Alain Ducasse’s New York Fallout: Essex House Restaurant

The Michelin Guide is the cosmopolitan gourmand’s bible. With the 2007 release of its New York City restaurant reviews, a major change takes place.

Alain Ducasse’s Essex House Restaurant plummets from being awarded Michelin’s highest distinguishment in 2006 (“exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”) to being totally absent in the 2007 book. I can’t help but wonder if Alain Ducasse’s New York reign is perhaps done for.

Alain Ducasse’s other New York restaurant Mix closed in 2005 after only two years of operation.

Admittedly, the Essex House restaurant comes off as rather unfashionable with its traditional heavy French dishes and extravagantly baroque decor. New York competition is stiff — other French restaurants offer a fusion nouvelle twist to their cuisine and a minimalist design scheme. But my dinners were still very enjoyable whenever I’ve dined here, and service is nothing short of attentive.

Perhaps it’s the $150 per person minimum prix fixe menu (not including additional courses, wine, tax, gratuity, etc.) that discourages diners from coming back — and particularly not for a cuisine and ambiance that aren’t so novel anymore.

However, I would think that Mr. Ducasse most certainly deserves to at least grace a small page in Michelin’s book.

Alain Ducasse at the Essex House.
A: 155 West 58th Street, New York, NY.
T: 212.265.7300.

4 Responses to Alain Ducasse’s New York Fallout: Essex House Restaurant

  1. I would agree that Alain Ducasse’s reign in NYC is over, but that is just the trend with these “bigger-than-life” individuals we still somehow call “chef” despite their absence from the kitchen. When they no longer even indulge in the chef-de-cuisine role, things can just fall apart. Stay hands-on like Mario Batali and things go well. Go rogue with Gordon Ramsey and once his TV presence is over so goes his restaurants. Gordo should have stayed in Ibrox…

  2. Alain Ducasse’s reign is indeed over in NYC, and it’s been for awhile. There has been so little innovation in his restaurant, and NYC is much too competitive to be 1) non-innovative; 2) absent from the kitchen; and 3) too heavy. At least Picholine is innovative, even if it draws a very loyal, conservative clientele. Gordon Ramsey would need to learn from this, since his value goes down when he’s not on TV (and that shelf life may be as long as his time at Ibrox), and his absence is going to hurt in the long run. Do what Mario Batali does and keep hands-on control, that is the key.

  3. Kate says:

    Ah, you have great taste, Lone Diner! Mario Batali is by far my favorite Hollywood chef. His NYC restaurant Babbo is absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, it takes two months advance notice to get a reservation… and bribing the hostess a $50 bill doesn’t work. 🙂

  4. Babbo is a headache to get a table — I actually prefer Esca in Midtown. But Babbo has that great “from noise to tail eating” philosophy of Fergus Henderson. Since you’re in London at the mo, have you tried Fergus’s handiwork at St John?

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