Monday, December 29, 2008

Constant, gentle pressure...It's what he preaches, but does he practice it?

We Love NY more than eva!

Those are the words of Danny Meyers of Union Square Hospitality from his book "Setting the able." I've pulled five of his directives below:

  • Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. These two simple concepts—for and to—express it all.
  • Context, context, context, trumps the outdated location, location, location.
  • Shared ownership develops when guests talk about a restaurant as if it's theirs. That sense of affiliation builds trust and invariably leads to repeat business.
  • Err on the side of generosity: You get more by first giving more.
  • Wherever your center lies, know it, name it, believe in it. When you cede your core values to someone else, it's time to quit.
This mantra is how he guides the staff in their day-to-day operations of the companies crazily successful restaurants, which are:
Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Blue Smoke/Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, The Modern, Cafe 2 and Terrace 5, located at the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art, and Hudson Yards Catering.

Because I wanted to see if this guy was for real, I had to give his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, a shot.

I went on the day after Christmas with my father, wife, and son. We had spent the day traipsing around, hitting FAO Shwartz, Brooks Brothers, Bergdoff, all of the places we can't afford.

The strange thing about it is that there was no traffic, the streets weren't crowded, and we had no trouble finding parking. I used to park in Ridgewood or Hoboken and take the train, but after watching the news in the morning I decided to make a run for it in the car. We parked on the street everywhere we went. We only had to pay for a garage for lunch parking. That may not seem special to a lot of you who read my column as parking is relatively easy to find in DC comparitively speaking.
Cheryl enjoying that first glass of wine after being chilled and on her feet all day.

Anyhow, on to the restaurant. Union Square Cafe is just off....Union Square! Everyone was pleasant from the minute we walked in. We had to wait about five minutes for the table. Not a big deal.

The decor is so/so modernist. Not impressive, but not in bad shape either. Most places look better at night, and since we were there for lunch we had the full day-light effect.

We started out with some salads/soups, and a carpaccio. The carpaccio was nice and fresh, as was everything else.


For my entree, I had a 1/2 portion (nice touch on the 1/2 portions) of Linguine with Duck Liver and Bacon Ragu. This was a great item. Just enough of the liver was there to add the flavor. The presentations were great and the food was excellent.
Linguine with Duck Liver and Bacon Ragu

The only complaint (if you can call it that) I have about the place is in regards to our waitress. It seems that the total situational awareness that I come to expect in the really professional restaurants was lacking with our server. The rest of the staff was fine, but there was something just a hair off with her. Danny, don't scold her if you're reading this please. It wasn't unpleasant, it just wasn't pleasant. In a place like this you would think at if a server didn't "Click" with their quest that they would pass the table to someone else.

Woud I go back and try his other places? Absolutely. My wife took 1/2 her sandwich with her, which they packed very well, and put in a bag with a note from the chef that said,
Tuna Salad with Anise and Bacon

"Thank you for dining at Union Square Cafe. I'm delighted that you thought so highly of your meal that you've taken the rest home. Hope you'll enjoy it as much the second time around. See you soon at Union Square Cafe!
Michael Romano

That's a nice touch.

Hope to hear from you soon folks. Keep the comments coming.

Next post will be about the New Years' Eve Meal..Michael Mina Style...Tenderloin poached in herbed butter, served with truffled cognac demi-glace, truffled mac and cheese, and truffled haricot verte with Rose Chapmagne. I'm not sure what's going on with the truffles as they're usually done for the season at this point. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth I guess.

Stay tuned for pix!

Give to those in need please.

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