Entries in David Rabin (3)


Cafe Clover


One website called it a “farm-to-nutritionist-to-table restaurant.” That nutritionist, according to the pre-opening press, is Mike Roussell, Ph.D. His name isn’t on the website, but his presence looms large at Cafe Clover, which opened recently in the West Village.

The chef here is David Standridge, formerly of Market Table and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. You’d think, with that pedigree, his menu wouldn’t need an editor. And yet:

“Unlike a health food restaurant that starts with a healthy perspective, I start from a delicious food perspective and then try to eliminate unnecessary calories and also try to make things more healthy,” Standridge, says, of the Café Clover concept.

To do that, he creates the menu and then gets a full nutritional analysis from Dr. Roussell, who will report on things like if a dish has too many calories or carbs, and then send Standridge back to the kitchen to tweak it.

The result is as joyless as it sounds: a cuisine that is clinically executed and hopelessly dull. Do we really want a restaurant where every dish tastes like a nutrition lecture?

Restaurants have struggled on this West Village street corner, most recently home to 10 Downing and La Villette. But there’s nothing wrong with the neighborhood, as El Toro Blanco is still packing them in, on the same block. If Cafe Clover fails, I’d blame the concept, not the space.

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The Lambs Club

Why do theater district restaurants have to be snoozers? Sure, a lot of the area’s eating places are just conveyer belts with seating, designed to produce factory-made food at exorbitant prices. But there are some theater-goers with more sophisticated tastes. Why shouldn’t there be a restaurant for them?

I thought the Lambs Club just might be that restaurant. Located in a landmarked boutique hotel (The Chatwal), with a multi-starred chef on board as consultant (Geoffrey Zakarian), a former Alain Ducasse chef in the kitchen (Joel Dennis), and a luxe space that took three years to build, why wouldn’t this be the place?

On the other hand, Zakarian is the guy who fiddled while his two previous restaurants, Town and Country, imploded. And Joel Dennis is the guy who got bounced from Adour after it lost a Michelin star.

Unfortunately, the Lambs Club reminds me of Town and Country in their sad last days, as well as of our meal at Adour, which I described at the time, as “downright soporific: one yawn after another. There’s no excitement on the plate at all.”

Although the food is dullsville, you’ll eat in a bright, attractive, and comfortable room, and you’ll experience something close to three-star service. Bring grandma here for her 80th birthday. She’ll be well treated, and there’s plenty on the menu she can eat.

For a restaurant this nice, the prices aren’t bad, with most of the appetizers in the high teens, and most of the entrées in the high twenties. But you’re paying for ambiance, as the food is nothing special. Bread service, at least, is better than average, with doughy parker-house rolls, baguettes, and crudités to start (above left).


Heritage Pork Ravioli ($15; above left) with broccoli rabe was practically devoid of flavor. Couldn’t they at least have added some butter? A foie gras terrine ($26; above right) with black mission figs and grilled country bread was luxurious by default, but Salon Millesime served us a nicer one last week for $10 less.


There was nothing impressive about Roasted Lamb Saddle (above left), and there didn’t seem to be much on the plate for $35. A prime Delmonico steak (above right), served off the bone, wasn’t bad at all, but at $46 there are better options in town. A side dish of fingerling potatoes ($8) was predictably dull.

You probably won’t be surprised when I say the wine list skews expensive. A 2006 Tard-Laur St. Joseph was $75, and there wasn’t much of interest below that price. It was, at the very least, an enjoyable wine, and we were well tended by the sommelier. I am always worried when the bottle doesn’t remain on the table, but he kept our glasses replenished. The glassware here, by the way, is some of the most elegant I have seen. Too bad you can’t eat it.

Service overall was perfectly attentive, and aside from the lack of bread knives I cannot find fault with it. The only thing lacking is food that lives up to the setting.

The Lambs Club (130 W. 44th St. between 6th & 7th Avenues, West Midtown)i

Food: ★
Service: ★★½
Ambiance: ★★½
Overall: ★½


Breakfast at the Lambs Club


Geoffrey Zakarian has been quiet for the past year or two, ever since his three-star restaurants, Town and Country, imploded under the weight of mismanagement and a poor economy. Now he’s back at The Lambs Club, a fine-dining restaurant in the new Chatwal Hotel on 44th Street.

A chef with Zakarian’s resume shouldn’t have to prove himself. He rose through a long line of serious restaurants where excellence couldn’t be hedged or faked. But the rapidity of his demise at Town and Country, and the decline of those places long before that, raises difficult questions. Does he still have fire in the belly, or is this just another consulting contract? Opening in a hotel is usually good insurance against failure, but the last two places were in hotels too.

The Lambs Club—named for a famous theatrical club that formerly occupied the space—is not yet open for dinner. As I happened to have business in the area, I dropped in for breakfast. The dining room is comfortable, decked out in lipstick red furniture and dark wood paneling. There is an 18th-century fireplace, though it appears to be re-configured with a gas burner.


Breakfast has nothing to do with dinner, but this was a very good meal, and not as ridiculously over-priced as hotel food sometimes can be. That said, it wasn’t cheap either. I loved a nectarine smoothie ($9) and an egg sandwich ($13) with bacon, cheddar, and tomato confit.

Will this be the place where Geoffrey Zakarian retakes his place on the culinary stage, or will dinner just be a succession of better-than-average hotel dishes? We’ll find out in a few weeks.

The Lambs Club (130 W. 44th St. between Sixth & Seventh Avenues, West Midtown)