In May, when word got out about plans for a third restaurant in the Momofuku empire, an irritated David Chang issued a statement via Eater.com saying, among other things, “Restaurant openings are not movie premieres.” Well, no, but in fact, these days, that’s about the most perfect analogy we can think of. Critics may wait a few months before issuing their judgments—a good rule for any diner to follow—but faithful followers of the hype are there much earlier, even on the first night.
Doing my best to recreate a 1980s movie commercial, I loitered outside Tailor— a Soho restaurant that’s been about to open for eight months—on opening night to gather the early reactions. The chef, Sam Mason, was Wylie Dufresne’s pastry man at WD-50, and the menu is split between sweet and salty small plates, which guests are encouraged to combine in any configuration.
First, a couple in their twenties. “I think . . . it was good,” he said. She said, “It was
really good. The pork belly was amazing!” He said, “Even though I didn’t totally understand the menu, I enjoyed it. If you’re not a foodie, you might not know what’s going on.” She said, in an effort to clarify: “I didn’t know what char was.” They agreed that the service was top-notch—char was described without condescension.
A young professional type came outside to smoke and fondle his BlackBerry, and he raved about the Blood and Sand cocktail (having run into friends and eventually made my way inside, I agree). He also declared the pork belly “the most savory of the savory dishes,” and said the cocoa-sprayed foie gras with peanuts “could have been a dessert.” Though it could get pricey, he thought, “you can see the amount of work they put into each dish.” (Salty dishes are $15, sweet ones are $11, and servers recommend ordering three per person.)
Three jolly Germans barreled out. “It was wonderful!” the women exclaimed.
The male German crafted his sentences carefully, his English being slightly inferior. The snapper was his favorite dish. “It comes with [water]melon stripes and avocado ice cream. Each ingredient is good, but if you mix it up, it’s really gorgeous.”
Two young women, a PR rep and a writer who had ordered six dishes, admitted they were still hungry. “Basically, I’m a meat-and-potatoes kind of girl,” the PR woman said. “It was really good, but I’d always want a big bowl of pasta or something in terms of being satisfied.” Were they going to snack later? “Oh, yeah,” the writer said. “I’ll probably buy some chips and salsa.” She said her server was one of the best she’d ever had. “I don’t know if I’d go back for dinner, but I’d grab a drink and a snack before dinner, or dessert after,” she said. “It’s so good, but it’s a tease.”
Four spiffy Brits appeared, looking satisfied. “We came with an open mind,” their spokeswoman said. “All we talked about was the food, which is very interesting in New York. Usually, you talk about yourself—your work, your boyfriend problems. Boring. The food was very considered. I’d say it was art to the top!”