Entries in Scott Bryan (3)



Note: Well, that was fast. Four months in, chef Scott Bryan left the restaurant to take over at Corvo Bianco on the Upper West Side. That’s not exactly a hotspot, so the difference of opinion between Bryan and the owners here must have been substantial. As noted below, it seemed to us that there was a disconnect between Bryan’s inexpensive casual menu here and the deep wine list. Alas, the new chef at Bacchanal, couldn’t rescue the concept either, and the restaurant closed at the end of 2015.


Years from now, perhaps the early twenty-teens will be called the VeriCru diaspora. Veritas and Cru, perhaps the two best wine restaurants the city has seen, both expired in 2009–10, victims of the Great Recession.

(For the history buffs out there, I do realize that Veritas re-modeled and somehow soldiered on until 2013. I prefer to remember Veritas as it was conceived, not the watered-down replacement that tried and failed to replace it.)

Since then, we’ve seen openings like Pearl & Ash and Charlie Bird, where great (but not “VeriCru” epic) wine lists pair with good (but not great) food in drastically pared-down rooms. To me, it seems odd to pair a $250 Brunello with a $29 roast chicken, in a room where you can barely hear yourself talk. But if you want it, you can have it. Veritas and Cru had it all; these places do not.

Welcome to Bacchanal, the latest entry in the genre. The pedigree is obvious, starting with the chef, Scott Bryan, who opened Veritas (lasted eight years there), consulted a bit, spent five years at the mediocre Apiary, and is now back in his element.

Owner Peter Poulakakos has a stable of Financial District restaurants, anchored by Harry’s at Hanover Square and the more recent Vintry Wine & Whisky, where the reserve list goes as high as a 1945 Château Haut-Brion for $9,975. No doubt Poulakakos borrowed from those superb lists to open Bacchanal, as it’s almost unheard of to build such a cellar from scratch at an untried restaurant.

On a wine and spirits list that runs to 40 pages, you’ve got 1970 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ($9,125), 1978 Château Pétrus ($2,900), and 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild ($1,950), to name a few. For those who don’t want to spend a mortgage payment on dinner, there are many excellent offerings in the $45–60 range. But how can you not splurge, at least a little bit? A 2001 Château Moulinet, which the sommelier decanted, was well worth the tarrif at $75.

The knock on Scott Bryan at Veritas, was that the food never approached the wine list’s pyrotechnics. It was quietly competent and seldom disappointed, but it never left you with enduring memories, the way the wine did. He has built a similar menu here. It is surprisingly affordable, with no entrée more expensive than a $26 steak.

I am still left with the question that left me perplexed at Charlie Bird and Pearl & Ash: who is ordering three- and four-figure wine bottles, but demands a food menu that is practically budget-priced by today’s standards? Where’s the 28 dry-aged prime ribeye that Harry’s Steak sells for $48.

On paper, the food doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing. Listen to this list of entrées: pasta, ricotta agnolotti, risotto, chicken, codfish, salmon, skirt steak. As he did at Veritas, Bryan executes all of this with cool precision that makes it worthwhile, especially if the prices remain as low as they are now. If the food doesn’t get in the wine list’s way, it has done its job.


An Escarole Salad ($10; above left) wasn’t as blurry in real life as my lousy photo, but it was exceedingly pedestrian, with an anchovy vinaigrette that barely registered. Why not charge a couple of bucks more, and give us real anchovies? But Bryan can still cook. A Chilled Corn Velouté ($10; above right) was a soup of astonishing clarity, drizzled with roasted poblanos, sweet tomatoes, and basil.


Both entrées were wonderful, bearing in mind the price point: Atlantic Codfish ($26; above left) with white bean purée, manila clams, roasted garlic, and parsley; Roasted Chicken ($22; above right) with polenta, chanterelles, madeira, and tarragon.

Dessert was a delightful Peach Tarte Tatin ($10; left) with créme frâiche ice cream and caramel.

Bacchanal occupies the southern frontier on the new Bowery, with its own street entrance in the boutique Sohotel. It is a more polished restaurant than Charlie Bird or Pearl & Ash, but like those establishments, it has a distinctly downtown vibe. Low ceilings and brick walls ensure a punishing sound level. My wife and I had to shout at each other all evening, and we were seated at a two-top in a corner, with no one on either side of us.

The well-executed food and excellent wine list are somewhat undermined by the service, which was a bit slow. The restaurant was close to full on a Wednesday evening.

It will be interesting to see how Bacchanal and other restaurants of the VeriCru diaspora evolve. If you want vast wine lists without paying three-star prices for the food, these restaurants are the places where you find them. But such a large room is hardly the place where I would contemplate a three-figure Brunello. The chef does a thoroughly professional job, especially at the absurdly low price point. You have to wonder how the clash between such luxurious wine and the quotidian surroundings will eventually be settled.

Bacchanal (146 Bowery at Broome Street, Soho)

Food: Casual American, mostly well executed at a surprisingly low price point
Service: At times slow, but otherwise good
Ambiance: A punishingly loud, low-ceilinged room

Rating: ★★



Note: This is a review under chef Scott Bryan, who left the restaurant in April 2014. Bryan will be opening a new restaurant on the Bowery called Bacchanal. After a very brief renovation, the space re-opened as Après with Mazen Mustafa, the former chef de cuisine at The Elm.


Like many restaurants these days, Apiary had a troubled birth. It opened in August 2008 under Chef Neil Manacle, a Bobby Flay disciple. Adam Platt of New York awarded just one star, while the Times relegated it to Dining Briefs (a treatment accorded restaurants deemed not worth reviewing).

In January 2009, the owners quietly replaced Manacle with Scott Bryan, the chef who earned three stars at Veritas. There was no splashy announcement. Florence Fabricant of the Times reported the news after Bryan had already been on the job for “about a week.” We decided to wait a few months to give Bryan time to install his own menu.

It has been a tough couple of years for Bryan since he left Veritas (the reasons were never explained). He was named chef at two New York properties, 10 Downing and Lever House, backing out of both projects before cooking his first meal. In between, he consulted at the Falls Church, VA restaurant, 2491. He comes into Apiary with distinctly lower ambitions. The menu, with no entrée above $27, is a far cry from the $85 prix fixe at Veritas.

There is clearly some confusion about the concept. The sleek, high-end décor seems out of place in a neighborhood where most restaurants cater to NYU students and foodies who prefer to dine on bar stools (think Momofuku). The mid-priced menu doesn’t pair well with a wine list where most reds are well above $100, and many are far above that. We had to wonder who would order a $950 Cabernet with such unassuming food.

It is not unusual for appetizers to outshine entrées, but the magnitude of the difference was staggering. It was as if the main courses came from another kitchen. I started our meal assuming that I was going to give out at least two stars. I ended it wondering how I could justify even one.

Hefty chunks of grilled octopus ($12; above left), served over white beans, had a luscious, smoky flavor. Warm Chevre cheese ($9; above right) was topped with greens and roasted beets. It was a less inventive dish, but beautifully done.

The entrées were poor. Peking Duck Breast ($26; above left) and Grilled Hanger Steak ($27; above right) were both tough and cooked well beyond the medium rare we had requested. We couldn’t detect any of the Peking spices alleged to adorn the duck, nor the green peppercorn sauce promised for the steak. Both were served atop a pedestrian vegetable purée—celery root for the duck, potatoes for the steak.

We had no complaints with a side of Brussels Sprouts ($7; left). We also liked the bread service (homemade olive bread).

We suspect that Bryan’s kitchen is capable of doing far, far better than this. However, we can rate our meal based only on what we had, not on what might have been. Perhaps other reviewers will recommend Apiary. We cannot.

Apiary (60 Third Avenue between 10th & 11th Streets, East Village)

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



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Note: This is a review under chef Ed Cotton. Click here for a review under the current chef, Sam Hazen.

Ten years ago, Park. B. Smith figured out that if he opened one bottle a day from his massive wine collection, it would take 119 years to drink it all. It was that scary thought that led him to open Veritas, the lovely 65-seat wine-themed restaurant in the Flatiron District.

Acclaim came quickly, with a three-star rating from Ruth Reichl in the Times, and much later a Michelin star. Veritas has hummed along quietly, less publicized than showier restaurants, but still doing a brisk business. In October, founding chef Scott Bryan left suddenly, “with no destination decided.” Ed Cotton, who was to have opened Bar Boulud for Daniel Boulud, replaced him.

As it was a decade ago, wine is the story at Veritas. Even then—when it was far less common—Veritas’ wine list was available online. It is divided into two sections, a smaller and less expensive “market list,” and the longer “reserve list.” The large volume is one of the heftiest in New York; you could get lost in it for hours. There are bottles under $60 and bottles over $10,000. We chose the 1998 Le Crau de ma Mère ($115) from the reserve list. It’s a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Park B. Smith’s favorite French wine.

While we were ordering, we couldn’t help overhearing the spectacle at the next table. An elderly solo diner was presented with his bill, $999, which had to have been mostly wine. And the bottle on his table, which must have cost $800, was still half full. The gentleman, clearly a Veritas regular, left without settling his bill (he was short of cash), telling the staff that he would be back for dinner the next evening. The wine he left over was, we are sure, shared and enjoyed by the restaurant staff.

The menu is $82 prix fixe, with tasting menus available at $110 (five-course) or $135 (seven-course). There are ten appetizers, eight entrées, and six desserts.

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The amuse-bouche (above left) was house-cured salmon with a small vegetable medley. My girlfriend and I both started with the Wild Game Bolognese (above right) with butternut squash, wild chestnuts, and house-made cavatelli.

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I enjoyed the Red Wine Braised Short-Ribs (above left), though they were slightly stringy. My girlfriend adored the Slow Baked Loch Duart Salmon (above right).

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Finally, there was a terrific Banana Cream Tart (above left), while my girlfriend had the Chocolate Caramel Torte (above right).


Service was smooth, alert, friendly and professional. Our wine was, of course, decanted for us, a practice that too many fine restaurants have abandoned.

The cuisine at Veritas might be described as safe and traditional, but everything we tried was beautifully assembled, impeccably prepared, and just complex enough to be interesting.

The wine’s the show at Veritas, but it’s served in a serene setting, with food more than good enough to deserve admiration and praise.

Veritas (43 E. 20th St. between Broadway & Park Avenue South, Flatiron District)

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