In Chicago, The Aviary is the Alinea for cocktails, with the team throwing its Michelin power into the architecture of drinks, with accompanying food. Chef-owner Grant Achatz boils it down by describing the interplay between the two bars as The Aviary being “the future” and The Office “the past.”
“The Aviary is parallel to Alinea in its progressive nature, so no-holds-barred on techniques there with intentional aromas, playing with textures, manipulating aesthetics, thought provoking things,” he says. “Whereas The Office is old-school luxury. There’s no pyrotechnics, no progressive technique, no serviceware uniquely created for The Office. It’s a look back in time, culinarily speaking, emphasizing luxury ingredients. The juxtaposition of the two helps define them both.”
To bring the two to New York City, Achatz and co-owner Nick Kokonas partnered with the Mandarin Oriental for the same symbiotic Office/Aviary model tweaked for the New York City market.
“This is New York-ified in every single way,” Achatz says. That means double the ceiling height, double the seat capacity (44 here), and incredibly luxe food and drink. The food menu is studded with ingredients like foie gras, jamon Iberico, and caviar, and there’s an entire drink menu devoted to rare spirits that ring in at $500 an ounce.
To make it all happen, Achatz and Kokonas brought over their A-team from Chicago, including Alinea’s general manager, Aviary’s executive chef, and go-to barman Micah Melton. “We chose to move our best people here to make sure it went off without a hitch. It’s a big commitment for the Alinea group back home,” Achatz says.
Dining options include a $265 seven-course tasting menu with five drinks, or an a la carte menu — in full below — that Kokonas calls “a decadent grazing menu.”
But the duo don’t describe the Office as a restaurant, since drinks are the star here. While there is a pre-Prohibition-style cocktail and spirit menu, also in full below, Achatz anticipates that most drink orders will be a conversation about preferences rather than from the set list.
As for the decor, it’s like a tasteful wealthy man’s study, full of rich brown leather, dark wood, and meaningful knick-knacks. Since the Aviary is still under construction, the door right now is in a different place, but eventually diners will be forced to walk through the Aviary’s kitchen to reach the Office. Upon entry, a “tipple” poured from a hidden space inside a non-functioning radio will welcome people to the decadence inside. And while they made the decision to completely cut off the stunning view of Columbus Circle and Central Park beyond in this particular space, LED lights in the windows will mimic the sun as it sets.
The Office opens tonight on the 35th floor at 5 p.m. Hours are Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 12 p.m. and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Next up is the under-construction Aviary, which will debut in a few months.