When Good Restaurants Go Bad

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The first sign was the asparagus. It’s December here in New York and on the breakfast menu at Untitled at the Whitney, a Danny Meyer restaurant which we frequent whenever we’re in the city, there’s an asparagus omelette. “Asparagus in December?” I asked and then Tweeted something about it, prompting a sarcastic response from the very funny Twitter personage BoobsRadley: “Outraged!” Ok, ok, maybe it’s not something to be outraged about, but it is a sign that something’s a little off, especially when a restaurant’s proprietor is at the helm of such season-oriented restaurants as Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe.

The omelette that caught my eye was one with snow peas and ham and I can’t really tell you why I didn’t ask the same question about the snow peas that I asked about the asparagus: isn’t that a spring ingredient too? When the omelette came out–it’s the one you see above–it tasted like a warmed over rubber mat folded around greasy snow peas and chunks of ham. There was no cheese to fuse it all together; it was like the world’s most boring burrito. It needed a heavy hit of salt and pepper. The potatoes were dry and mealy, like little packets of cloth.

Craig didn’t mind his egg sandwich as much as I minded my omelette, but he did confess that the yolks were way overcooked and chalky:

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The restaurant, which is in a beautiful room underneath the museum, still packs them in at brunchtime. And I suppose that’s why the menu remains static and why the kitchen churns out such uninspired food. Normally I don’t write posts like these–I meet a lot of restaurant people these days, and I don’t like to ruffle feathers–but there’s something sad about a really good, beloved restaurant going so far off the rails. When we left Untitled, I said: “Let’s not go back.”

With all of the excellent brunch places to choose from here in the city (Allswell and Calliope, for example) there’s no reason to spend good money on poorly cooked, under-seasoned eggs. Untitled, we had our good times, but I think for now we should go our separate ways.

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14 comments

  1. I was going to say that asparagus would be thriving in California during this time of the year per the USDA plant hardiness map… but you are not in California now. Shrug.

  2. It’s sad, but it happens. I just had to break up with my favorite local Mexican restaurant over the weekend. The food was fantastic just 6 months ago, but something went horribly wrong since then. It’s real shame. With all of the restaurant rescue shows out there these days to provide guidance, you’d think it would be relatively easy for restaurant owners to get their acts together.

  3. Nope, the season is longer, but asparagus also only grows in the spring in CA. It DOES have seasons, even if they are all pretty nice :)

  4. It’s sad when a restaurant appears to be resting on its laurels and starts the downward slide while remaining popular. Never have been to Untitled, but I was privileged to have my birthday dinner at Gramercy Tavern this year, which, I have to say, despite its soaring popularity, puts out the most innovative and delicious meal it has been my pleasure to enjoy in a very long time.

  5. Nothing grinds my gears more!
    I will gladly pay the price for thoughtfully prepared, tasty meals but in the cases of pasta and eggs, they better be outta-this-world if they plan on charging me $15+

  6. There is a place near me that SHOULD be hitting all my buttons. Local farm to table, historic district. etc. But it just never seems to have its act together. Drives me crazy, because I want to like it, but I can’t.

  7. Most unusual for a Danny Myers restaurant. I’ve eaten at most of them and the attention to detail and the food is usually superb.

  8. You should totally tweet this to Danny Meyer. The guy is famously obsessed with quality; I’m sure he’d appreciate knowing one of his joints broke down in this case.

  9. I agree. Untitled is excellent at dinner- this may be a case of the “A” team working dinner service and brunch gets overlooked.
    Absolutely email/tweet/whatever to their management team- even my neighborhood diner makes a good omelette these days!
    Ttrockwood

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