Wayne Nish is now in charge of the menu at Spitzer’s Corner, the Lower East Side gastropub. Incidentally, it’s named for a former dress shop that occupied the space, not for the disgraced former governor of New York.
What an odd career path Nish has had:
In the 1980s, he served an apprenticeship at the Quilted Giraffe, rated four stars.
In 1988, he took over one of the city’s old-guard French palaces, La Colombe d’Or, earning three stars.
In 1990, he opened March, earning three stars.
In 2007, he closed March and opened Nish in the same space, a much more casual restaurant that earned two stars. It closed within six months.
While Nish (the restaurant) was in its death throes, Nish (the chef) signed on at Varietal, which had recently been slammed with one star. It also quickly closed.
As of this week, with no restaurants to his name, he’s designing the menu at the “zero-star” Spitzer’s Corner.
If you’re keeping track, it’s taken Nish a bit over twenty years to get from four stars to zero. (To be fair, no one has actually given Spitzer’s Corner zero stars; no critic that awards stars has rated it at all.)
March was a serious restaurant, no doubt about it. But by the time it closed, in 2007, it had lost some of the early luster. My own visit there, in 2004, was mildly disappointing.
The casual make-over that turned March into Nish was a miscalculation. Though it won rave reviews, Nish (the chef) had turned a destination restaurant into a neighborhood joint, and there wasn’t enough foot traffic at 58th & First to pay the freight.
The failure at Varietal wasn’t Nish’s fault: after blistering reviews, the place was clearly on life support, and Nish’s menu—which won praise from the few who tried it—arrived too late.
So now he is at a Lower East Side gastropub, where he says, “What I’m really looking to do here is three-star bar food.” I’m actually eager to try it. It might be great, or it might not, but at these prices—nothing over $16—who wouldn’t be curious?
Yet it is a strange career path: four stars to zero. I wonder if Nish has another serious restaurant in him?