Entries in Gary Robins (3)


Revolving Door

It has been a while since our last episode of Revolving Door—our periodic coverage of restaurant closings and chef departures.

At Fresh, former owner Eric Tevrow was found guilty of tax evasion in December 2007. In July, the new owners hired chef Michael Ferraro, replacing former chef Kento Komoto, who returned to Japan. Just two months later, Ferraro was out, and the restaurant was shuttered. It will become a Puerto Rican restaurant called Sazon, a sister to the uptown Sofrito on 57th & 1st. We liked Fresh, but it never seemed to be full when it needed to be.

Sheridan Square bit the dust. The cursed restaurant took forever to open. Gary Robins, the original chef, left after less than two months. His replacement, Franklin Becker, tried gamely to rescue the place, but it finally succumbed after its owners had lost $4 million. We had good first impressions, but it’s a bad sign when the chef is gone after six weeks. Some food board participants found the location problematic, but with tons of successful restaurants within a five-block radius, we find it remarkable that the right chef with the right menu couldn’t make it here.

Django, the midtown 300-seater, closed quietly. Was anyone paying attention? We liked our meal there (way back when), but not enough to consider visiting again. I guess we weren’t the only ones.



Sheridan Square

[Kreiger via Eater]

Note: Sheridan Square closed in September 2008.


Sheridan Square, as we noted a couple of weeks ago, is the latest of many new restaurants featuring former three-star chefs in casual surroundings. In this case, we have Gary Robins, who was a hit at the Biltmore Room, but flamed out at the Russian Tea Room.

This trend is, I suppose, partly the product of tough economic times, as well as the judgment that most diners are turned off by stuffy dining rooms and $85 prix fixe menus. Restaurants need to be careful, though. Even in pared down surroundings, high-end entrées tend to hover around $30. At that price, diners expect first-class service and ambiance, which some of the latest restaurants fail to deliver.

It appears to us that Sheridan Square has the balance about right. I say that with the caveat that, at the table next to us, a couple complained so bitterly about service delays that the manager comped their entire meal. We didn’t experience anything like that, but the incident says a lot about growing pains at a two-week-old restaurant.

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Left: Foie Gras Ravioli with spring vegetables & summer truffles; Right: Tagliarini with Mussels & Clams

There have already been multiple food board posts praising the Foie Gras Ravioli ($15) with spring vegetables and summer truffles. You can add me to the dish’s many fans. My girlfriend loved the Tagliarini ($13) with mussels and clams. The relatively low price of both appetizers somewhat offsets the entrées, which skew expensive.

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Left: Anise Scented Crisped Long Island Duck Breast; Right: Rosemary Crusted Australian Rack of Lamb

Anise Scented Crisped Long Island Duck Breast ($27) was very good, though it was undercut by the gloppy plating of creamed cauliflower, braised fava beans and spring peas. The dish tasted better than it looked.

Rack of Lamb is one of two dishes appearing on the menu with “m.p.” instead of a price, and diners may be surprised to find that it costs $42. It is a larger portion than it needs to be: my girlfriend couldn’t finish five hefty ribs. However, it is an excellent dish, with the wood-burning oven imparting a nice smoky flavor. As with the dush, the puddle of sauce is not attractively plated.

There are some glitches to be worked out, but so far it seems to us that Sheridan Square is one of this year’s better additions to the West Village dining scene.

Sheridan Square (138 Seventh Ave. S. between W. 10th & Charles Sts., West Village)

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


First Look: Sheridan Square


Note: Click here for a full review of Sheridan Square.

The long-delayed Sheridan Square opens tonight in Greenwich Village. The restaurant has been in a “soft open” for the last couple of days, and after reading a glowing review yesterday on Mouthfuls, I decided to stop in for dinner.

The chef here, Gary Robins, joins a gaggle of former three-star chefs opening in much humbler Greenwich Village settings. Bar Blanc is run by a trio of Bouley alumni, Bobo opened with a former Ducasse chef (who has since left), Commerce has Montrachet’s Harold Moore, and Sheridan Square has Robins, who earned three stars at the Biltmore Room and, less honorably, numerous pans at the Russian Tea Room.

Sheridan Square might be the best of this quartet of restaurants, all within two square blocks of one another. We rated Commerce an outright failure, and Frank Bruni gave it only one star. Bar Blanc got the two stars it likely wanted, but it continues to be dogged by service complaints; we consider it an under-achiever. We liked Bobo (not yet reviewed by Bruni), but the jury is still out; it appears to be righting the ship after a nearly disastrous start.

Bobo certainly has the loveliest space, though Sheridan Square rates a respectable second, with a cheery modern vibe, large windows that admit plenty of natural light, a woodburning stove, white tablecloths, and elegant service. It’s a pity those windows don’t offer something nicer to look at. Like all restaurants located on avenues and major cross streets, the view is nothing special.

There’s a divided kitchen, with most of the cooking done in the basement, and some of the finishing and plating done upstairs in view of the dining room. I don’t quite understand the allure of open kitchens, but this one seemed to be humming along efficiently without being too much of a distraction.

The seasonal (“Late Spring”) menu is priced about in line with the neighborhood’s other upscale newcomers, with starters $11–19, entrées $24–36, and side dishes $8. I counted at least four entrées that are prepared in the wood-burning oven, and I suspect they’ll be among the most popular. I wasn’t happy to see two entrées with “m.p.” instead of a price (lamb, strip steak). Given the ease of reprinting these days, and a seasonal menu that changes frequently, how hard is it to reprint when the price changes?


A mis-named appetizer called “Crispy Squash Blossom” ($17) was mildly disappointing. The brown fritter in the photo is basically an oddly shaped jumbo lump crab cake with a tangy mango chili sauce. The corn salsa and avocado were a bit more exciting, but seemed to have parachuted in from a different appetizer. A couple of ugly shards of lettuce didn’t add anything either, and for the life of me I couldn’t find any squash.


I adored the Wood Grilled Carolina Trout ($24), plated with golden beets in a honey ginger vinaigrette, wild rice, garden beans and yuzu hazelnut brown butter. Everything in this dish worked beautifully together, punctuated by two ample filets of tender trout and a mild smoky flavor imparted by the wood-burning oven.

Service was about as smooth and assured as I’ve seen in a restaurant that is not yet technically open. I did not order wine, but the wine list, though not particularly deep, seemed to be fairly priced, with plenty of bottles under $50 and a good selection by the glass. I had a couple of terrific cocktails, but there was no printed cocktail menu. Bread service could be better, with only humdrum sourdough bread and a caraffe of olive oil as the only choice.

I don’t assign ratings to restaurants that are not yet open, but Sheridan Square seems to have all of the pieces in place for a solid two stars. I look forward to coming back again in another month or two.

Sheridan Square (138 Seventh Ave. S. between W. 10th & Charles Sts., West Village)