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Oct 22, 2002 04:13 PM

Savoy - what the @#$%?

  • m

I can't believe what I'm hearing. Has this gem of restaurant really changed hands and dumbed down its fare? The upstairs seasonal prix fixe menu was a great pleasure. Savoy was the first place I took my girlfriend (now wife) when we visited NYC a year and a half after I moved back to LA. I daydream of roasted figs stuffed with foie gras. I wrote the place into a novel. And now it's just a hollow shell? I bet they've even covered the lovely old pressed-tin ceiling upstairs. If I were given to hyperbole I would describe this as culinary al qaedaism. I am not happy. Dennehy and Redgrave may not be enough to draw me back to town. I want my @#$%& Savoy back!

That is all.

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  1. I think you might be overreacting. As I understand it, slow post-9/11 business forced them to open a bar downstairs and move the main dining room upstairs. Bar sales carry a much higher margin than food sales, etc. Strictly a survival decision, not a sellout--as I understand it, at least. I haven't been there in a while. The chef-owner (I think) is still the same guy who helped start the farmers' markets, etc.
    I think it's pretty important not to blast a good local place publicly without any hard data. If you had a bad meal there, by all means, blast away. But if you just walked past and saw some construction, i don't understand why you jumped to such rash conclusions.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Tom Philpott
      Michael Robertson Moore

      Actually my post was motivated by Adam Heimlich's review of the "new" Savoy in today's NYPress, in which he suggests that the changes were at least in part the result of fools badmouthing the "old" Savoy online. If I'm misinformed I'll post a shamefaced retraction, but his very detailed description of the new menu indicates that everything I liked about the place has changed.

      1. re: Michael Robertson Moore

        The same crew, from Peter Hoffmann on down, was very much in evidence when I had lunch there last month. They just remodeled.

        1. re: silver queen
          david sprague

          there didn't seem to be any turnover to speak of, staff wise. and while the menu has changed, i think it would take a NY Press level understanding of food--this is a place, not that long ago, when a "food critic" wrote "i'm not sure what rosemary is supposed to taste like, but if it's like this, i don't like it"--to call it a dumbing-down. simplification, sure. fat-cutting, you bet. dumbing down? no way.

        2. re: Michael Robertson Moore

          This is the single most pretentious piece of food-writing I've ever read--and I've read the autobiographical dross of a certain Times food writer in the Sunday magazine.

          Here goes a characteristic bit:
          "Blame must be assigned because developing an appreciation for exceptional music, surprisingly, brings as much psychological pain as listening pleasure. The source of suffering is not the mass celebration of inferior sounds. Rooted in a genuine flaw shared by American democracy and music capitalism (favoring winners too much), this problem is a mere annoyance."
          Yes, this is a restaurant review. Village Voice-obsessed college-newspaper writing, par excellence.
          But his case against Savoy is problematic. Wasn't it always about teasing as much flavor out of fresh ingredients as possible? My meal there about two years ago was good, solid cooking with great ingredients. Some dishes lacked salt, if I recall correctly.
          I certainly wouldn't change my take on Savoy based on the tortured opinions of this critic.


          1. re: Tom Philpott
            Michael Robertson Moore

            True enough. I had to skip about six paragraphs to (as they say) cut to the chow. However...he was very specific about the changes to the menu. What he didn't mention was whether or not there's still a set menu upstairs, which was my favorite feature of Savoy.

            1. re: Tom Philpott

              Truly, in the years I've been reading food writing, I have never read such a pretentious, elitist load of garbage.
              The twit pines for the good old days, then the lower orders knew their place, and the upper classes were able to savor their refined pleasures without the horrors of grilled food sullying their delicate palates.
              The "common" ceiling in the bar was almost enough to make me stop reading, but I just had to go on to see how much he embarrassed himself.
              I suggest that this idiot give up democracy, and all that it brings. I'm sure he'd enjoy a good monarchy. Perhaps Saudi Arabia? A place where the plebes know their place and don't eat in restaurants.
              This isn't Village Voice writing. It's 18th century writing of the landed gentry fighting the boorish emerging middle class, and it is revolting.

              1. re: EmilyW
                Michael Robertson Moore

                Eating at the Savoys of this world is an elitist pursuit. Heimlich's gripe isn't with the plebes, it's with people who have loads of money and no taste. I can't say whether he got it right in this case, but in general he has a point.

                Still, I thank you for making me look temperate in comparison.

              2. re: Tom Philpott

                I busted out laughing at this.

                The NYP reviews I've read seem to be mostly, like this, self-reflective bellybutton reviews. In our local boondocks papers we enjoy the genre every week, e.g., "This movie reminded me of when I was a little girl and I used to eat red licorice in the backseat of my grandfather's Ford Fairlane as he tooled along Woodhaven Boulevard singing the Fat Lady Polka . . ." I think they're PRACTICING for something.

                1. re: lucia

                  when he actually gets to reviewing the restaurants and their food, I think the review is quite sound and well presented. Much better than has often been the case in the NY Press. And the issues he touches on about the loss of complexity in their food preparation and the restaurant clientele (including the impact of online communities-not ours) are interesting ones. Skip over the precious fine writing (Im not just a food columnist I have CULTURE) and get to the story and its not a bad article

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    But does he lucidly compare what he ate on the one visit he discusses with the way it was at the "old" Savoy?
                    This is where, beyond the comic over-writing, the review really seems to stumble.
                    Rather than pick apart the review, has anyone else had a recent meal at Savoy?

                    1. re: Tom Philpott

                      I had the "small plates" lunch at Savoy recently and they were all delicious. It was my first time there so I had nothing to compare it to but I look forward to going back.

              3. re: Michael Robertson Moore

                You refer to Heimlich's very detailed discussion of the new menu, which appears to have led you to the conclusion that so many of your old favorites, particularly the stuffed figs, have gone by the wayside.

                I don't get this at all. He discusses what he and his companions ate but does not seem to mention anything else on the menu. Furthermore, he appears to have based his review on only one visit and to have come to a fairly negative conclusion despite positive comments about most of the dishes he and his party ordered. N.B. I don't live in New York and I have never been to Savoy.

            2. Link

              70 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012

              1. The only thing that impressed me there was the homemade sausage appetizer...everything else was bland.