Entries in Manuel Treviño (3)


Marble Lane

Note: This is a review under chef Manuel Treviño, who left the restaurant in May 2013. It later closed entirely and re-opened in January 2014 as Bodega Negra, a Mexican street food spot.


I’ve been trying to reduce my percentage of wasted restaurant meals—the places (usually newer ones) that I try, “just because they are there.” But some odd impulse last week brought me to Marble Lane at the Dream Hotel, a venue I should easily have guessed would be terrible.

The clues of a big-time fail are abundant, from the location slightly north of the Meatpacking District, to the heavy breathing from Eater’s Scott Solish when it opened. In charge are the same folks who created the money-printing machine (and culinary mediocrity) Tao, following it up with the even more dreadful Lavo.

As chef, they hired Manuel Treviño, who was famous for fifteen minutes on Top Chef (Season 4: eliminated after four episodes); then ran the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t restaurant Travertine; and then moved to the aforementioned Lavo, where Sam Sifton goose-egged him. If you’re running Marble Lane, he’s just the guy you want. Right?

There’s a vaguely steak-focused “international menu,” and Grub Street tells us: “each steak will have its own twist.” Oh, dear. Prices are are in a wide range, but high, with appetizers $10–22, non-steak entrées $21–28, steaks (aged prime and “American Kobe”) $30–65, and sides $9–10.

On the wine list, it’s hard to do business below $60 a bottle. Cocktails, ranging from $14–16, are also on the expensive side. It all adds up, and before you’re done you’ve spent $100 or more a head for mediocre food.

Calamari ($18; above left), served as an appetizer, were rubbery.

Entrée portions are ample. If they aren’t great, they aren’t bad either: Loup de Mere ($25; above left), Romanian Skirt Steak ($39; above right). The latter is the same cut they serve at Sammy’s Romanian, but better quality (claimed to be American Kobe). It was an enormous portion I couldn’t finish. In a nicer room, I wouldn’t have minded it.

But Sammy’s at least has personality. Marble Lane is a cookie-cutter hotel restaurant, looking for a party that hasn’t started yet, and probably never will. Reservations are available any day, any time. The dining room was empty when I arrived, but it didn’t stop the hostess from administering this cold greeting: “Let me know when your guest is here and I’ll have you guys sat.”

There were no seats at the bar, so I trundled off to the charmless lounge, where I waited (and waited) for a server to notice me. Attractive twenty-somethings in tight black dresses walked by, skipping the restaurant and headed for one of the hotel’s various lounges.

Later this fall, the Spanish chef Miguel Romera is planning to open a restaurant in this same hotel, where he’ll charge $245 for a prix fixe tasting menu. I have no idea whether his food is worth that much. He earned two Michelin stars in Spain, so I give him the benefit of the doubt. But among those who are willing to drop that much coin on a meal, who would do so at this dismal hotel? I wish him good luck with that.

Marble Lane (355 W. 16th St between 8th & 9th Avenues, in the Dream Hotel)

Food: Satisfactory
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Poor
Overall: Fair



Note: Travertine closed in July 2011. The space is now Ken & Cook.


Travertine is the new Mediterranean-themed restaurant from Manuel Treviño, a former Babbo sous-chef and Top Chef contestant. The restaurant is living proof that even a poor performance on Top Chef is like gold, if you know how to market yourself: Treviño was the fourth chef eliminated during Season 4, but that mediocre effort didn’t stop him from parlaying the show into his own restaurant.

Travertine arrived in September after a tortured gestation. One proposal after another for the former Little Charlie’s Clam Bar space was shot down by the local community board. It is tough to figure, as Kenmare Street has very little to recommend it, and this place brings night-time civilization to a nearly-barren area that could use some.

The owners’ proposal, after a previous turn-down, finally squeaked by the community board by a 17–14 vote way back in September 2008. They then had to build the space, and they’ve done a very nice job. Our meal here was no great culinary revelation, but it certainly improved this desolate area.

I started with drinks at the bar. Wines by the glass were generously priced, in that (as at Babbo) they’re served in a quartino (good for about two glasses), at the same price that most restaurants would serve for one. The bar itself is uncomfortable, with an iron grille blocking the space where one’s legs would normally dangle beneath the stool.

The menu is Italian-inspired, with a sensibly-edited selection of appetizers ($11–14), pastas ($16–19), entrées ($26–29), and sides ($5). There are no more than half-a-dozen in each category, which I am always happy to see. I’d rather choose from among the six things a chef thinks he can do well, than to puzzle over many dozens.

Serving Pig’s Head Terrine ($13; above left) was once considered daring, but now it’s offered all over the place. This one was merely average. Crispy Maine Shrimp ($14; above right) were served in abundance, but nothing imaginative was done with them.

Picci ($18; above left) were over-sauced and didn’t have much of the promised Italian sausage. Porcini Rubbed Pork Tenderloin was the best dish of the evening, with three generously-sized, tender medallions, crispy artichokes, and cannellini beans that could be addictive all by themselves.

There is clearly an attempt to be upscale here, with both an amuse-bouche at the start (crostini; pictured at top of post) and and petits-fours (right) at the end. There is no shortage of staff; indeed, during the first part of our meal it seemed that the employees outnumbered the customers, though to be fair this place probably doesn’t get busy till later. Unfortunately, we were stuck with what must have been their worst server, who was intent on rushing us through the meal and tried several times to upsell our order.

The food struck us as mostly competent, though it wouldn’t win Top Chef. For that matter, it didn’t win Top Chef, so there. However, the stupid Community Board have got a restaurant that improved their neighborhood.

Travertine (19 Kenmare Street between Elizabeth Street & Bowery)

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


A Voce: How to Detonate a Restaurant


Update: Andrew Carmellini’s replacement has finally been named: Missy Robbins, formerly of Chicago’s Spiaggia. To learn more about the débacle that led up to this, read on.

The farce at A Voce is one of the sorriest spectacles we’ve seen in a long time.

After weeks of rumor-mongering, Grub Street reported yesterday that Manuel Treviño, a former Top Chef contestant, will temporarily replace Andrew Carmellini at A Voce. According to the report, “Treviño will oversee the expansion of A Voce to the Time Warner Center,” where it is replacing Café Gray, “but he is expected to make way for another big-name chef to be named (eventually) by A Voce’s owners.”

How many shades of stupidity can be painted in one sentence? Apparently, if Treviño does a good job at the Time Warner Center, he’ll get fired anyway. And if he does a bad job, the restaurant will have the mediocre reviews hanging like deadweights around its neck.

Remember: once the critics have reviewed a place, they seldom return. Why would anyone open the Time Warner branch with a transitional figure, get pummeled, and then bring in the chef they really want?

It gets worse. Today, Grub Street reports that pastry chef Josh Gripper has left the restaurant: “I’m not comfortable with [the ownership’s] direction, and I don’t think it would be a smart move to stay with them.” Ouch.

As a reader noted in the Eater comments section: “They might as well mail that 3rd star back to the Times right now.” We were never persuaded that A Voce was three-star material, but it’s still sad to see the owners squandering the good hand they were dealt.