We and others believe that he’s itching to crown one more.

Unfortunately, that will leave poor Marea with three stars, as Bruni isn’t going to canonize two restaurants in under a month, when in almost five years he found none at all. We don’t think Marea is a four-star restaurant in any event, but given Bruni’s love-affair with Italian cuisine we thought he just might pull the trigger until we heard he was taking another hard look at Eleven Madison. (If the 11MP review doesn’t come through, then Mike White and Chris Cannon could still have a chance.)

Finally, DBGB: Most reviews we’ve seen (including our own) have been slightly less enthusiastic about this place than Bar Boulud at Lincoln Center, where Bruni awarded two stars. We therefore believe that DBGB will be rated a notch lower, at one star.

In summary, our predictions are: one star for DBGB, three stars for Marea, and four stars for Eleven Madison Park. Obviously, it’s possible that Bruni’s final reviews will include one or two other places, but we’re positive that Marea will be among the three.




Chris Cannon and Micheal White, owner & chef respectively of the new restaurant Marea, are too smart to actually announce that they are gunning for four stars. That hasn’t stopped others (Ben Leventhal, Mister Cutlets) from making ambitious predictions on their behalf, but Messrs. Cannon and White have been wisely silent.

You just know it’s true, though. White has earned three NYT stars on a trio of occasions—at Fiamma Osteria, where he no longer works, and at Alto & Convivio, where he still does. You just know he wouldn’t have signed up for $700,000 in annual rent and a luxurious make-over of the old San Domenico space, if all he wanted was another three-star restaurant.

When I saw the opening menu, my heart sank: it featured over 85 items in almost a dozen categories. No three- or four-star restaurant tries to serve so many things, especially in the early days. It is often a recipe for disaster; it is seldom a prescription for excellence.

When we visited on Saturday evening, we found a menu slightly simplified, but it still offered over 70 items, or about double what it should, even allowing that some of them are crudi or raw bar selections that require minimal preparation. The unfortunate result was predictable: rubbery squid; cold pasta; over-cooked sturgeon.

The restaurant also has the same problem that plagued San Domenico: it is a large space, and it is difficult for a kitchen to keep up, especially when so many of the dishes are as overwrought as they are here. We know that Michael White can cook, but predictions that he would get four stars out of the gate seem to us premature—that is, assuming Frank Bruni doesn’t have a lobotomy between now and August.

Marea means tide in Italian, and the cuisine is all seafood, aside from a couple of bail-out dishes for landlubbers. The menu is hedged for the economy, as it naturally would be. It suggests, in small print, the four-course prix fixe at $89. You can still order à la carte and get out for less money, although by no means cheaply.

Just to list all of the menu categories is exhausting: snacks to share ($9–14); crudi ($11–17, or $23 for three); six kinds of oysters ($3.50 ea.; $35 per dozen); caviar; antipasti ($17–24); primi and risotti ($24–36), secondi ($35–47), whole fish & shellfish ($39–49 per pound). The whole fish offer a choice from among four sauces and six sides; there seems to be no way to order the sides separately.

It took us quite a while to absorb all of this. The $89 prix fixe precludes the whole fish; you can choose one antipasto or crudo, one pasta or risotto, and one secondo, though a number of them carry supplements. We finally decoded the whole menu and were ready to order.

Polipo, or grilled octopus (above left) was a rubbery disaster, rendering irrelevant the bed of rice, fava beans, and yellow tomatoes on which it lay.

Tartare of Hawaiian blue prawns, chanterelles, and almonds (above right) was fine, but a bit flat. The almonds were draped casually over the top of the tartare, but not really integrated in the dish. We had similar misgivings about most of the things we tried.

Gramigna (above left) caught my eye because it wedded smoked cod and speck, along with leeks and gremolata. It was the more successful of our two pastas, but for the life of us we couldn’t detect any smoked cod. “I wonder if they forgot it,” my girlfriend remarked.

Ferratini (above right) arrived not warm enough, and it also suffered from poorly calibrated ingredients. It allegedly contained manila clams, calamari, and hot chilies, but the latter ingredient was singular. We counted just one chili, and it contributed nothing to the flavor of the dish.

A long wait ensued for the secondi. We were in no hurry, but the delay foretold another culinary misfire. Storione, or Columbia river sturgeon (above left) arrived tasting like dry sponge, along with another miscellaneous mixture of ingredients—chanterelles, spring garlic, and citrus.

Seppia, or grilled Mediterranean cuttlefish (above right) seemed to have been correctly prepared, and it was somewhat more intriguing, as one is seldom served the whole animal. But again, it had little to do with its dance partners: braised escarole, livornese sauce, and wild oregano.

Dessert was the only fully successful course: a pineapple cheesecake with coconut sorbet (above left); a panna cotta with blueberries (above right). [This is the only course for which I do not have a printed menu, so these descriptions might not be quite right.]

There were no amuse courses, as one normally expects at a restaurant serving an $89 prix fixe. The breads were excellent, especially a focaccia; at the end, a meager quartet of chocolate petits-fours was yet another reminder of the amenities Marea still lacks, in light of its price range.

When the kitchen is under control, Marea will be a lovely place to dine. The multi-million dollar rehab of the dowdy old San Domenico space is stunning, without being ostentatious. You can’t avoid noticing how lovely it is, but it doesn’t get in your way. The serving pieces are lovely too, including a gorgeous charger plate I’d love to take home.

The staff render polished service. The lengthy wine list has plenty for the $50-and-under crowd (like us). A sommelier visited our table unbidden and immediately directed us to a happy choice in our price range. When we got home, I realized I hadn’t taken a copy of the menu and would have no hope of remembering all of the Italian names and ingredients. I called the restaurant back, and they emailed it to me that same evening. At 12:15 a.m.

We do not doubt that Marea is capable of turning out multi-star food. On some days, and for some guests, it may be doing so now. But nothing we tried, even had it been executed properly, approached the potential of the city’s gold standard for seafood, Le Bernardin. Perhaps it is a disservice to Michael White that anyone suggested Marea was in the same league.

Sadly, Chef White now cannot take the one obvious step that would improve Marea tremendously, which is to cut the menu in half. That would smell of desperation—admitting defeat just as the critics are starting to take their measure of the place. So he will continue to tinker around the edges and hope that he can send out winners when he has to.

Marea (240 Central Park West between Seventh Avenue & Broadway, West Midtown)

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

Marea on Urbanspoon


Exit L'Impero, Enter Convivio

limpero_inside.jpgToday, Grub Street reports that L’Impero, the Tudor City Italian mainstay, will close on June 29, re-opening in mid-July as Convivio.

The “lugubrious” interior, which Frank Bruni likened to the inside of a coffin, will get a long-overdue makeover. The menu will offer a $59 four-course prix fixe — that’s $5 less than when we visited last year — with “small plates” served à la carte.

We’ve often noted that small-plate menus are seldom any cheaper, once you order enough food for a full meal. And because they are more confusing, such menus are prone to upselling and over-ordering. It will be interesting to see if L’Impero, er, Convivo, can avoid falling into that trap.

We agree with Cutlets that the makover offers a clean break from the Scott Conant era (he’s now at Scarpetta), and it will likely lure Frank Bruni for a re-review. Those are compelling reasons in themselves.