Entries in Colicchio & Sons (6)


NYC's Ten Most Disappointing New Restaurants of 2010

In a previous post, I listed my top ten new restaurants of 2010. Now, here are my top ten disappointments. The list ranges from those that were truly bad (Kenmare), to those that merely failed to live up to outsized expectations (Lincoln).

As before, the list is based on my actual experiences at the restaurants, not what others have said, what the chefs are theoretically capable of, or what may have changed since I visited. Some of these places will eventually earn return visits, but remember: I’m spending my own money. I usually wait a while before giving a second chance.

1. Lincoln. No restaurant opened with higher expectations than the new luxe Italian restaurant at Lincoln Center with former Per Se chef Jonathan Benno. I’ve read reports of some great meals here, but ours was mediocre, and most of the pro critics were unimpressed. The space is terrible, and that can’t be fixed, but Benno won’t go down without a fight. If Lincoln is the year’s biggest disappointment, it’s also the one most likely to improve.

2. Colicchio & Sons. Coming from a chef with Tom Colicchio’s pedigree, this place figured to be excellent. But Colicchio botched the roll-out, opening with an à la carte menu, switching to an expensive prix fixe after just a month in business, and then switching back less than a month later. Practically all the reviews were negative, except for a bizarre trifecta from Sam Sifton of the Times. The restaurant is now off the radar, and we’ve heard nothing that would justify a return visit.

3. John Dory Oyster Bar. The re-located April Bloomfield/Ken Friedman seafood place bears no comparison to the original John Dory, which was in a poor location, but was otherwise a very good restaurant. Our meal here wasn’t bad, but it’s nowhere near what this team is capable of. Let’s hope that April is able to find her mojo, as she has done at The Spotted Pig and The Breslin.

4. Kenmare. This Italian restaurant from chef Joey Campanaro was probably the worst new restaurant we visited in 2010. Given Campanaro’s track record (Little Owl, Market Table, and before that The Harrison and Pace), who would have expected it to be this bad? Was ever a “consulting” gig more phoned-in than this one?

5. Zengo. This restaurant, built on the site of four failed Jeffrey Chodorow places, is so comically bad that the critics couldn’t even bring themselves to review it. The Latin–Asian fusion concept is unfocused and poorly executed. The nominal chef, Richard Sandoval, has fifteen restaurants in five U. S. cities and three countries. This one never got the attention it needed.

6. Lotus of Siam. This is the New York branch of a legendary Las Vegas standout, which Gourmet critic Jonathan Gold anointed the “best Thai restaurant in North America.” But none of the Las Vegas staff moved to New York: the original chef spent just a few weeks training the New York staff, and then went back home. The result is a watered-down version of the original. It’s such a pity to see a great opportunity missed.

7. Bar Basque. I had high hopes for this place, despite the involvement of Jeffrey Chodorow, who builds failed restaurants at a prolific pace. There’s a serious chef here, and a number of critics have had better meals than we did. But there is no getting around the Chodorrific service and the irritating space. Over/under on a new chef or concept: 18 months.

8. The Lambs Club. This was supposed to be Geoffrey Zakarian’s big comeback, after his pair of three-star standouts, Town and Country, imploded after long declines. Our meal here did not live up to Zakarian’s talents, to the space, or to the excellent service team. On the first night of service, we saw Zakarian dining at Lincoln, which tells you how committed he is to the project. We’ll be giving a pass to his other new restaurant, The National.

9. Nuela. This pan-Latin restaurant was in gestation so long that the original chef, Douglas Rodriguez, gave up. With Adam Schop now in charge, we found an overly long menu (60+ items) with far too many duds, a horrific décor and an overly-loud sound track. This restaurant concept was sorely in need of an editor.

10. Plein Sud. Here’s another case of missing expectations. Plein Sud offers serviceable comfort food, but chef Ed Cotton (who made it to the finals of Top Chef Season 7) did far, far better work at Veritas and BLT Market.


Review Recap: Colicchio & Sons

This morning at 3:00 a.m., Tom Colicchio was spotted dancing nude in the Lincoln Center Plaza fountain.

OK, not quite, but we are sure he was out celebrating into the wee hours after winning an improbable three stars in the Times for his almost universally panned restaurant, Colicchio & Sons.

We don’t feel badly for having widely missed the mark with our one-star prediction. Nobody in town thought the review was going down that way. It is not often that a restaurant gets three stars in the Times when every other critic (and most bloggers) thought it was worth, at best, one.

It’s also not often that a restaurant announces a 30 percent price cut just days before the review comes out. It tells you a lot about the kind of review Colicchio thought he was going to get.

We and Eater both lose $1 on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll $8.00   $20.00
Gain/Loss –1.00   –.00
Total $7.00   $10.00
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 8–10

Life-to-date, New York Journal is 80–35 (69.6%).


Review Preview: Colicchio & Sons

Tomorrow, Sam Sifton reviews Tom Colicchio’s latest and not-so-greatest, Colicchio & Sons. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows: Goose Egg: 3–1; One Star: 2–1; Two Stars: 20–1; Three Stars: 400–1; Four Stars: 25,000–1.

Tom Colicchio doesn’t need my sympathy, but I am starting to feel sorry for the guy. Today’s pan in Time Out New York is the latest of many, including our own in early February. Actually, I have yet to see a positive review.

This is a place that I am quite sure Colicchio believes is capable of operating at a three-star level. That was clearly his intention when he abruptly jacked up the price to $78 prix fixe about a month ago. He reversed the decision last Friday after just three weeks. I cannot recall any other restaurant where this has happened.

By Friday, Colicchio would have known that the restaurant was going into the Times this week. (I have been in restaurants where the Times photographer was in the house; the photos are normally shot about a week in advance.) He wouldn’t have cut prices if he thought there was any chance at getting the trifecta from Sifton. So we can safely guess that even Colicchio knows that he will not get three stars.

At this point, Colicchio will be relieved to get two stars. We don’t think it’s quite as unlikely as Eater does, but we certainly agree that it’s not the most probable outcome. We also think there are enough hits on the menu here to avoid the dreaded goose-egg, much as Colicchio may deserve it for sheer chutzpah alone.

In short, we agree with Eater that Sam Sifton will aware one star to Colicchio & Sons.


Chef Blinks: Colicchio & Sons Abandons Prix Fixe

After less than a month, Tom Colicchio has abandoned the prix fixe at Colicchio & Sons, returning to the original à la carte format. We called it chutzpah to charge $78 for such a mediocre restaurant, and apparently other customers agreed.

Colicchio is no dummy, so I have to wonder what he’s thinking when he tells the Village Voice:

He also noted that he felt the sticker shock of a prix fixe would be less jarring than the sticker shock of a $30 main dish, which clearly wasn’t the case.

Now that’s just daft. If main dishes are $30 and the prix fixe is $78, it follows that you are charging the customer $48 for the appetizer and the dessert. No wonder people had a problem with that, especially at a restaurant where 12 of the cooks are new:

Are there going to be inconsistencies? Of course.

Uh, huh.


Chutzpah: Colicchio & Sons is now Prix Fixe

Update: After less than a month, citing customer complaints, Colicchio & Sons returned to its original à la carte format.

Starting today, the month-old restaurant Colicchio & Sons has switched from an à la carte menu to a $76 prix fixe. (The casual, no-reservations front room still serves a more rustic ALC menu.) We cannot recall such a switch this early in a restaurant’s life.

The move signals that business has been strong, and that Colicchio now wants to focus on getting a three-star review. Of course, it also means that critics will have their knives out if Colicchio fails to deliver, as every restaurant with a prix fixe that high either has three stars or a fairly damning two-star review.

We were disappointed in Colicchio & Sons. More than that, we felt that conceptually it was a two-star place, even if it had served us a better meal than it did. To give two recent data points: the opening prix fixe at Corton was $77, but Corton has always executed at a far higher level than this place aspires to. The opening prix fixe at Marea was $89, but that was for four courses, and you could still order à la carte.

In short: Tom Colicchio thinks his restaurant belongs in some pretty high company. Now, we’ve no doubt that Colicchio can cook as well as Paul Liebrandt and Michael White. But Liebrandt and White have much nicer restaurants, and they have far fewer distractions. Colicchio has a television show to worry about, and he supervises a much larger restaurant empire than White. Liebrandt, of course, is at Corton full time.

So there’s some chutzpah in switching to a prix fixe while the restaurant is still finding its sea legs. We’ll soon find out how smart that is.

I have to share one funny comment on my unfavorable review of the restaurant. A reader named Joe wrote:

After three weeks you have the audacity to rate this restaurant. Immediate gratification and expectations of premature perfection border on insanity. Give the restaurant a chance to begin to stand on its legs before you cut its legs out from under them. Shame on you!

I mounted three main defenses to the review. First, any restaurant that is open to the public, and is charging full price, is fair game to be praised or criticized. Colicchio isn’t exactly new at this. If he didn’t think he was ready, he shouldn’t be open.

Second, the restaurant’s response to the most damning of its mistakes (an entrée served cold) was unacceptable. There are right ways of handling this, whether you’ve been open one day or ten years.

And finally, I don’t exactly think Colicchio was quivering in his boots because New York Journal had “cut out its legs from under them.” When, just a week later, the restaurant switches to an expensive prix fixe, I would say my point has been proven.


Colicchio & Sons

Note: Colicchio & Sons closed in September 2016 after six years in business. Tom Colicchio did not state his reasons, but he told The Times that “the last couple of years had been difficult for the restaurant.” Oddly, he also said that this was “the first restaurant I actually opened and closed,” having forgotten Craftsteak, the previous restaurant to occupy this space.

We did not think Colicchio & Sons deserved the three stars that Sam Sifton gave it.” To be fair, Tom Colicchio is good at running restaurants, and the place may have improved over time. Either way, Colicchio & Sons had been out of the media conversation for the last several years. It would not surprise me to learn that bookings were down.


I have often said that steakhouses are practically the most fool-proof restaurant concept that there is. Well, practically. Tom Colicchio proved that even a smart guy can botch a steakhouse, when he opened Craftsteak in 2006. Reviews were not good, and Colicchio was charging at least $10 a steak more than the going rate in Manhattan. A steakhouse can get away with those prices, as the BLT franchise has shown, but the steaks have to be great. Craftsteak’s often weren’t.

Late last year, Colicchio closed Craftsteak, and after the briefest of make-overs, re-opened as Colicchio & Sons. The majority of a $400,000 renovation budget was spent on a new wood-burning oven where the Craftsteak raw bar used to be. The format is startlingly similar to Gramercy Tavern, where Colicchio was founding chef. There’s a casual front room, where reservations aren’t taken, and a more expensive formal dining room—although it is not that formal, as anyone who has been to Craftsteak will recall.

The name is a bit of a dodge, as Colicchio’s sons are too young to work in a restaurant kitchen, or indeed anywhere. He has explained in various interviews that the restaurant is an attempt to get back to his culinary roots. Here, he serves composed plates, as he did at Gramercy Tavern, rather than the à la carte family-style dishes of the Craft restaurants.

The food in the dining room is expensive, with appetizers $12–22 and entrées $27–36. (The more rustic “Tap Room” has dishes ranging from $9–23.) That’s less than you would have spent at Craftsteak, but still well above mid-priced. At this tariff, the food needs to be terrific. As so often happens, our appetizers lived up to the hype, but the entrées didn’t.

Our meal began with excellent parker-house rolls served in a cast-iron skillet, a feature wisely held over from the Craftsteak days. White Bean Agnolotti with Chorizo, Pork Belly and Octopus ($19; above left) and Foie Gras Torchon with Persimmon and Walnuts ($22; above right) were just about worth what we paid for them.

Chicken “Pot au Feu” ($34; above left) reads well on the menu, but it was a disaster. We noted that an nearby table had ordered this dish, and it arrived cold. Sure enough, ours did too. The fault seemed to lie with the consommé poured tableside. When we complained, they whisked the plate away, but they just put it under a warmer and brought it back to us, this time with no consommeé added in our presence. After all that, the chicken was still lukewarm, and frankly it would not have been a $34 dish even if it were done perfectly. Padma and Gail would have told Tom to pack up his knives and go.

Roasted Rabbit ($32; above right) was at least done correctly, but I’d say there was a $5–10 “Colicchio premium” in the price. Entrées north of $30 need to rise above the routine that just about any chef or restaurant could do. This isn’t a dish that would win Top Chef.

The wine list features an inventory for high rollers held over from Craftsteak, with plenty of bottles in three and four figures. But the sommelier told us that they have been adding less expensive choices. I found a wonderful Douro at $44, obscure enough that most restaurants wouldn’t even have stocked it.

The service was better than you would expect for a three-week-old restaurant, though we assume that most of the staff was retained from Craftsteak. However, there was an uncomfortably long pause between the appetizers and the entrées.

We assume that Colicchio still fancies himself a three-star chef. For now, at least, Colicchio is in the house most evenings, along with Craft chef de cuisine, Damon Wise, and the former Craftsteak chef de cuisine, Shane McBride. That’s a lot of talent in the kitchen. Now they just need to deliver.

Colicchio & Sons (85 Tenth Avenue at 15th Street, Chelsea)

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

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