A week later and Varietal is still feeling the aftershocks of Frank Bruni’s rather salty review. Even before that, Adam Platt had knocked Chelsea’s wine-centric restaurant for being overly fussy and self-conscious. But it seems Bruni’s New York Times piece was the last straw: pastry chef Jordan Kahn (French Laundry & Alinea), known for his whimsical and often bizarre creations, has decided to depart to pursue other offers. Most recently, chef Ed Witt (Il Buco) broke by way of Eater that he would also be moving on to open a restaurant in Long Island. “I think it would be silly to say that [the reviews] didn’t play a
part,” Hockenberry later explained to Grub Street.
What now? What will become of Varietal? Owner Greg Hockenberry seems more enthusiastic than ever about Varietal’s future. In an interesting turn of events, chef Wayne Nish has stepped in to head up the kitchen with what he dubs Progressive American cuisine. Pulling double duty, Wayne will be overseeing the kitchen at his Sutton Place townhouse, the recently morphed Nish (formerly March), then shooting down to Varietal where he plans to not only implement a new 3-course $48 prix fixe menu, but also play the part of pastry chef.
An a la carte menu will be available in the lounge for prix fixe-phobics. Nish explains, “Cary Rosner of CRC consulting convinced me to sit down with Greg Hockenberry. Hockenberry and I are on the same page. I think the wine program is an outstanding one and the menu just called for more simplicity.” In true Nish fashion, Varietal will offer cheese service from Fromages.com. Highlights from the revamped menu: “smoked trout blt”, bucatini with New Zealand cockles and a hirame sashime with white soy sauce & chives.
“I am excited to have a seasoned professional, one of the best
chefs in New York join our team,” Hockenberry tells me. “Wayne’s cuisine has time after time
captured the moment of the ever changing dining scene, and will
continue to do so at Varietal.” Varietal will be closing, thus bidding a deux to Ed Witt after service on March 31st, scheduled to reopen on April 6th, with Nish and a more casual vibe. The restaurant drama continues…
138 W. 25th St., btwn. 6th & 7th Aves.
Until we eat again,
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