This marks episode one of Tuesdays with Jeffrey, a series we'll run for the month of October. Every Tuesday we'll spend one hour with the one and only Jeffrey "El Chod" Chodorow, looking over his shoulder as he readies, opens, and steadies his newest creation, Tanuki Tavern.
3:00 PM "Today's drama," El Chod announces as we walk in, "are the upstairs tables." They're maybe too small and feedback from a lady diner at a prior night's preview was that the angle of the seats was weirdly such that it was hard for a woman in a skirt to get up without flashing the dining room. Or, as Chodorow explained it, "the angle of the dangle" was off. Hey-OH. "There was another dish on the menu," the Chodinator encored. Ba-BOOM.
3:09 PM Up we go to the second floor, which will moonlight as a lounge attached to Provocateur, the club opening next to Tanuki, after 1 AM. 3:10 PM There's a massive screen, and $40,000 worth of sound-proofing glass, that will separate Tanuki from Provocateur. When closed, this wall seems bare to Jeffrey. 3:12 PM Niels Guldager, interior designer for Tanuki, presents several options, and in the end the wall will get votives and a pully system added to it.
3:19 PM Time to talk about the tables. "What's an option?" The El asks his team, which includes his son, Zach; Terry Zarikian, China Grill Management head of product development; Luke Rinama, corporate chef for CGM; Chris Kofitsas, general contractor for the project; and Guldager. 3:20 PM There had also been an issue with the height of the tables—they were too high for bottle service—but that has been fixed, thanks to some clever carpentry that allows for the custom-made tables to sit high, for dinner, or low, during lounge hours. The third problem with these tables is surface area: there's not enough of it. 3:21 PM And the table schematic shows 4-tops and 2-tops, and this isn't negotiable. "How do they fit so much on those tables at Cipriani?" asks Choder, who notes that these tables are the same size and height as the ones they use there. Even extensions would be a problem, Corporate chef Luke pointed out, because that would require cumbersome communication between the front and back of house to ensure that the extensions were placed and removed at the right time at the right tables.
3:30 PM "Let me tell you something," El Chod says. "At the Hotel Costes in Paris every table is a deuce. What they do when they have four people is they put the tables together," as if to say, effen think, people. Jeffery weighs his options.
3:35 PM Before we descend back down to the first floor, a solution: some of these tables will be recut into ellipses, so as to cut down on the wasted space of a circular table. 3:45 PM In addition to re-cutting the tops of 8 of these tables, El Chod has also instructed his carpenter, Chris, to add weight to the base of the tables for stability; to make sure the chopstick holders for these tables will hold the chopsticks vertically; to raise the height of the seats one inch to address previously explained "dangle" issue; and to under no circumstances order votive candles for the tables because, "they're very distracting, too much glare." 3:48 PM Downstairs he moves to reconfigure the tables to better suit twos and fours and to make better use of the long middle of the dining room. Here, El Chod notes with glee the ease with which he'll be able to seat 12. He then approves a change to a doorway to allow servers to more easily access the patio; decides that bar area mirrors will get hand-written beer lists added to them; he asks an electrician to rehang the lights, to ensure they're hanging centered above the newly configured tables; 3:55 PM And we admire his sushi bar, which is made of materials reclaimed from Ono. He gives the team until Thursday to get this stuff done, noting, too, that there are previews happening the next night (tonight, Wednesday). Before we're done, the matter of a screen to enclose the single booth at Tanuki is discussed. Choderific wants it to have the option of privacy, should diners request it. Everyone else thinks he's nuts. 3:59 PM The Chodorow gets his curtain. "When you come in here tomorrow, you won't believe we were in here today and it looked like this." 4:00 PM