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Week in Reviews: Kobe Club Blood Bath

[Kalina, 1/18/07]

Bruni, Platt and Cuozzo were all at Kobe Club this week, and among them a grand total of zero stars were awarded to Jeffrey Chodorow's now-doomed steakhouse. The restaurant occupies a physical space fresh off of three previous Chodorow failed restaurants (various incarnations of Mix). Make no mistake: this is a massive debacle for the restaurateur. No China Grill Management staffer whose hand touched the Kobe concept should feel safe in his or her job this morning.

In a special all Kobe edition of Week in Reviews, we'll get under the hood of these reviews, play He Said, He Said, He Said and see just how bad it is (it's really bad).

First, on the Decor:
Bruni: If Akira Kurosawa hired the Marquis de Sade as an interior decorator, he might end up with a gloomy rec room like this. Will the last samurai to leave please turn on the lights?

Platt: With its sense of raffish excess and its dark, tacky glamour, Kobe Club is a place Mr. Guccione might well have enjoyed in his prime.

On the Menu:
Bruni: The menu is as tricked-out as the presentations, detailing 13 available steak toppings (classic béarnaise, lobster béarnaise, wasabi-and-shiso béarnaise, ad infinitum) and four kinds of mashed potatoes. The potatoes appear among a predictable profusion of sides, many given a vacuously luxurious sprinkling of truffles or truffle oil, just to tip the restaurant’s slavishness to trendiness off the charts.

Cuozzo : "There's no peanut butter dip at Kobe Club, but there are 13 sauces, butters and toppings to choose from - after you decipher the rest of a menu so complicated it could justify a Learning Annex course in culinary code-breaking."

On the Kobe:
Bruni: Although Kobe Club does right by the fabled flesh for which it’s named, it presents too many insipid or insulting dishes at prices that draw blood from anyone without a trust fund or an expense account.

Platt: If you enjoy Kobe beef in all its extravagant forms (the 28-ounce Wagyu porterhouse costs $390), you might be fine with these theatrics. Otherwise, you’re in for a long night.

Cuozzo: "American Wagyu tasted as dull as every U.S.-raised half-breed I've ever tried. The Aussie cut, with a smoky complexion, was better. But $90 for 8 ounces?...The Japanese article is a breed apart - unspeakably rich and a barrel of fun if you don't mind an oily film in your mouth. Kobe Club's is cheaper than most: $20/ounce for strip loin and $150 for a 10-ounce ribeye, compared to $25 an ounce elsewhere...Unless you're a sumo wrestler, you might admire real Kobe more than love it."

On Chodorow:
Platt: Of course, Chodorow (China Grill, Asia de Cuba) is a showman, not a cook, and if he has to choose between serving the freshest tuna or buying another hundred samurai swords for his ceiling, he’ll choose the swords. He’ll also do what canny franchisers often do, which is to substitute bulk for quality.

Bruni: Unsurprisingly, it’s the work of the restaurateur and gimmick maestro Jeffrey Chodorow, who scored big in years past with China Grill and Asia de Cuba but hasn’t had as much local success of late...Kobe Club occupies the Midtown space once inhabited by Mix in New York, Mr. Chodorow’s cheeky, ill-fated collaboration with the French chef Alain Ducasse....Mix wasn’t even Mr. Chodorow’s flashiest recent failure. Who can forget Rocco’s on 22nd, scene of “The Restaurant,” where Mama’s meatballs were sauced with acrimony and eventual litigation? Or its short-lived successor in that location, Brasserio Caviar & Banana?

The takeaway:
Bruni: Satisfactory; "Scary indeed."

Platt: Zero Stars; "Mr. Chodorow’s restaurant seems to me less like a steakhouse than a bizarre agglomeration of restaurant fashions and trends, most of them bad...As you might expect, the tables at Kobe Club are teeming with pink-faced gentlemen alternately fiddling with their BlackBerries and hoisting goblets of earnestly decanted red wine toward the sword-cluttered ceiling. Everything about the place is designed to contribute to the sense of bacchanalian excess, including the thirteen varieties of steak toppings (the foie gras butter costs an extra four bucks), the cocktails (try the odd-smelling though aptly named Death by Whiskey), and even the creamed corn (mixed, not unpleasantly, with sake and white truffles)."

Cuozzo: "Give me that old-time porterhouse."


Elsewhere, Peter Meehan at Diamond District's Tam -Tov, Jay McIerney at UES sushi import Sasabune, Paul Adams in the West Village at Hurapan Kitchen, Robert Simonson, also for the Sun at the Carroll Gardens pizzeria Lucali, Tables at Soho wine bar Centovini, The Bruniblog disappointed by West Villager Maremma, Augieland on the UWS at Picholine, and NYC Crumbs with something good to say about Park Slope's Zenkichi .