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  1. QUOTE Perhaps the confusion arises because there are new optionsplaces like Momofuku Ssamwhere you get haute European cooking without most of the trappings. But it's a misconception to suggest that places like Ssam have displaced upscale classically luxurious restaurants. They haven't; they've merely supplemented them, providing an option that never existed before. Indeed, as far as formal dining goes: QUOTE (I)n absolute numbers, the genre has at least held steady over the last few years, and I think it's actually expanded a bit. Thus oakapple, on the Country thread, responding to what I had innocently thought was my utterly uncontroversial assertion that (at Country) "the solemnity of the room and service, the extravagance of les cloches - nothing could have been more out-of-step with current dining fashions." Oakapple also tendered some examples: QUOTE There are a number of similarly luxurious places that opened at about the same time as Country, give or take a year: Gilt, The Modern, Alto, Gordon Ramsay, Del Posto, the redone Le Cirque. You could add to that a healthy list of others from earlier dates that are still doing fine. The Modern is a Danny Meyer place. It's not really the kind of thing I have in mind when I think of solemn service and waiters in bow-ties. It's been quite a while since I dined at Alto and Gilt, and I have never ventured into Del Posto. I understand the latter has les cloches and trolleys. I don't know how formal Alto remains following recent changes. As for Gilt in its current incarnation - it's a restaurant in a posh hotel. I bet Cafe Pierre, The Carlyle and Peacock Alley still have the trimmings of formality too. Of course Le Cirque still plays the haute game, but... It's worth noting that at its current location, about half the floor space is given over to casual dining with no dress code, and they just opened a wine lounge with a small plates menu. Sirio can smell the coffee. I don't know if anyone wants to volunteer a list of notable casual openings over the last three years - by notable, I guess I mean worth a review or a Diner's Journal comment in the Times. I can more easily list the places we've lost: ADNY of course, Lespinasse, Bayard's, La Caravelle, La Cote Basque, Atelier, Lutece (okay, that was a few years ago now), Danube, The Leopard, Montrachet, March, not to mention Country and San Domenico. And a final observation, hardly original to me: look at the kinds of places Daniel Boulud is opening these days.
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