After five years at the Jumeirah Essex House hotel on Central Park South, chef Alain Ducasse has announced plans to move his eponymous New York restaurant about four blocks south to the St. Regis hotel. Ducasse's existing restaurant, the holder of a Wine Spectator Grand Award since 2003, is slated to close on or around Jan. 15, 2007, with the new restaurant, as yet unnamed, expected to open in March 2007. It will take over the space that has stood empty since the 2003 closing of Lespinasse.
Ducasse, whose Paris and Monaco restaurants each hold three Michelin stars, opened Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in 2000. Although its ostentatious style and attendant high prices initially raised hackles among New York's hypercritical dining public, his first American venture soon found its footing. It earned a positive review by Wine Spectator, a four-star review from the New York Times, as well as three stars from Michelin's first guide to New York restaurants, released in late 2005.
It wasn't without it's rough patches, however. Opening executive chef Didier Elena left in 2004 and was replaced by Christian Delouvrier (incidentally, the final executive chef at Lespinasse) whom Ducasse later dismissed after critic Frank Bruni, in a subsequent Times review, downgraded the restaurant's rating to three stars. Tony Esnault, an alum of both the Paris and Monaco restaurants, has filled the top kitchen spot since mid-2005, and will reportedly continue to work for Ducasse at the new location.
A statement issued by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the parent company of St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, promises a wine bar whose purpose will be the education of both experienced and novice wine drinkers. David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, the architectural firm that designed Nobu, Café Gray and Bar Americain, among others, will be responsible for remodeling the new Ducasse restaurant. Plans include both private dining areas and private rooms devoted to wine tasting.
As for the vacated space in the Essex House, the hotel has announced plans to install a new destination restaurant concept after Ducasse's departure.
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