Noma Kyoto, Stars down, COGS up, Snoop David, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, October 21st, 2022
And hello from Hong Kong, where all no one is talking about is the James Corden - Keith McNally dustup (described in Tuesday’s paid version, which is copy / pasted below as usual), but I would like to follow up on the record and tell those of you who care that I firmly believe — with zero evidence — that Corden hired a crisis actor to sit next to him and an NYT reporter Thursday morning at the Mark. Oh, they just happened to send their eggs back? Really, James? Really?
Though speaking of stunts… McNally gained about 30,000 Instagram followers this week, taking him from 60k to 90k in just a few days. Congrats to the publisher of that memoir he’s writing!
Did the server get anything out of this?
Let’s get to it…
Gone Kyoto – In international news, the NYT’s Julia Moskin reports, “Noma, the celebrated Copenhagen restaurant led by the chef René Redzepi, will uproot itself again next spring, opening in Kyoto for a 10-week residency. Housed at the Ace Hotel, near the 700-year-old Nishiki food market, Noma Kyoto will be open four days a week from March 15 through May 20 for lunch and dinner. Reservations for the meal, which will cost just over 850 euros per person including drinks, tax and service, will open on Nov. 7 on the Noma website; some tickets are also available as part of an accommodation package at the Ace.” Moskin calls Amex “the main sponsor,” and implies, to my deep economic shock, that the budget of this “residency” may not be based in the usual PnL numbers.
(P.S. - In slightly less cool credit card partnership deal news, Eater NY’s Luke Fortney also says, “José Andrés has signed on with Capital One to open a restaurant lounge at LaGuardia.”)
Falling Stars – October has seen two more big paper restaurant critics permanently ditch star systems post-panemic. WaPo’s Tom Sietsema dropped them via a “Goodbye to star ratings” essay on October 3rd, and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig LaBan officially ended the “bells” earlier this week. Said Sietsema after having paused stars early in COVID times: “I can count on one hand the number of readers who have told me they want stars back.” OK, but how many fingers, Tom? 3? 4?!
The COGS – Eater’s Ryan Sutton is back on his price check beat this week, and high-end NYC does not look shy about going higher-end these days: “The price of uncooked steaks is still up by nearly $2 per pound over the pre-pandemic price. And depleted herds combined with swelling feed costs will likely push up the price of beef even further. Translation: You could end up paying even more for that veal parm at Carbone or the gorgonzola wagyu strip loin at Carne Mare. That parm, incidentally, was $69 during the pandemic; now it’s $89. The wagyu strip, $72 just over a year ago, is now $115.”
Sorry to everyone who used to whisper “nice” under their breath when they saw that parm on the bill.
The Podcast – Kristen Hawley and I are back today with Restaurant Week, the podcast that doubles as a rough draft. This week it lives over on Hawley’s Expedite newsletter, where she says: “In this edition, Andrew is back from Bali just in time to discuss the James Corden Balthazar story no one can stop talking about. Additionally, Noma blows Andrew’s mind a few times (8:50); we fall into an Ace Hotel rabbit hole (15:00); Andrew has some questions about CPG and cocktail bars (18:30; 20:30); Biden’s gig worker proposal (23:30), and I share some thoughts on the new(ish) Digital Restaurant Association (26:53). After all of this, we manage to introduce ourselves.”
(NB: If you have medium-deep corporate pockets and want to tie a cool sponsorship to the Noma thing, listen for my “Don’t stage there, dine there!” idea. It’s a win-win-win, I promise…)
And last but not least: Gone NFT – In NOLA, “Nina Compton and her business partner and husband Larry Miller are working on their third New Orleans restaurant — an NFT cocktail club and lounge backed by a slew of other celebrity chefs from around the country.” Per Clair Lorell in Eater, “Compton and Miller are partnering with chefs Stephanie Izard, Marc Forgione, Michelle Bernstein, Rodney Scott, and Tiffani Faison for the forthcoming ShaSha Lounge: Social Aid and Pleasure Club, set to open sometime in 2023. Memberships will be sold as NFTs, ‘unlocking’ access to the club and special events.”
That’s sounds cool and all, Team! But… allow me to describe the below still from this new Snoop Dogg video as best I can before you decide who’s doing the coolest NFT shit around. (I shit you not): The song is called “Crip Ya Enthusiasm” and Snoop is in some kind of explicitly Larry David whiteface while he runs from a mugger who tried to rob him and Tupac next to a Death Row Records studio(?) which is next door to a FlyFish Club which Snoop was not allowed into because the bouncer pointed to a sign that said “NFT Holders Only.” And this is all happening to a, uh, Curb-sample-heavy beat in some kind of metaverse, obviously, because as far as I know, Gary Vaynerchuk, David Rodolitz, Josh Capon, and Conor Hanlon still haven’t found an IRL place for Flyfish Club —“the world’s first NFT restaurant” — yet.
And that doesn’t even get into the side plot about Biggie’s burrito truck…
Listen, I have a lot to say, but about 30 years ago I made a deal with some West Coast types that when it came to Death Row, I would “please not try to fade this.”
So that’s that.
And that’s it for today! Except of course for Tuesday’s paid version which is copy/pasted below for non-payers. If you’d like to get Tuesdays’ on Tuesdays too…
I’ll see paying subscribers back here on Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or just over 850 euros per person including drinks to email@example.com. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!
Here begins the Family Meal that went out to paying subscribers on Tuesday, October 18, 2022:
Cruz penciled in, Settled Willows Inn, Corden out then in, and more...
And hello to paying subscribers only! Apologies for the dearth of paid-only versions lately. A multiple holiday pileup plus some unexpected travel has had my hands tied.
But today I’m back, and I’m told it is approximately 1,000 days since the pandemic began (depending on how you calculate the start).
Wow. Great. What memories.
Let’s get to it…
The Paywall – Headline in the NYT: “The Era of the Paywalled Restaurant Is Upon Us.” Story from Rachel Sugar: “‘However many years ago, it slip the host or hostess $20 and bypass the line,’ said Alex Lee, the chief executive of Resy and vice president of American Express Dining. He runs the companies’ Global Dining Network, a program that offers a select group of Amex members (Amex owns Resy) access to certain restaurant perks through the reservation platform… [Now,] a new generation of tactics have emerged to help would-be diners jump the line, including latter-day concierge services, NFTs granting holders special privileges, members-only credit card perks and private ‘clubstaurants.’ What they all have in common is that they will cost you.”
We don’t get many numbers on the costs there, but we do get a link to a September 27th Bob Morris piece on “Casa Cruz”, which “is technically not a club, but a restaurant with an investor group of partners that pay between $250,000 to $500,000 to join, according to Kate Bartle, a spokeswoman. The 99 current investors get exclusive access to the fourth floor and rooftop terrace... The main restaurant and lounges on second and third floors are open to the public… ‘And when partners invest in something, they end up promoting it to their friends, so you don’t have to do any marketing’ said [founder Juan Santa Cruz].”
The marketing-free guest list at an opening party: “Victoria von Faber-Castell, a young pencil heiress, lounged with Isabella Massenet, the Net-a-Porter scion, and Flynn Busson, the son of Elle Macpherson.”
I don’t have any big thoughts on what all this means (yet), but you will be shocked to learn that most NYT comments on the “paywalled restaurants” piece revolve around some version of income-disparity history repeating itself. My favorite so far: “Soon to come: an even more exclusive tier, in which diners are fanned with palm fronds by loinclothed eunuchs during the main course.”
Hell yeah! Whatever happened to that vibe, anyway?
The Payhole – In WA, “The Willows Inn, a nationally acclaimed restaurant on Lummi Island, has agreed to pay more than $1.37 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over accusations of wage theft involving 137 employees. This settlement comes a year after the restaurant, owned by… chef Blaine Wetzel and his business partner Tim McEvoy, paid $600,000 to settle a similar wage theft lawsuit, in which employees claimed they weren’t provided adequate rest breaks and were not paid for all hours worked… The most recent suit is considered an amendment to the earlier class-action lawsuit.” Basically, a bunch of staffers heard about what happened in the first suit and thought… hey, us too! Details via Jackie Varriano in the Seattle Times.
The Payoff – Tell the team: That big federal student loan debt cancellation program is live! (Or at least the application is.) The AP has a rundown on how to handle it here. Gist for qualifying college and/or culinary school types: “Go to studentaid.gov and in the section on student loan debt relief, click ‘Apply Now.’ … The form asks for: name, Social Security Number, date of birth, phone number and email address. It does not require documentation about your income or your student loans.”
Gone Grocery – We have yet to get a good analysis of what happened with all the grocery store pivots, consumer packaged goods (CPG) launches, and creative real estate usage restaurants tried during the pandemic, but apparently there’s some profit in them hills. I see David Chang is still using Instagram to hard sell Momofuku instant noodles and chili crisp, and per Emma Orlow in Eater NY, “The Via Carota team has expanded again, only this time it’s not another restaurant. Spazio Creativo… appears to be a lot of things but is essentially a Via Carota general store. It will ‘be a workspace for meetings, podcasts, events, pop-ups, and launches,’ co-owner Jody Williams told Eater via text message, adding that an expanded line of provisions is to follow.”
And last and least: The PR – In case you missed the LA Times story, the NY Post story, the viral tweet from Twitter’s self-declared “#1 Keith McNally Instagram News Reporter” (Jason Diamond) or the Instagram posts themselves, this weekend McNally banned late night’s James Corden from Balthazar for being “a tiny Cretin of a man. And the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago.” But then Corden called and apologized, and all was forgiven.
Congrats to no one involved. Except Diamond.
And that’s it for today!
I’ll see everyone back here Friday for next Family Meal.
And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and send tips and/or exclusive access to the fourth floor and rooftop terrace to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like Family Meal and want to keep it going, please chip in here. If you got this as a forward, sign up for yourself!