When the seven-story mall that is the Shops at Hudson Yards burst open last week, fine dining icon Thomas Keller’s newest restaurant, TAK Room, didn’t open to the public along with it. But the chef’s been slipping out details over the last few weeks that make it sound suspiciously like another big upscale opening: Major Food Group’s the Grill.
Keller — the legend behind three-Michelin-starred restaurants French Laundry and Per Se — has been saying that his latest restaurant, which has only been open for private events, will be a little more relaxed than his tasting menu institutions. “We’re calling it fun dining, not fine dining,” he wrote on Instagram, seemingly without any irony whatsoever.
Indeed, he’s tossed around the word “fun” in multiple interviews about the new, 180-seat fifth- and sixth-floor restaurant. Here are some other things to glean about TAK Room, which make it sound like that other fancy a la carte restaurant in New York.
It will have midcentury, Continental cuisine.
TAK Room will serve dishes that “take a classic approach to Continental cuisine,” according to the website. He tells the T magazine that means oyster Rockefeller, crabcake, roasted chicken for two, strip steak, clams casino, and a Dover sole. Spumoni and ice cream sundaes will also be on the menu. For this, Keller’s team tried to stick to history: “We’re not trying to reclassify it. We’re not trying to redevelop it,” he told Robb Report.
The Grill, too, is “historically based” and has versions of classics such as Dover sole. Of course, MFG pulled from past versions of the Four Seasons menu because of the historic Seagram building space; Keller looked to Stork Club, Brown Derby, and Blue Fox, according to Robb Report.
TAK Room will have a huge focus on tableside dining.
Keller insists that while food is important at TAK Room, the restaurant needs to have a lively feel. Robb Report dubs it “a little more raucous than [Keller’s] signature restaurants.” Theatrics will be involved. Chicken will get carved by the table, as will other dishes. “That period of time wasn’t all necessarily about the food, it was about the interaction,” Keller tells Robb Report. “It was about the excitement. It was a social occasion. As refined as I want the food and its flavor, we don’t want it to be precious or in any way interfering with the excitement and energy of the restaurant.”
Like midcentury design, tableside dining is also booming across the country — and the Grill went hard on it when opening in 2017. It quickly became known for this style of service, where cherries get flambeed, duck is pressed in an antique device, and Dover sole is filleted in front of diners. Critics called the experience “fun” and “energetic.”
Keller’s other restaurants Per Se and French Laundry aren’t totally devoid of some tableside flourishes, but from the sounds of it, TAK Room will make it far more of a centerpiece in hopes of adding “movement” to the restaurant.
In that vein, a “fun” vibe is IM-POR-TANT.
Here’s a sampling of what Keller’s said about the restaurant:
“We’re calling it fun dining, not fine dining.” — Instagram
“It used to be that you ate out to meet friends and to celebrate. There was a real sense of fun.” — T magazine
“This restaurant requires a lot of movement. It can be loud, it can be fun. Nothing is prohibited in this kind of restaurant.” — Robb Report
Champagne carts will be milling about TAK Room, and there will be live music. Servers will be “well-dressed.”
The Grill, meanwhile, has $10,000 trolleys and servers in Tom Ford tuxes.
The rich and famous get early access.
The TAK Room team has only been open for private parties so far, where celebrities and other illuminati got to preview the space and food. Christine Baranski, Martha Stewart, Arianna Huffington, Katie Couric, Frank Bruni, Susan Sarandon, John McEnroe, Joseph Altuzarra, Thakoon Panichgul, and Eric Rutherford have been. Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges have made appearances; InStyle magazine did a charity event with Cartier for Robin Hood Foundation. Poorly connected plebes, meanwhile, cannot yet enter.
Similarly, the Grill spent a long time cultivating its decadent persona with celebrities weeks before it opened to the masses. Friends, family, and celebs such as rapper Nas popped in early, taking part in an over-the-top Champagne pyramid that signaled the theatrics that the restaurant is now known for.
Obviously, most new restaurants host friends and family events to get things rolling before official debut, but the crowd doesn’t always look like this.