Maybe this is revisionist history, but isn't Liebrandt's food more complex and more aggressively not dumbed down than White's has ever been? Sure, he cooks in a different genre, but but so what?
Each Michael White opening so far has been less exciting than the last. No thanks.
For a while, there was talk that Liebrandt might open a "small plates Corton" type of place. Some folks thought it might happen in the nearby Tribakery/Mai House space, which Nieporent also controlled. But that space is now Kutscher's, and there's been no word of expansion lately. I think he is more focused on getting another star at Corton.
To compare the two requires a skill I won't pretend to have. But to call White's best work "dumbed down" sounds wrong to me. When he was at his Michelin star places exclusively, who in NYC was making better Italian food than he? If anything, White's cuisine was gussied up, rather than dumbed down, from the more rustic Italian models he started with.
Actually, it was Liebrandt who simplified his earlier work in order to get Corton open. Some of us thought that Gilt should have had four stars, and no one suggested that of Corton at the beginning. I haven't been to Corton in a couple of years, and he may have started amping it up again, now that he's safe from Frank Bruni. But initially, Corton was pretty tame (although still very good) by comparison to Liebrandt's earlier stuff.
A big difference, though, is that White is now up to seven restaurants and counting, while Liebrandt, to my knowledge, has never been in more than one at a time. At this point, he is becoming a brand, like Batali, Boulud, Vongerichten, etc.
I can't imagine that the next thing he opens will be better than, or even as good as, his best work to date.
I contrast, I could
imagine a "small plates Corton" being really exciting, if it were close enough that he could keep an eye on both.