Dinner is the show
Four Twenty Five, Cecily, Super Bowl provisioning, bespoke Japanese fruit, Dimes Deli, NYFW parties, board meeting anxiety, go-to tailors, MORE
RESTAURANTS • First Person
When we were seated at Four Twenty Five, just after 5p last Tuesday, the restaurant was full only of anticipation, and we had a direct line of sight to chef Jonathan Benno surveying the dining room before service. (Was he staring us down? Maybe!) A few minutes later, Jean-Georges Vongerichten appeared on Benno’s left flank, the two main characters of this sparkling new production stage-lit in the glassed-in kitchen like the dramatic opening of a Broadway show.
It was clear we were in for a very serious evening.
As we admired the scene and our place in it, several staff members came by in succession to get us settled. Not a full course in, and our first server introduced us to another server, who would be taking over. Fine dining, it’s a contact sport.
By 7p, the dining room — the grandest to open in Midtown since the Four Seasons became The Grill — was at capacity, the crowd heavy on the Upper East Side, with a dash of downtown finance, and a healthy pinch of New York eccentric. At the table to our left, two women discussed their recent travels: “I was just in Belize. With my cat.” To the right, another woman asked for Jean-Georges before she had sat down: “Please have him come over.”
The food is beautiful and refined, from the amuse of a polenta cake with black truffle shavings to the dessert of caramel custard with banana, brown butter, and creme fraiche ice cream. The crudo and appetizers were especially elegant: scallop tartare with shiso leaves for wrapping, foie gras terrine with blood orange confit and spiced madeleines (the best dessert appetizer you’ve ever had), and sliced kampachi with a kick of aji amarillo. Immaculate, all.
After dinner, on our way back down the (long!) staircase from the second-floor dining room, we passed JGV, re-ascending. Perhaps he was on his way to make the rounds, to ask about traveling tabbies, to sign some menus, which already had his name in many places. He’d earned it. Oui, chef.
The first-floor lounge (above), empty on arrival, now bustled with 20-somethings making a serious dent in the venue’s average age while drinking JG Manhattans and nibbling bar snacks in polished sneakers.
We left them to it and walked back onto Park Ave., past the gleaming lobby of the restaurant’s namesake, a new Norman Foster-designed office building, where a party of four seventy-somethings had just circled through the revolving door and into the tower in search of the restaurant. For them, the show had just begun. –Josh Albertson
RESTAURANTS • In and Out
GREENPOINT IDEAL: With a team of alumni from Estela and The Four Horsemen, housed in a postage stamp of a former art gallery with lofted ceilings and a discrete metal door, month-old Cecily in Greenpoint is reminding New Yorkers what a picture-perfect neighborhood restaurant and natural wine bar should be. Chef Zach Frieling’s cooking is simple and seasonal, with a Spanish accent. His take on the iconic Basque pintxo known as a gilda involves Castelvetrano olives, guindilla pickled peppers, and vinegar-cured anchovies — the ideal snack to kick off a meal. Fried aged Manchego cheese fritters look like a chef’s take on Cheetos, and are unbelievably addictive. After a vibrant shaved Tokyo turnips and kohlrabi salad, finish with a neat slice of rosemary salsa verde-crowned porchetta alongside a heap of crisp, triple-cooked diced potatoes.
It might look small from the outside, but once you’re past the threshold, Cecily’s literal and figurative size will come into full view. Maybe it’s a neighborhood restaurant — or maybe it’s something more. –Kat Odell
NYC RESTAURANT LINKS: How to eat now: 16 rules for modern dining • Deep dive on Hand Hospitality, remaking Korean dining in NYC • A new Forge from Marc Forgione inching closer to opening in Tribeca this spring • Classic East Village date spot Lavagna turns 25 • Why some NYC bars are getting their ice from 5500 miles away • The new vocabulary of cocktails.
GOODS & SERVICES • FOUND Larder
One trick for fighting February blues: Order blemish-free melons and plump magenta strawberries from Ikigai Fruits, the first online outfit importing the Hermès of luxury fruit from Japan. The primped produce take on concentrated and super-sweet flavors thanks to farmers who care for their plants obsessively, employing unique pruning practices, careful shading techniques, and even the occasional massage.
For now, only a few types of Japanese fruit can legally be imported to the U.S. Choose from options including tutti-frutti-tasting Pearl White strawberries from Nara Prefecture ($128 for 500g, 18-30 strawberries) and an intensely flavored, neon-green-fleshed Crowl Melon from Shizuoka Prefecture ($128 per). –Kat Odell
→ Shop: Ikigai Fruits.
GOODS & SERVICES LINKS: Williamsburg’s The Meat Hook planning Carroll Gardens butcher shop • The luxury flagship war on Fifth Ave. • Big changes to Delta Amex credit cards • The new minimalists of New York • Of course you shouldn’t wear the same jeans as your kids.
WORK • Tuesday Routine
LUCINDA CONSTABLE • founder • The Table New York
Neighborhood you work in: Dimes Square
It’s Tuesday morning, where are you working?
I usually do coffee and a preliminary email sweep at home before heading to my office. They’re only two blocks apart, which definitely makes life easier. I find I’m much more productive at the office, as the social element keeps me engaged and inspired — and I have my large monitor there.
What’s the Tuesday morning scene at your workplace?
My office is a coworking space I run, which I’ve filled with friends, all running their own businesses, mostly in creative fields. It’s genuinely amazing to have a community where we all help and support each other. It makes being a sole trader much more palatable, I would say! Everyone rolls in around 10am for coffee and a chat, and then off to their respective areas of the space to start the day.
What’s on the agenda for today?
Today, I’m finalizing prep for my NY Fashion Week jobs, always an incredibly busy week in eventland. Each event we're working on is so different, thematically, which is wonderful from a creativity standpoint. But it also means so many different props and custom elements to keep track of. We’re surrounded floor-to-ceiling by boxes right now.
This season, most of our NYFW events are for brands we’ve worked with before, so we’re in the flow. We’re throwing a big party at Bergdorf Goodman for one of our favorite clients, an Indian brand called Sabyasachi. It’s going to be decadent, to say the least. We’re also doing the FRAME Denim x Gisele Bündchen party at Indochine, always a great vibe. I love the NYC classics. Other fun ones on the docket this season are Helmut Lang by Peter Do, Tod’s at The Mark Hotel and Edie Parker.
What’s for lunch?
Realistically, lunch today is going to be at my desk. Like everyone in the neighborhood, I’m a Dimes Deli regular. I think it’s the closest iteration I have of ‘Cheers’ (where everybody knows your name). I spend a scary amount of time there — I’ve been known to eat there twice a day — but it’s great for getting all the socializing out of the way in one fell swoop. I’m a breakfast sandwich gal, and also love the seared salmon. But it’s basically an extension of my apartment, a true ‘third space’ for me — a rare thing in New York these days. I’m grateful it exists.
Any plans tonight?
Hoping to finish work at a decent hour, and have a bite in the neighborhood. Gem Wine is always high on the list. Flynn [McGarry] is an amazing chef; we work together on events a fair bit. I love his approach to casual dining, and the newly renovated space is perfect for most occasions. The bread is next level. Scarr’s Pizza is an on-the-go favorite — I’ve been going there since the day they opened, and they have a desk in my coworking space, so they’re like family. King Dumpling for a quick scallion pancake, or I also love sitting at the bar at Corner Bar for a pasta pomodoro. Sensing a theme here? I rarely leave my two-block radius if I’m not in another part of the city for work. I’m a creature of habit! Let’s see what time I finish work!
WORK • Board Rooms
Clearing the deck
Early in my career, I learned the first rule of scheduling startup board meetings: late afternoons only, so management can immediately decompress at the bar after. That bar was usually the Rusty Knot, a dive on the West Side Highway, where we would drink Tecate from cans with salted rims while replaying that quarter’s feedback.
The lead-up to those meetings was always anxiety-ridden. With good reason. We were learning on the fly. And our investors were serious people. Once gathered (always in person), management dutifully traded pages in the deck — editorial, sales, tech, finance. We took the feedback seriously and personally. Glory days, they’ll pass you by.
Last week, for FOUND’s second board meeting, we met over Zoom, two board members from their homes, management in a borrowed conference room in Midtown. We took it seriously, but there was no anxiety and no deck. We all knew each other well and were in and out in an hour. Time and familiarity had rendered us less nervous, more efficient.
Afterward, since we were in Midtown (and the Rusty Knot had closed in 2020 anyway), we walked four blocks to a fancy new restaurant. Instead of cheap beer with salt, we drank expensive cocktails with artisanal cherries (see above — we were on assignment!). We digested the feedback, but didn’t take it personally.
It felt good, the accumulation of history and experience we’d picked up over the years. But that didn’t mean we didn’t also miss that pit in our stomachs before the first slide, and those cans of cheap beer after the last. –Josh Albertson
WORK LINKS: With new tower’s opening, Manhattan West is officially complete • Office tower near Hudson Yards struggling after fetching $950M in 2020 • WeWork rejects three more NYC leases • Thank goodness we’ve reached peak MBA • Career transitions: What is my season in life?
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Shopboy (Tribeca): They don’t actually do the work (I think it’s outsourced to seamstresses elsewhere), but they have a clear sense of style and will guide you accordingly. This is a great option if you just want it easy (but it costs more).
Hong Kong Tailors (Greenwich Village): Quick turnarounds and clean work.
Ramon Tailor Shop (Lower East Side): Ramon is amazing at altering and making clothes. He’s made me more than a few pairs of pants. Here you will need to be exacting in describing what you want, but the results are great.
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RESTAURANTS • The Nines