Every day this week, we'll feature a Shitshow Week Review—a new assessment of a restaurant that at first glance seemed totally and completely off the rails. To give these places a fair shake, we revisited to pass new judgment. The fundamental question: shitshow or not a shitshow?
Kobe Club is a restaurant that requires very little by way of introduction around these parts. Jeffrey Chodorow's massively expensive Vegas-style homage to Kobe beef, located in a cursed venue on West 58th, has been a problem—dare one say, a shitshow—for him since the start. The restaurant's claim to fame is not its beef, but instead an incident in which it got zero stars from the Times after which time Chodorow decided that his best course of rebuttal was to take out a full-page ad in the paper of record to tell the world that Frank Bruni was crazy.
Which doesn't quite get us to the present, but you didn't miss anything important between then and now except that the place has since emptied out and taken on a particular and distinct air of rancid death.
Let's begin with a few random bits and pieces. The predictable: Despite a completely empty dining room circa 8pm, we were told we had to wait at the bar for our entire party to arrive. The offensive: Dinner per person is still $200. The insulting: the restaurant's signature dessert is a Baked Alaska that comes shaped as beehive, accompanied by a bee made of stale white chocolate and Cheerios. Cheerios. You've seen this dessert before, at FAO Schwartz. At Kobe it's $18 and is listed on the menu in a ridiculous featured dessert box. The misplay: Save for the hostess, there was not a single female server in the entire restaurant. The epic twist: You know those little toothpick flags they stick in the various cuts of meat on the Kobe beef sampler? THEY'RE CURRENTLY OUT OF USA FLAGS. True story.
Crowd: During the three hours we were at Kobe Club we noticed, in total, three tables of suits (one group a walk-in) and two couples, seemingly on first or second dates. And the manager spread out on three tables organizing papers.
Space: See also, a morgue. Cobwebs and dust hang from the 1,000 ninja swords so aggressively touted in debut press materials. If then the fear of a sword falling once seemed amusing and irrational, now, actually, you might want to be request a seat outside of the strike zone. One positive part of the ghost town aesthetic: the once-crowded bar area, which essentially closed off access to the restaurant itself when populated, now feels as wide as a six-lane highway.
Food: Aggressively mediocre. Kobe steaks tasty, but not particularly well prepared. (A request for extra exterior char came back negative.) Also, crucial admin note: the "chopped steak" is neither chopped nor a steak. It's a burger in drag.
Service: Quite professional. The check presented on a cork board, stabbed with a knife: classy.
Final Judgment: Shitshows are made and broken by the quality of their deformed bells and whistles. Their flair, if you will. At Kobe Club, there's something more. First, there's the shitshow associated with the deterioration of the restaurant; it may have opened poorly, but it did not open cheap. One indicative example is the bar, which used to be stingray and is now Formica or somesuch. Second, it's the Kobe Effect, which you'll want to give a good six hours to set in, post-meal, when your body starts reacting to the combination of overpriced steak, overpriced wine, and the staggering prices. You'll be a little woozy, maybe get the meat sweats, have great difficulty sleeping. Then you'll think to yourself: what a shitshow.