Entries in Lambs Club (3)


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.


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)