Entries in Marc Murphy (5)



It’s almost forgotten now, but in 2004 Landmarc was happening. Eater and Grub Street didn’t exist then, but if they had, Landmarc would have soared right to the top of the “Where To Eat Now” lists.

Diners endured hour-long waits for cuisine that wasn’t especially inventive or clever, just comfort-food classics really well made in a casual room. Nowadays, another place like that opens every week. In 2004, it wasn’t a cliché, yet.

The French-trained chef, Marc Murphy, parlayed the success to a second Landmarc in the Time-Warner Center, in the space Charlie Trotter was once supposed to occupy.

The crowds at the original Tribeca Landmarc subsided, as they always do at hot restaurants. A few years later, both Landmarcs were just serving gussied-up shopping mall food, with shopping mall service to match.

Despite training in “some of the most highly esteemed kitchens in the world from Paris to Monte Carlo” (so says the website), Murphy’s ambitions remained decidedly low-brow. His next project, a two-restaurant chain called Ditch Plains, did for the seafood shack what Landmarc had done for American comfort food. We liked Ditch plains, but there’s no mistaking what it is.

If you replicate Landmarc’s cuisine, dial up the volume, and do it well, what do you get? Welcome to Kingside, Murphy’s latest production, a big, bold brasserie in the Viceroy Hotel, a few doors down from Carnegie Hall.

No one will confuse Kingside for the bargain Landmarc used to be. Cocktails are $16, and most of the entrées—sorry, “large plates”—are over $30. These prices aren’t out of line for the location, but even after eating and drinking without excess, you’ll still be well over $200 a couple, for food that’s well made but not very memorable.

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Ditch Plains

Note: Ditch Plains on the Upper West Side closed in September 2014, due to an unaffordable rent increase. Ditch Plains in the West Village remains open.


Ditch Plains opened last month on the Upper West Side. The critics will ignore it, because it’s a clone of Ditch Plains in the West Village, which is now five years old. In a way, that’s a shame. It’s not that chef Marc Murphy is doing anything original, but a civilized restaurant from a chef with some ability, where you can dine happily on $20 entrées, deserves a shout-out.

Murphy is obviously not a risk-taker, in more ways than one. Rather than try his hand at something new, he replicated a concept that was already successful downtown. That was the formula too, when he cloned his Tribeca hit Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center. The menus at these restaurants don’t change very often, and they hew mainly to readily recognized comfort-food classics that don’t challenge the diner.

Murphy obviously has talent, and you have to wonder what he could do, if he ventured outside of his comfort zone. Instead, he makes news by winning the judges’ vote at the South Beach Burger Bash. Mind you, even winning a burger contest requires ability. It’s obviously not a fluke, as Peter Meehan of the Times loved the burger too, in an otherwise lukewarm review of the original Ditch Plains. (The restaurant got a more favorable reception from the Underground Gourmet in New York.)

The obscure name refers to a beach in Montauk. Despite the burger and a few other sops to landlubbers, Ditch Plains is supposed to evoke a seafood shack, albeit a pretty large one with 165 seats. The most expensive entrées are a lobster roll ($26) and a marinated skirt steak ($24); all of the others are $22 or less.

My friend, who was not aware of the West Village branch, thought that the menu was designed to appeal to children—hence, mac and cheese, hot dogs, wings, chili, and so forth. I think it’s just a coincidence, but the restaurant is perfect for the stereotype Upper West Side stroller-toting couple. Indeed, you’ll probably be sharing the dining room with young families, which is either a selling point or a drawback, depending on your perspective.

It’s also close enough for a casual, inexpensive meal before the opera: less costly and less crowded than the Lincoln Center restaurants. Reservations aren’t taken for parties smaller than six, but we had no trouble walking in on a Friday evening. When we left, at around 7:15 p.m., the dining room was about half full.

The kitchen turned out a very good bowl of mussels and fries ($20) and a perfectly respectable grilled fish (red snapper, I believe; $20). An appetizer of spicy pork meatballs ($13) was the highlight, an ample portion slathered in fontina cheese and tomato sauce, with grilled sourdough bread.

In common with Murphy’s other restaurants, the wine list features an abundance of half bottles, an innovation at the time that others have copied (Bar Henry, Ciano), albeit not widely. That might be the most original thing Murphy has done.

Ditch Plains (100 W. 82nd Street at Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side)



Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center


Everyone knows the story of the Restaurant Collection at the Time-Warner Center, right? Perhaps a brief recap is in order. The original idea was to gather the world’s greatest chefs under one roof, for a set of restaurants that would all vie for three or four stars from the Times. Two of the restaurants, Per Se and Masa, were clear hits, while Café Gray received mixed reviews. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s V Steakhouse bombed, and the fifth major tenant, Chicago’s Charlie Trotter, bowed out.

The main miscalculation was that none of these restaurants appealed to a shopping mall clientele. Someone looking for a casual bite isn’t going to pop into Café Gray for the $36 braised short ribs. Café Gray’s breakfast and lunch service fizzled. The mall needed a casual dining option, and none of these places fit the bill. Bouchon Bakery filled in somewhat, but there remained a huge void between it and Café Gray.

Porter House New York replaced V Steakhouse, and it appears to be a hit. While not exactly casual, it comes in at a gentler price point than Café Gray and offers a great bar menu for snacking. Landmarc, which opened last week in the old Charlie Trotter space, finally gives the mall the truly informal dining option that it needed.

Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center is a near-clone of the original Landmarc in TriBeCa, which I’ve reviewed twice (here, here). Among the differences, the new Landmarc is about double the size, with a seating capacity of 200, plus 90 in private dining rooms, and a large bar. The décor is similar to the TriBeCa location’s post-industrial chic, with the added bonus of a picture window facing Columbus Circle and Central Park.

It’s also open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., and serves breakfast. (TriBeCa doesn’t open till noon on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. on weekends). I’m a little skeptical that the weekday breakfast service will last. Except on weekends, most New Yorkers favor expediency over excellence at breakfast time. It’s hard for me to believe that Landmarc’s $12 pancakes are much better than anyone else’s, but you have to go to the third floor of a shopping mall to get to them.

At lunch and dinner, Landmarc’s virtues will shine. The menu is a mixture of French, Italian, New American, and steakhouse favorites, but not overly long, and focused on items where the kitchen excels. A few of the items, like the roasted marrow bones and goat cheese profiteroles, are already classics, as are the desserts at $3 apiece. There’s also the acclaimed wine program, with prices only slightly above retail, and an ample selection of half-bottles.

Appetizers are $8–13, salads $7–21 (most with two available portion sizes), entrées $21–26, steaks $21–34, daily pasta specials $10–22 (two portion sizes), raw bar items $15–27, and house specialties $19–30. That probably seems like a lot, but it all fits on one page—as in TriBeca, on a sheet folded in sixths and waiting under your napkin when you’re seated. There’s also a kids’ menu, with all items $6.

Last week was supposed to be a “soft opening,” but as the management quickly figured out, there are no soft openings in New York, especially for a well known place like Landmarc. The bloggers and chowhounds quickly get wind of it, and within hours the whole food community knows. I ambled in around 7:00 p.m. on Friday night, and the place was close to full. The hostess said at first that there would be a half-hour wait, but then they seated me immediately at a two-top with a terrific view of Central Park. (As in TriBeCa, reservations aren’t accepted for parties less than six.)

landmarc_marrow.jpgI ordered the marrow bones ($12) and the calf’s liver ($22), mainly because I was alone, and both dishes would gross out my girlfriend. The marrow bones (right) come with an onion marmelade and warm country bread. There are tiny wooden forks to prize the marrow out of the bones. It’s a rich, gooey mess, but well worth the trouble. The amount of bread provided is about double what you need.

The calf’s liver came with two thick lobes, grilled with a nice char on the outside, and a smooth, rich texture more tender than filet mignon. The accompanying veggies were too greasy, and tasted like they’d been in the frying pan too long. Blueberry crumble for dessert was forgettable, but at $3, who cares?

Best of all was a half-bottle of 2002 Saint-Georges Saint-Émilion at $26, which most restaurants wouldn’t even carry, and certainly not at that price.

The floor was amply staffed with servers and runners. Two different managers came over to inquire about my meal. There were a couple of very minor glitches, but for a place open for five days they were in pretty good shape. I suspect Landmarc is going to do very well indeed.

Update: I’ve now been back several times. My original rating of two stars seems too generous. Much of the menu seems phoned in—merely competent. I haven’t yet had a bad meal here, but the menu doesn’t change, and it’s designed to be turned out in volumes. The food is merely acceptable, but Landmarc deserves a star for the wine program.

Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center (10 Columbus Circle, 3rd floor)

Food (and Wine): *
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: *



Note: This is a review of Landmarc TriBeCa. Click here for a review of Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center.

Landmarc in TriBeCa was an instant hit when it opened almost three years ago. A second branch of the restaurant is expected to open in the Time-Warner Center early next year. I dined at Landmarc a few times within the restaurant’s first year or so (report here), but then it fell off of my radar screen. A dinner last Friday night reminded me that I ought to return to Landmarc a lot more often.

My mother and I had no trouble getting seated at around 6:30 p.m. I ordered the warm goat cheese profiteroles with herb and roasted red pepper salad ($11). Anything with goat cheese is well-nigh impossible to ruin. The doughy profiterole pillows yielded quickly to the fork, surrendering the juicy goat cheese prize inside.

My mom ordered the pan seared monkfish with tomatoes, red onions & black olives, and spaghetti squash ($22). This was a very large portion, perfectly prepared. I tried the pumpkin & gorgonzola risotto with sage and toasted walnuts ($22; also available as an appetizer for $15), which was competently prepared, but slightly too dry.

Landmarc has a strong bread service for a restaurant in its class, but like many casual places I’ve visited lately, there is no butter knife. In other respects the service is solid. When you are seated, the menu is already at the table, folded in sixths like a homework assignment. This is an affectation that should be dropped.

The wine program remains first-rate, with many excellent bottles in the $30–50 range. We had an excellent 2002 Crozes-Hermitage at $36, for which many restaurants would have charged over $50.

Landmarc (179 West Broadway between Leonard & Worth Streets, TriBeCa)

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


Marc on Landmarc

Note: For a more recent review of Landmarc in TriBeCa, click here. For a review of Landmarc at the Time-Warner Center, click here.

Landmarc is the latest cool restaurant in TriBeCa, a neighborhood that already has plenty of them. It’s named for chef-owner Marc Murphy, who cut his teeth at Le Cirque, La Fourchette, Layla, and Cellar in the Sky, among other places. Landmarc has more humble aspirations than these temples of haute cuisine. It has the feel of a neighborhood hangout, with exposed brick walls and waitstaff in black t-shirts. The menu offers a range of French, Italian, and plain old American comfort food.

I ambled into Landmarc today for lunch. It was about 1pm, and the restaurant was around 1/3rd full. It actually got a tad busier by the time I left, but the downstairs was still well under 1/2 full. I took a look upstairs, where only two or three tables were occupied. There is a gorgeous 3/4ths-enclosed booth that the manager said is available for parties of 6.

I don’t like to drink before the evening. The ample selection of half-bottles of wine was duly noted, but the staff did not mind that I preferred tap water. I ordered the asparagus soup (yummy) and steak au poivre. Not much can be done to improve an age-old recipe like steak au poivre. Landmarc served a thick piece of meat, crusty on the outside and cooked to a perfect medium rare on the inside, topped with onions. The pepper sauce got the job done, but it was a bit runny and soaked the bottom layer of french fries. The fries that the sauce didn’t get to were crisp and medium-thickness. Landmarc offers six choices of desserts for $3 apiece, or you can have one of each for $15. I was far too full to try even one, but it has to be the best dessert bargain in town.

Service was attentive and efficient at the beginning of the meal, but visits to my table seemed to tail off near the end. They kept me waiting for the steak a bit longer than they should, but all was forgiven once I tasted it. The manager did make a point of coming around to every table and saying hello.

For a place that doesn’t take reservations for parties less than six, both the placement and the size of the bar seem to be a miscalculation. It’s at the back of the restaurant, so patrons who want to wait at the bar before their table is ready have to pass through the downstairs dining area. There are only five bar stools, so I suspect it will get crowded back there, potentially a distraction for those who’ve already been seated.

I don’t know if Landmarc will take a cell phone number and call you when they’re ready. If so, I suspect Buster’s Garage, the NASCAR-themed sports bar across the street, will pick up a lot of the overflow. I read in the minutes for Community Board 1’s March meeting that there have already been compaints in the neighborhood about the noise at the newly-opened Buster’s.

It hasn’t been open long, but Landmarc is already a destination restaurant. In an LA Times article yesterday, “Dining Frenzy Takes Gotham,” Landmarc was listed as one of eight hot new restaurants in New York. Amanda Hesser’s review in the NYT gave Landmarc one star, which seemed to me correct (in a system that doesn’t allow half-stars).

Landmarc (179 West Broadway between Leonard and Worth Streets, TriBeCa)

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