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Apr 15, 2011 08:24 AM

Limited Time Only (LTO) -- RJ Cooper Dinners

Is anyone going to the RJ Cooper dinners at LTO (Limited Time Only)? I was very lucky to get a reservation for the end of April. Our CH friend, uhockey, thinks very highly of Chef Cooper's cuisine.

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  1. Also have reservations, but in May. Pretty excited to preview Chef Cooper's 24-course menu. You'll have to tell me what you think.

    3 Replies
    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

      I want to have the 24 course menu too. I didn't ask for the beverage pairings--afraid it would be too much (I don't do the wine pairings either at Ko since they are very generous).

      1. re: ellenost

        Also passed on the beverage pairings. I don't remember how generous they are at Ko (been to both dinner and lunch) but it was awhile ago and in any event you would know better than I. IIRC uhockey experienced the 24-course menu as well and it appears to have some of the same courses.

        FYI, it seems that at least one DC writer has sour grapes re Cooper choosing NYC for his preview:

        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

          Yes, I read the same report. Funny that I'm heading to DC next month with my sister, but she'd never have gone with me to Chef Cooper's new restaurant in DC (she doesn't eat pork). It's kind of interesting that Chef Cooper did choose NYC to preview his new menu. For our sakes, I'm delighted!

    2. We had reservations last night for the opening night of LTO. For the sake of those who have reservations coming up, I really hope the absolute epic disaster (there's no other way to put it, really) we experienced is remedied.

      Before I detail what exactly when wrong, I should note that I'm not new to 1) long tasting menus, or 2) pop-up restaurants. I also know that opening nights (or weeks, for regular restaurants) can be fraught with all sort of little kinks as the staff settles into a routine. That said, when you're only open for 14 dinners and you're charging $180 a head (the price of the 24 course menu plus pairings), I do expect a certain level of food and service.

      We enjoyed a cocktail at the bar in the front of the restaurant to start. No issues here, and Gina, the bartender/mixologist was lovely. We inquired about the wine list at the bar, and after being seated inquired about it again. The sommelier/manager kindly informed us that they didn't have a wine list yet (?) but he could tell us what they had (?) and proceeded to run through a very generic list of wine types (red burgundies, reislings, etc.). Not even wanting to guess how ordering a bottle in this manner would work (but wanting to have drinks with dinner) we opted for the pairings.

      Cut to the food: in 1.25 hours, we were served four of the 24 courses. Two courses were served out of order, we were often without the correct flatware, and at no point in the first hour (3 courses, one 3oz pour of beer) were we offered anything else to drink. There was nothing technically wrong with anything we ate, but it was all pretty uninspired and could have been prepared long in advance, leaving us to wonder what exactly what taking so long. Looking around the dining room, we noticed that almost all of our fellow diners were waiting (and waiting) for their food as well. The staff were standing about idly.

      As our fourth course was delivered we brought up the issue of timing to our server. He noted that courses should be coming about 8 minutes apart, and that he'd ask the kitchen to increase the pace. Twenty plus minutes later we still didn't have our firth course, and we asked for the manager. When he didn't come by the table within a few minutes, we decided to leave. Another table of two followed us. The manager met us in the front of the restaurant and seemed surprised that we were a little frustrated with the wait and the fact that we'd literally consumed five bites of food in the span of well over an hour ("tasting menus aren't designed to fill you up!"). We offered to pay a prorated amount based on the courses we were served, and to his credit, he declined to accept any payment and apologized for the performance of his staff.

      I like the concept behind LTO and would consider going back if one of the future guest chefs interests me, but find it difficult to justify the experience when for similar cost I could head to either Compose or the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare and have a fabulous meal.

      18 Replies
      1. re: slcorlis

        I have my reservation for dinner for tomorrow night. I look forward to a vast improvement. I'll report back.

        1. re: ellenost

          I have reservations for May 6th, so I'd be really interested in hearing other people's impressions before then!

        2. re: slcorlis

          I went Thurs night (the 2nd night) and luckily, we didn't have the same bad pacing issues as slcorlis (really sorry to hear though). We did the "Journey" 24 courser in just over 4 hours. We wished we could have done it in 3 or 3.5, but it wasn't that big of a deal. FYI, there was a giant 16+ party that started just before we did around 7pm. There was a couple next to us that probably did the 16 courser in about 2.5 hrs.

          Didn't go for the wine pairings, but we went with a couple of wines by the glass and a couple of non-alcoholic drinks by the mixologist, Gina. They were all enjoyable and I do recommend drinks from Gina.

          My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. There were a couple of things we didn't love. Didn't think the 2 fish courses were all that great, but the meat dishes (quail, lamb, and beef) were very good. I don't have a sweet-tooth, but I also enjoyed the desserts.

          As for service, there were definitely some mishaps. A bunch of guys visibly held plates and had no clue where to go with them until a senior person told them where to go. Also, they missed a couple of silverware on some of our courses. Who gives a knife without a spoon or fork? I feel an Alanis Morissette line in there somewhere :)

          I didn't love Compose so I would definitely put this above that, but I would put this slightly below Brooklyn Fare. Hopefully, the next couple of days they work out all the kinks and everyone can say they had money well spent.

          1. re: deepfry7

            Thanks for your report. Much better news. I look forward to my dinner tonight.

            1. re: ellenost

              Glad to see the opening night jitters evaporated quickly. I was a big fan of 'Pig & Pinot Fridays' at Vidalia when I lived in DC. Bacon chocolate chip cookies with sweet onion- bacon ice cream, pig tail croquettes, shaved pig reuben, shoat head-like to see more pig courses at LTO, please!

              1. re: Miami Danny

                You should visit Manhattan! If there's anything we don't need is more pork belly/bacon/etc dishes on menus.

                1. re: kathryn

                  I live in NY. And I wasn't suggesting that we need more pork products on menus here. I was recounting experiences of great food prepared by this chef. His LTONYC menu definitely does not focus on pig products. Neither do the fantastic cocktails, of which I tried several, possibly all, last night.

            2. re: deepfry7

              Glad to hear you had a much better experience, deepfry7! We would have been absolutely fine with a four hour meal, but at the rate we were going it looked as though our meal would likely have run over 6 hours - fine if you're really enjoying the food the wine and the experience, but an eternity when you're doing so much waiting and so little eating. A yelp reviewer from the first night had a similar experience to ours, unfortunately.

              1. re: slcorlis

                Looking to hear more about people's experiences as the week goes on...

                I've made reservations for May 7 for our anniversary and got greedy and booked the 24 course. Last time we did that at Alinea it was way too long for my wife's taste. Hope I don't get in the doghouse on this one!

                1. re: slcorlis

                  Yea, 4 hours was already too long for me. I can't imagine sitting down anywhere for 6 (I can barely do that at work). I would have been upset at your experience as well and might have done the same thing. Glad they didn't accept payment - was the classy thing to do.

                  I happened to do Alinea a couple of weeks ago and that was "only" 3.5. I hope they hit their stride and do the 24-courser in 3 or 3.5. A lot of their stuff is one or two bites, but very tasty stuff.

                  1. re: deepfry7

                    I'm hoping it's only 3 or 3.5 hours tonight. Glad I have an early reservation.

                    1. re: deepfry7

                      "I can't imagine sitting down anywhere for 6 (I can barely do that at work)."

                      Two years ago, at my birthday dinner at EMP, there were six of us, and we were there for 7 hours (seated at 7 p.m.; departed at 2 a.m.) When our son-in-law told his sister, she quipped, "In that time, you could have flown to Europe!" LOL


                  2. re: deepfry7

                    stupid sounding, but serious question - how comfortable is the seating/is it fairly standard?

                    1. re: cellardoor

                      The 2-tops are a standard table with nice chairs (no table cloth). The 4-tops are most likely sitting in booths. The decor is really nice, for a pop-up. We were impressed.

                      1. re: deepfry7

                        thanks for the info. just to clarify, I was checking more on the comfort level of the seating than decor quality, since slcorlis' experience made me a bit nervous.

                        I'm assuming decor, etc, need to be at a higher level, given that this is a sequential popup - on balance, each new chef isn't going to completely revamp the decor I'd think...

                        1. re: cellardoor

                          Seating was comfortable. I thought the chairs for the 2-top were fine. I personally don't like sitting in booths for fine dining, but I would imagine it's comfortable as well.

                          You're correct - I believe the decor is at a high level for the other chefs to come.

                      2. re: cellardoor

                        We were one of the unfortunate 4-tops stuck in the center of the room at two 2-top tables pushed together. It was fine, but the entire time we were there the two big booths behind us sat empty (8:20-9:45 or so), and it might have been nice to have the extra room to spread out that they would have afforded us. The chairs were perfectly comfortable, though certainly not plush.

                      3. re: deepfry7

                        overheard the large 16+ party was the woman who is the President of the James Beard Foundation.

                    2. In the middle of dinner tonight, and so far pacing is very quick. Everything is delicious. Service is very attentive and friendly. Non-alcoholic beverage pairings are very good. Looks like opening night problems are behind them. So far all of the dishes are one or two bites. I wish them and Chef Cooper much success. Looks to be a 3 hour dinner (maybe even less). I'm having the 24 course dinner.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ellenost

                        Turbot (course #14) is a very generous size portion-definitely at least 6 bites, and excellent. Pain Perdu with cream and Bacon is exquisite. Quail with rhubarb is a good size portion and also very good. Lamb (medium rare) with peanuts is excellent. Continue to be very happy. Two hours and have completed 16 courses.

                        1. re: ellenost

                          Wagyu brisket with morels and potato is one of my favorites. Heading into dessert.

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Posting contemporaneously feels incredibly and utterly out of character for me, but that.s peer pressure for you/inspired by ellenost, i suppose :P [so much for just say no...]

                            Agreed re pacing for sure. Agreed overall re service, though there were a bunch of minor but crossed wires early on wrt small random things like the fact that I -did- want the nonalcoholic pairing and so on. Hardly unexpected given the fact that they've only been open for a few days tho

                            Food so far is quite good, again w 1 or 2 exceptions that tended to be from early on in service, and some the simplest/least value additive/literally smallest courses (fortunately?). The more interesting/complex/larger items seem progressively more successful

                            Can I ask what seating time you were?

                            1. re: cellardoor

                              My reservation was for 6:30, but I was seated earlier. 3 hours for 24 excellent courses. Hope more people give LTO a try. Chef Cooper's food is excellent.

                              1. re: ellenost

                                Very glad you enjoyed, ellenost. Yea, actually, the turbot was good, with the white roe, I believe. Thought the trout (#10) was just OK. Thought the langoustine (#7) was delicious, except it was a tad overcooked.