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Is formal dining holding its own?


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The servers wear dark waistcoats and ties (and will say "Monsieur" in a heartbeat), and the room is positively clubby. I personally don't think tablecloths are necessary to formality any more: and the number of restaurants which require a jacket--which will turn someone away if they're not wearing one, or offer to lend a jacket--must now be vanishingly small.

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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

First, anyplace that forces a male to wear ties is out.   Second, anyplace that feels like a Cathedral and forces hushed tones is out.   Third, anyplace the accepts reservations appears to be on

Just because something is a ten-course New Nordic tasting menu, that doesn't make it fine dining. You still have to see how good the ingredients are and the kitchen work is. It could still be ambitiou

 

Is The Clocktower a formal restaurant?

I don't agree with Wilfrid. No tablecloths and jackets are not required, so not formal.

 

The "jacket required" list is down to about 5 places, and it's possible there'll never be another one. And most of those were "jacket and tie," at one time.

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The Clocktower certainly isn't "fine dining formal" in the way that Le Coucou is. At any rate, it's less formal than Le Coucou, no?

 

I suppose the innovation of downtown fine dining is one in continuing to blur the lines between "formal" and "casual".

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Perhaps we need a word other than "formal." The term fine dining encompasses food, ambiance and service. One can have that in a relaxed atmosphere or a serious, unrelaxed atmosphere. The "hip" places serve high level food in a low level environment. That was their original "hook." LC is fine dining by any standard. The FOH are quite serious about their job but make the diners feel relaxed.

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I personally don't think tablecloths are necessary to formality any more: and the number of restaurants which require a jacket--which will turn someone away if they're not wearing one, or offer to lend a jacket--must now be vanishingly small.

 

Jacket-only is now so rare, that you have to say it's practically a thing of the past. But restaurants with tablecloths still open with some regularity.

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According to Zagat, the number requiring jackets is currently 10 but soon to be 9: Carlyle, Daniel, Four Seasons (closing this month), Jean-Georges, La Grenouille, Le Bernardin, Le Cirque, Per Se, River Cafe, and 21 Club. 21 Club was the last holdout requiring a tie. Finally gave it up several years ago.

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But at some level this is just a question of taxonomy. Is it fine dining because of the amenities, or is it casual because of the "downtown energy"?

 

But really it's both. And that's what's (IMO) cool and new.

Isn't that what Sneak said was new about Chanterelle decades ago?

 

I wonder about Montrachet and Bouley too. Not to mention WD-50.

 

Restaurants change.

 

WD~50 never became "formal" the way The Modern is formal, but it moved steadily in that direction, over the years I visited.

 

Bouley today (the version that is about to close) is more formal than Bouley in its previous location, and just might be more formal than the original Bouley (in the space now occupied by Scalini Fedeli), which I never visited.

 

Chanterelle at Harrison street was definitely formal by today's standards, or even those of 10 years ago, but I gather its original location was a lot less so.

 

I only experienced Montrachet towards the end of its run. We would call it "formal" today, but I always got the sense that when it opened it was thought of as casual. I don't know if it changed, the market changed, or both.

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According to Zagat, the number requiring jackets is currently 10 but soon to be 9: Carlyle, Daniel, Four Seasons (closing this month), Jean-Georges, La Grenouille, Le Bernardin, Le Cirque, Per Se, River Cafe, and 21 Club. 21 Club was the last holdout requiring a tie. Finally gave it up several years ago.

 

Per Se is the youngest of them, and it opened 12 years ago.

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But at some level this is just a question of taxonomy. Is it fine dining because of the amenities, or is it casual because of the "downtown energy"?

 

But really it's both. And that's what's (IMO) cool and new.

Isn't that what Sneak said was new about Chanterelle decades ago?

 

I wonder about Montrachet and Bouley too. Not to mention WD-50.

 

Restaurants change.

 

WD~50 never became "formal" the way The Modern is formal, but it moved steadily in that direction, over the years I visited.

 

Bouley today (the version that is about to close) is more formal than Bouley in its previous location, and just might be more formal than the original Bouley (in the space now occupied by Scalini Fedeli), which I never visited.

 

Chanterelle at Harrison street was definitely formal by today's standards, or even those of 10 years ago, but I gather its original location was a lot less so.

 

I only experienced Montrachet towards the end of its run. We would call it "formal" today, but I always got the sense that when it opened it was thought of as casual. I don't know if it changed, the market changed, or both.

 

 

I'm sure we're each working with our own, slightly different idea of formal. Which is absolutely fine.

 

Montrachet was described as a "relaxed atmosphere" by Bryan Miller in 1985 (he spent most of his review discussing the food). WD-50, I believe, always a had a coat checker, greeting at the door, and uniformed staff. I'd be interested in what Sneak has to say about the first Chanterelle.

 

On the jacket point, my own notion of what a formal restaurant is has wider scope than the few on that list. It includes, for example, Chevalier and Gabriel Kreuther.

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I personally don't think tablecloths are necessary to formality any more: and the number of restaurants which require a jacket--which will turn someone away if they're not wearing one, or offer to lend a jacket--must now be vanishingly small.

 

Jacket-only is now so rare, that you have to say it's practically a thing of the past. But restaurants with tablecloths still open with some regularity.

 

 

And some of those aren't formal. I don't regard it as a determining factor.

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The first Chanterelle was arguably the most attractive dining rooms in the city. I can't imagine anyone saying it wasn't formal. From the fresh flowers, the lighting, the pure white table settings, the formal flatware settings - it was the definition of formal.

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But I thought Le Coucou wasn't formal.

 

I am neutral, since I haven't been there. From the photos alone, I would agree that it seems to fall on the "formal" side of the divide, at least by the standards of restaurant openings in the last 10 years. But I fully understand that the vibe of a place cannot entirely be conveyed by a photo; and there is also a question whether the definition ought to be shape-shifted, just because the last decade has been so hostile (in general) to that type of place.

 

 

I just want to note that, as I said in my first write-up of Le Coucou, the photos I had seen of its empty dining room left me expecting it to be rather formal. I was surprised, when I walked in, at the informal "vibe". The room just had too much energy -- and the patrons were just too dressed down -- for me to consider the place "formal".

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Montrachet was described as a "relaxed atmosphere" by Bryan Miller in 1985 (he spent most of his review discussing the food).

 

But when he said that, it was in relation to the typical state of restaurants in NYC 30 years ago.

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The first Chanterelle was arguably the most attractive dining rooms in the city. I can't imagine anyone saying it wasn't formal. From the fresh flowers, the lighting, the pure white table settings, the formal flatware settings - it was the definition of formal.

 

Apologies. We have (at least) two discussions going on, and I am not helping.

 

I was interested in whether the original Chanterelle combined formal amenities with some kind of hip downtown vibe (because we're invited to suppose that such a phenomenon is new). I'm sure it was formal.

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