Ian Schrager's newest chef pick for the Gramercy Park Hotel: Yuji Wakiya, one of the great kitchen pioneers of the Far East. Cuozzo for Page Six has it:
Schrager has a tentative deal to bring superstar Yuji Wakiya to the glam inn where an earlier deal with London-based Alan Yau fell through. "It is not signed, sealed or delivered, but I am more than hopeful that it will be happening," Schrager told Post restaurant columnist Steve Cuozzo. "During my week in China and Japan, I tasted phenomenal Chinese cooking, but none better and more original than Yuji's." The place should open this spring. Schrager was exposed to Wakiya through Nobu partners Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa. "The complete Nobu team will be involved in operating the restaurant - but it will be Yuji's restaurant."This seems as good a time as any to note that Wakiya is actually the third chef/restaurateur to be tapped as the promised main attraction at the renovated Gramercy Park Hotel. Before him it was Yau, of course; but before Yau, recall that Lure/Lever/Chinatown owner John McDonald was said to be Schrager's pick. So, while it's all well and good to finger Schrager's latest culinary fixation as the guy, until there is an inked contract with Wakiya, all visas are secured and there is heat coming out of the kitchen, we remain in a holding pattern. 'The place should be open this spring' is a good as PR jargon agets. If she's open by Memorial Day, opening night cocktails are on us.
· Wakiya [official site]
· World's Best Meals: Wakiya [F&W]
· Waiting for Yau: Park Chinois Aborted [~E~]
· John McDonald Helps with Gramercy Park Hotel renovation [NYM]
· Schrager Goes Yau [NYM]
UPDATE: It's been drawn to our attention that not only is this the third time Schrager has picked a chef for Gramercy, it's the second time that Nobu & Co. have announced plans to import Wakiya to a New York hotel restaurant. In June of 2004, the Intelligencer reported, "Bryant Park Hotel’s Ilo (run by chef Rick Laakkonen) is closing this summer and will likely be replaced with a nouvelle Chinese restaurant, overseen by Nobu Matsuhisa (of Nobu), who is importing chef Yuji Wakiya from Japan. Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, Richie Notar, and Meir Teper are close to signing a deal to fund the restaurant, set to open early next year, with the name Wakiya." The Mats, Bobby D, Richie Notar and Meir Teper -- sort of like the 'complete Nobu team'?
· Restaurant Happenings [NYM]