An all-star team of NYC restaurant and nightlife personalities opened The Lambs Club in The Chatwal Hotel last fall. Geoffrey Zakarian of Town and Country is in the kitchen, nightlife man David Rabin is in the dining room, and at the door is a front-of-the-house vet from Zakarian's previous projects, Brad Anderson. We recently sat down with Anderson and Rabin to find out what it's like getting a table at the Times Square restaurant on a busy night.
It's 8PM on a Saturday night, what's the wait for a table? Brad Anderson, maitre d': If you walk in right at 8PM, you won't have to wait. If you come later or you come earlier, that's when you're going to have to give us a window of time.
So, there's no wait then? BA: We definitely take chances. We encourage walk-ins, but we manage the book in a certain way so that we can accommodate certain things. And especially since we are in a hotel, there's always that aspect of a guest coming down without a reservation. So, I think your chances are pretty good.
If there is a wait, is there anything I can do to make it shorter? Any cash or gifts to speed things along? Nah, we really don't do that, because we're really a very honest door. We want to take care of as many people as we can in the right way. Obviously, if there is a situation where we are totally sold out and it is not possible, we're very up front. We don't say that it's going to be 20 minutes, we're just going to be honest with you and say that it's not going to happen. David Rabin, partner: There's a really nice menu at the second floor bar, and we're able to send people up there. It's not the whole dining room experience, but we have an amazing burger and great calamari. We say, "We're really sorry about tonight, we hope you come back, but we're able to take care of you up in the mezzanine," and people dig it.
Tell us about your favorite customers? BA: There are so many, there really are. There are a lot of diners that have really read the press about us and have investigated us, and there's a certain excitement and anticipation about it. And when they come in with that excitement, and they leave feeling fulfilled, you can't beat that. Any celebs? DR: We get a fair share. A lot from the theater industry, who just walk in after the shows. At lunch time, it's more people from the media. Whether they're from Viacom, HBO, Conde Nast, The Wall Street Journal or Fox, they are our neighbors. So we see a lot of industry people at lunch that aren't necessarily famous, but they are certainly in positions of power.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give? DR: I defer to Brad! He's really the master at it. It makes our lives so much easier. I've never seen anyone manage a book that well. There are five partners here, and Brad has a tremendous following from all the restaurants he's worked in, so there's a lot of people we have to look out for, if we can. BA: Obviously, we want to make it happen for anybody, but I'll be honest with you — the VIPs are pretty smart. You very rarely get someone who just walks in out of the blue and applies that sort of pressure. The Lambs Club is well known right now in a lot of different areas of the community, so they kind of know that they need to call ahead, or have an assistant call ahead. But, again, the dining room moves in such a great way that if I were to get a call 20 minutes out, I can make it happen. And of course, the same thing goes if it is a guest at The Chatwal.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you've accommodated? BA: The room structure is probably one of the most challenging things. When people want to be near somebody, or there's a larger group, that's always a little bit difficult. DR: We don't have that table for fifteen. And we get some of those calls, but our biggest table is eight to ten. So, that's hardly outrageous. But people say "What do you mean the sixteen of us can't sit together?" And we say "Well, it's just the way that the room is laid out, but we can put you near each other."
What's the most outrageous request that you couldn't accommodate? BA: We've had large groups walk in, and because of the size of the room, if you get nine to ten people off the street, that's really something that has to be looked at and structured in a way that takes a lot of time. But again, that doesn't happen that often. We get a lot of inquiries, so we let people know the why and the why not.
What's your most important gatekeeper tool? BA: The human element. Absolutely. You can have so many different things going on — and I run the door and things like that — but David comes into the room and he works it in an incredible way. DR: I'd say it's demeanor. Brad's voice never goes above a certain level. And people seem to be very perceptive about information from Brad because he delivers it in such a pleasant, calm way that there's really no other way to react but to be calm and accommodating.
When you're not at The Lambs Club, where are you eating? DR: I'll tell you where I'm eating: Energy Kitchen. When I'm not here, I'm home with my 10-year-old, ordering from Energy Kitchen. BA: To be honest with you, there's just no time right now. I walk by and I look through the window at Lincoln — I live on the Upper West Side —so I kind of eyeball things, not really going in and taking the time to experience them, because our hands are full, right here.
What's the best thing on the menu at The Lambs Club? DR: As a main, you gotta get the Delmonico steak, and for a drink you gotta get the Gold Rush. BA: I've got to say, and I've been around Geoffrey for a number of years, but the menu is perfection. It really is. I think that it's meant to be a certain style — a real luxe American-style of things. It's done extremely well. As far as a dish, the pork-stuffed ravioli is phenomenal. And the Delmonico's steak with a side of the mashed potatoes. DR: And I begged for and got chocolate chip cookies.