Entries in Rye (2)


Review Recap: Rye and Benoit

Today, a befuddled Frank Bruni files on Rye, awarding the expected one star:

It’s a somewhat confused and confusing enterprise, starting with the location, just far enough off any main artery to recommend some clear, possibly ostentatious signage….

But the confusion doesn’t stop at the ill-advertised entrance. Maybe because Rye hasn’t quite worked out what it really wants to be, it confronts you with too many riddles, complicating your effort to plot a coherent experience and undercutting its considerable sexiness and charms. Although it’s a restaurant worth knowing about, it’s not as simply and easily navigable as it should be.

Much of its menu promises fine dining of a relatively tame, buttoned-down sort: a beet salad with micro arugula and goat cheese; duck confit with wild mushrooms; pan-roasted halibut with haricots verts and sugar snaps; roasted chicken with spring vegetables.

But a disappointingly succinct list of wines suggests that, alternately, the real point of Rye is its cocktails, some of which come with the currently fashionable allotment of one large cube of ice, all of which can be savored at a long, gorgeous mahogany bar that visually dominates the dining room.

To that end there is, wisely, a menu category for snacks. Only here, too, nothing is quite what it appears to be. The sliders — one made with pork belly, another with short rib — are in fact closer to full-fledged sandwiches. And a meatloaf sandwich listed with them is a snack the way Godzilla is a garden lizard.

We agree with Bruni that restaurants sometimes need to do a better job of indicating what’s a snack and what’s an entrée, but was that really the best meme for this review? The emphasis on cocktails rather than wine is hardly a novelty these days.

Why did he bother to review this place? We assume it’s boredom. In the end, most of the dishes he likes are salad and bar snacks. There are a hundred places like this in Manhattan. Had it been on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge, we doubt he would have bothered.

* * *

Julia Moskin returns to Benoit, finding it much as we did: improved under new chef Pierre Schaedelin, but still phoning in the service:

Last year, Alain Ducasse brought in the chef Pierre Schaedelin to upgrade this New York branch of his bistro empire. Mr. Schaedelin has sharpened the flavors, improved the desserts, and broadened the menu until it now has many of the true pleasures of Paris — though it’s still shadowed by mindless service à la Midtown….

But there is a hint of airline food in the blandly rich repetition and limp sides of “mixed vegetables,” and more than a hint of highway robbery in $11 cold tomato soup and the aforementioned choucroute.

Benoit gives a warm welcome at the door and cheery wine service, but waiters seem to hope that dinner customers will leave early and stay away forever. A cold entree was reheated and sent back shrunken and overcooked.

Thus ends Alain Ducasse’s last, best chance to get the Times back to Benoit.


Review Preview: Rye

Record to date: 2–2

Say what? Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Rye.

The Skinny: Haven’t heard of Rye? We hadn’t either. A bit of elbow grease with the google got us to the restaurant’s humble website. Apparently its first mention in the Times was just two weeks ago, when it got the full FloFab:

RYE Vintage décor sets the tone in this transformed bodega. There are 10 ryes at the bar, and the chef and co-owner, Cal Elliott, formerly of Dressler, serves inventive American fare: 247 South First Street (Roebling Street), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, (718) 218-8047.

We figure that Bruni was already well into his sequence of visits and dropped a hint to her Flo Fabishness that maybe his review shouldn’t be the first time keen-eyed Times readers hear of the place.

Bruni loved Dressler, awarding two stars—which for that kind of place is like winning the lottery. (We liked Dressler too, though we gave it a more realistic one star.) That’s really our only data point, since no other critic has reviewed Rye, and we haven’t seen any food board posts we can rely on.

From the photo on the website, Rye looks like a dressed-down Dressler, which itself is hardly a bastion of formality. Bruni never gives zero stars to obscure places no one has heard of, and we’re hard pressed to believe it gets two when the rest of the city has not yet awakened to it. The menu shows only five entrées, all of which sound like solid neighborhood comfort food.

The Prediction: With the Brunz now in his lame-duck phase, anything is possible. However, we take the safe money this week, and predict that Frank Bruni will award one star to Rye.