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Adventures in Public Relations: The Case of Central Kitchen (or: "We have three words for you: Bra-sse-rie...")

Central Kitchen at present: never opened and re-plywooded.

The botched opening of the year award surely goes to Central Kitchen, the West Village restaurant owned by Robert Meller and Craig Wilson, meant to be the immediate follow-up to their now-stumbling Tasca. It was announced open—"The Restaurant to End All Restaurants", in fact—in early June, but, to this day, has never actually opened. (If it did open it was for so few days and served such an infinitesimally small number of eaters that we can't possibly give it credit for actually debuting.) Now, the restaurant is behind plywood again (above; taken just yesterday) and it is officially, completely, indisputably a thing of the past. What is so breathtaking about this case is how aggressive its original PR materials were (produced, predictably, by The Hall Company) and, then, how little those PR materials match up to reality.

The entire opening press release is yours here, but we'll excerpt as well:

We have three words for you: Bra-sse-rie...

Now, one might think it masochistic to open two restaurants in two months, but one would have to know this dynamic duo. Wilson, the chef, is indefatigable...and his imagination does need more than one vehicle. Meller is the workhorse and the face of the operation: young, attractive and as hungry for success as he hopes diners will be for his offerings of Spanish Regional next door at Tasca or eclectic here at Central. Between the two restaurants, you've got over 400 seats...and a vast array of choices, but we hear no one complaining. It's all good.

Central Kitchen aims to be a very refreshing, reasonably-priced dining experience offering hearty dishes with wide appeal and deep flavors, a tremendously vibrant raw bar, much to drink by way of many wines and cool cocktails, and a huge brunch scene. Wilson's food at Central Kitchen is meant to be stunning: ample, flavorful, recognizable and delicious; served without pomp and circumstance. And with its 120 seat outside cafe, two skylight-drenched rooms inside, Tasca taperia next door with its 80 seat outdoor café and a huge bar, overflowing with shellfish, there's somewhere and something for everyone on this corner of Seventh Avenue South. The digs consist of the main dining room, where, as the evening wears on, the open-on-3-sides kitchen will get bit by bit more frenetic, as both the main dining room and the front room and bar get increasingly more populated.

All this absolute goo-goo-gah-gah for a restaurant that would never see the light of day. New York bit on it hard and the Times even threw them in a Good Eating column and in the end we mostly got on the train as well. But, the restaurant never opened. Let's all file this one away: When the PR uses language that's too good, or nonsensical, or all-inclusive to be true -- "Central Kitchen aims to be a very refreshing, reasonably-priced dining experience offering hearty dishes with wide appeal and deep flavors" -- it probably is.

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