It didn’t take long for the city’s coronavirus crisis to spur at-home takes on everything from dive bar happy hours to Zoom-fueled nightclubs. Likewise, at Ardyn, a 36-seat seasonal American restaurant located in Greenwich Village, co-owners Adam Bordonaro and Ryan Lory devised a seven-course, minimum-$600 “doomsday dinner party” for delivery that mimics the upscale menu at the restaurant — with a little home cooking tossed in.
As is the case with many fine dining restaurants in the city, Bordonaro and Lory never considered offering delivery or takeout at Ardyn before the new coronavirus outbreak. Now that it’s the only thing the pair can do, they skipped the Caviar menu that many of their peers have done in favor of something a little more involved: Ardyn’s menu of Japanese hamachi, wagyu ribeye steak, and heritage chicken for $150 to $165 per person with a minimum four-person order, delivered to diners while wearing bunny masks.
The catch: Customers must then finishing cooking — and assemble, however artfully they can — the meals themselves in their own homes.
The pair launched the doomsday dinner party the same week that Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated that all restaurants must shut their doors to dine-in customers. The project was named after the fact that the pandemic has been a “doomsday” for restaurants, they say.
The duo derived the new seven-course meal from some of Ardyn’s popular menu items, which arrive broken down into separately packaged components. Diners must then put them all back together in their home kitchens.
The wagyu ribeye steak with Brussels and bacon, typically priced at $135 for two people in the restaurant, is par-cooked and placed in separate aluminum tins built to go straight into the oven, alongside a pre-portioned cup of Maldon salt to finish the plate.
The hamachi crudo, sold for $18 per serving in the restaurant, arrives as separate containers of hamachi wrapped in parchment paper, diced persimmons, pickled kohlrabi, puffed grains, a squeeze bottle of persimmon vinaigrette, and a garnish of micro bronze fennel from Farm One, a hydroponic vertical farm based in Manhattan.
Customers have described the experience as “a Blue Apron on steroids,” Lory says.
Each course comes with an instruction sheet that includes baking times and assembly steps, and the pair posted a YouTube video that illustrates how to plate each dish. There’s a suggested playlist delivered with the meal, too, and Bordonaro and Lory are looking into options for live-streaming a DJ for the dinner.
“When we tested it out, it was fun to see how, while we were cooking and eating, we totally forgot what was going on outside,” Bordonaro says. To add an extra layer to the experience, the pair bought bunny masks off of Amazon and dress up in suits and the masks to drive around Manhattan and do the deliveries.
The dinner is not cheap, but the pair say that the pricing is comparable or less than the in-restaurant menu. The business partners are also donating 15 percent of the profits from the orders to a hospitality worker relief fund that the pair launched in partnership with the nonprofit March On Foundation.
In the weeks since launch, they’ve been delivering up to 10 to 12 orders on the weekends. Some are four-person groups, they say, but they’re also seeing two-person groups order for four and stretch the dinner over three to four days.
Each order has to be placed 24 hours in advance, and the pair schedule deliveries in several time slots on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They’ll be phasing in a spring menu in the coming weeks.
“We looked at the horizon and saw everyone else doing takeout and delivery through Seamless and all those platforms,” Bordonaro tells Eater. “Those are tremendous bills to pay as a restaurant.” They decided they could eliminate all the extra steps — and extra hands — by taking over the entire delivery process and executing a more in-depth menu with a higher degree of quality control.
The venture might be profitable if they “didn’t have a monster rent to worry about,” Bordonaro says. But they’re looking forward with that in mind. They’re expanding to the Hamptons starting on April 4, and they’re looking into a ghost kitchen to run operations for the growing business. Deliveries to Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island will follow.
“We’re going to do this until the wheels fall off,” Lory says. “And if it does well, we’ll continue to operate it when Ardyn is open again.”