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Floating Rock question

Are they going to make it?

I drove past it last night on the bus around 8:30 and the place looked completely empty. I've also noticed that they've taken to handpainting signs on their windows (which looks horrible) and hyping things like cheap wings and DJs. It seems like a place grasping at straws, desperate to get people in the door, and probably failing.

Have hounds been going and/or seeing it busy?

I admittedly have not been in a long time. I detest the space (it's too cavernous and sterile) and think the beverage offerings are abysmal, so I don't dine in. I also have no interest in the nightclub scene they are trying to foster. And paying those prices for takeout seems like a really bad value to me, especially after a handful of inconsistent trips. I get my chile and fish sauce fixes elsewhere. With another asian restaurant/nightclub opening across the street soon, will they be able to attract the same crowds they are now?

I hope I'm wrong, and that my observations are off, but they strike me as one of the places that should be added to the discussion of Kitchen Nightmares (even though Ramsey's unlucky touch would likely doom them). They need changes (I think) or they could be gone in a year. It would be sad to see them go, but it's also sad to have a place nearby that I just never want to visit.

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  1. I was very excited for their move to Cambridge. But then the combination of the long lag before opening, the reduced menu (in combo with higher prices, not unexpected given the change in real estate), and the weird nightclub vibe they seemed to be culturing made me cross it off my list. Sorry, but if you cross off half the menu and start hawking tiki drinks and DJs, that's what happens. Had I not known it in Revere I might not have stuck my nose up at the new place.

    I guess I like my restaurants to be holes-in-the-walls if possible--it make me feel like every effort gets concentrated on the plate. It's almost magical when a dumpy little place pumps out awesome food. When you gentrify a restaurant, it seems to lose something (even if it doesn't). I feel bad as I realize that this is a poor way to evaluate a restaurant on its merits, but I'm only human!

    2 Replies
    1. re: emannths

      I totally agree with you. I was so excited and then so letdown. If you are going to go upscale, you have to do it right. Building out the most boring decor imaginable, raising the prices, going more crowd-pleasing, and then making horrible decisions on drinks and a nightclub scene is just not the way to do it. There is a place in Portland, ME that I think does the more upscale approach well - Boda Thai.

      There is something awesome about going to a small place, dropping $20 or less and getting awesome food. Spending $40pp in a crappy, but grander room with that same food just sucks.

      1. re: emannths

        Which is why we love Mary Chung's. Hole in the wall, great food.

      2. I agree with both of you.

        All that DJ oriented promotion has kept me away too. I don't want to get there and find out they are now more club than restaurant. It has also kept me from getting a group of friend together to try it.

        That public persona makes it a place that certainly doesn't want me as a customer. And, that's a shame because the food was so good and I was so happy when it first opened.

        Someone on their team decided that food lovers where not what they wanted at this new place.


        1. < It seems like a place grasping at straws, desperate to get people in the door, and probably failing. > Funny that you posted this, I was thinking the same thing yesterday when I walked by and saw three tables with people (aroud 6pm). I haven't noticed if it is any different during lunch, but I've never seen it packed at dinner. It doesn't help that there is Monkfish (small, but usually packed) and soon Moska(?) (though their seriously delayed opening is already turning me off) across the street. We enjoyed our one meal there, but I don't think that I will go back unless there is another Groupon/buy with me/etc. deal. And after reading about it on Chowhound I wish that I was able to make it to the original location before their move.

          1. I agree with everything so far, but the curry pork with fish sauce is still pretty amazing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mkfisher

              Yeah, it is. But it also seems like a dish that takes a good recipe, rather than any serious cooking skill, and very low cost items, to make. For $19, if I am getting it takeout? Ouch.

            2. For me, bottom line is $16 for Tiger's Tears had better be great, and it's just average at best. Don't know about the lineage of the place - never went to FR when it was in Revere - but just seems sort of average food.

              Couple that with experiencing badly made drinks and I haven't been back.

              Granted, maybe as a hound, I am not in their target demographic with the DJ stuff.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                The Myers + Chang Tiger's Tear salad is $11 and I vaguely remember someone giving it a positive review. And my BF had one somewhere else in Central Square (Green St or River Gods?) that he enjoyed more than the one at FR. So in other words, they aren't the only one in town that can supply a good Tiger's Tear.

              2. With Moksa opening up, the general clientele seeking "Asian food" will have another option, with (seemingly) better value on small plates, better cocktails, celebra-chef status, and an enormous room for nightclubbing. It's an admirable family restaurant story .... that may have a bad ending. Kinda sad. It was one of those legendarily celebrated chowhound restaurants back in the day.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Nab

                  i agree... its a sad tale for the family. But after one visit that was solidly meh i had no reason to return. Good news is the replacement resto thmor dat is just as good as floating rock used to be.

                  1. re: yumyum

                    Not sure about just as good. My squid salad a few months back was sadly lacking. Not bad, but FR's was extraordinary.

                    1. re: Aromatherapy

                      Well crap! I've only been a handful of times and I always get the same things, but they've been consistently very good. Hmmmmm.

                2. They've been doing the handpainted signs & appealing to the younger party crowd for a long time now.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: jgg13

                    Right, and there's no indication that it is working, right?

                    1. re: DoubleMan

                      Wouldn't know, I haven't been back since a couple of days after they opened. :)

                      I was really looking forward to it too - I'd always heard great things about the original and here it was opening right in my 'hood. Went there and had an awful experience. I'm not typically one to judge a place during opening jitters, but nothing I've read or witnessed since then has made me even remotely curious to go back.

                      1. re: DoubleMan

                        Lower the prices by a few dollars and offer takeout/delivery. Maybe they will get more of the younger crowd in. And you would think that with the music venues and theatre right there that they could make out better if they offered a "pre" or "post" menu.

                        1. re: viperlush

                          Agreed. I've gotten one really good take-out meal and one decidedly meh. At those prices, I'm not likely to return. If the prices were a few dollars lower I'd give it another shot.

                          1. re: bear

                            The price point heavily biases my opinion. My understanding of the original was that it was a cheap hole in the wall. I remember dinner for two (albeit a large dinner) running around $50. For that much money there are a lot of places I'd rather go, and that ignores the "atmosphere" issue.

                          2. re: viperlush

                            If they feel like the need those prices to make money, maybe they should go the small plates route to at least try to mitigate sticker shock. People aren't too familiar with Cambodian food anyway--they'd probably enjoy the opportunity to try new things.

                            If they could open a food truck closer to Harvard or MIT, that might help too. They've already got the kitchen--just offer a small portion of Tiger Tears and a curry-like dish with a big pile of rice for $6-7. Give out a coupon for $1 off dinner. But what do I know--maybe they're not hurting at all.

                            And get rid of the DJ. ;-)

                            1. re: viperlush

                              Yes. Have things top out at like $13-14. Also, they should fire their "mixologist" and just serve some classic drinks and/or copy some ones from around the city, get some better bottled beers, and redo the wine list (they really don't need 15 reds of almost the exact same style). A tougher challenge is the huge room, but if the place was full, that would help.

                              Hang the DJ.

                          3. i miss the old floating rock

                            1. We've gone a couple of times and it's been delicious. Given, we had groupon kind of things, and probably wouldn't have gone otherwise at that price.

                              The table next to us with Cambodian grad students were eating a tasty-looking dish that they told us to order, which we'd never have done as it was listed on the menu simply as "beef stew".

                              My preschooler loves the satay, tiger's tears weren't hot enough the first visit, but the second visit we knew how to order it. Amok was nice, too.

                              If the prices were lower, I'd go there more. Not my favorite kind of decor, but there wasn't any kind of club vibe at all, just spacious tables and a bland moderny design. I don't think there's any reason to be reverse snobby about it. The servers were very sweet and great with our kids and it felt homey.

                              1. When they first opened up I thought the Tiger Tears and a few other basic items were really good. Recently though the quality has gone down so dramatically that I have stopped eating there. I was late to the party and only was able to eat there twice in Revere, but it is really disappointing they have gone in the direction they have recently.

                                1. Not a good sign. This is on the agenda for this week's City Council meeting.

                                  IN CITY COUNCIL
                                  February 13, 2012
                                  COUNCILLOR SIMMONS

                                  WHEREAS: Since the Floating Rock Restaurant has opened for business in
                                  Central Square in the past year, it has quickly worked to become a
                                  valued and conscientious member of the Cambridge community; and

                                  WHEREAS: The Floating Rock has proven itself thus by supporting the Red
                                  Ribbon Committee, Room to Read, and by joining the Central Square
                                  Business Association; and

                                  WHEREAS: The Floating Rock has also contributed to the valued diversity
                                  that exists within Central Square; and

                                  WHEREAS: The Commonwealth has weathered the recent recession better
                                  than many other areas, yet the economy has nevertheless been a factor in
                                  the Floating Rock's difficulty in establishing itself on firm economic
                                  footing, and this has necessitated their looking to partner with Yoki
                                  Japanese Cuisine and Sushi, to bolster their business; and

                                  WHEREAS: Just Mass LLC, the landlord for the Floating Rock, had
                                  initially been notified of this proposed merger between the Floating
                                  Rock and Yoki Japanese Cuisine and Sushi, and had expressed support for
                                  this merger. The intended merger would be helpful to both businesses,
                                  and would hopefully enable the Floating Rock to stabilize their finances
                                  and become a reliably profitable tenant for Just Mass LLC; and


                                  Just Mass LLC has subsequently withdrawn their support for this merger,
                                  and has now stated they would prefer to evict the Floating Rock and rent
                                  the space to a chain restaurant instead. Such a move would go against
                                  the community's preference for supporting local small business owners
                                  and greater diversity in our local offerings; now therefore be it


                                  That the City Council urges the Community Development Department to work
                                  with the Floating Rock and their landlord Just Mass LLC toward finding
                                  an equitable compromise that would be fair to both parties, and that
                                  would allow the Floating Rock to remain in operation in Central Square.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: DoubleMan

                                    That's bullshit. They would prefer to evict a current tenant so that they can rent to a chain?

                                    1. re: viperlush

                                      I agree. That's the last thing I want to see in Central.

                                      1. re: DoubleMan

                                        No the last thing that I want to see is another bank. This "chain" is probably another DD or Starbucks.

                                        1. re: viperlush

                                          It's an awful big space for DD or Charbucks.

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            The way that DD is expanding their menu w/the various lunch options I wouldn't put it pass them. And have you seen the size of the newest Starbuck in Harvard Square?

                                    2. re: DoubleMan

                                      ...edit...Floating Rock's complete lack of resemblance to it's original location (menu, price, quality) and general suckitude has nevertheless been the primary factor in the Floating Rock's difficulty in establishing itself on firm economic footing during a time when several new restaurants are thriving in the immediate area...

                                      1. re: Gabatta

                                        Exactly! Loved them when they were in Revere; went to the Cambridge one one time and will never return as I saw zero resemblance to the food I'd enjoyed so thoroughly in the original locale.

                                        1. re: Gabatta

                                          I can see why it is keeping the old customers away but it doesn't really explain why they haven't attracted new. I suspect that is because it's a lot larger than Monkfish so with the same # of diners, but it appears empty while Monkfish looks packed. And price wise it is higher than other place "ethnic" places in Central. But as someone who never made it to the original location I wouldn't notice the difference in the food (which I truly enjoyed) and the service. It was really the price and "night club" atmosphere that they are going for that have turned me off.

                                      2. And it's done. Even though I didn't like the place, this is still very sad to see. It was just the wrong concept, approach, space, and rent levels. I hope that a tasty independent place can take over the space. F those landlords if they bring in a chain.

                                        Via facebook:
                                        The Floating Rock Restaurant
                                        The Floating Rock will be closing its doors tonight for good. Come on down for your last chance to get the amazing home cookin you just can't get anywhere else!!

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: DoubleMan

                                          "get the amazing home cookin you just can't get anywhere else"

                                          Maybe if they took this approach from day 1 they would have done better.

                                          1. re: emannths

                                            Agreed. It should have been all about the food, not DJs and other bullshit.

                                            1. re: DoubleMan

                                              < I hope that a tasty independent place can take over the space. F those landlords if they bring in a chain.>
                                              Not to start any rumors/ jump the gun, but I'm predicted an Upper Crust. Don't know why, it's a gut feeling because Central is lacking in the non traditional (or even good traditional) pizza department (unlike Harvard, Inman, and Kendall). And I don't see one of the national chains in Central (did I just jinx us?).

                                              1. From FR's Facebook page today: "Floating Rock is currently seeking a new location and will update everyone as soon as we have more information."

                                                Hopefully when they re-open they get back to the same principles that made them great at the original location.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Matt H

                                                  I'm saddened by the news of the closing but not surprised. I thouht the young woman who started it was enthusiastic and did a wonderful job with the original. I think she just got in over her head with the larger space /higher rent made it a tough go.I also think that restaurants that also try to benight clubs are rarely successful at both. I made 1 visit to Central Sq vs probably 30-40 trips to the original and Thmor Dat.

                                                  re Tiger Tears, M & C does a good version but I've found I had to work too hard o get the heat. MC's is more of a salad with beef. Thmor Dat is more of a beef dish MC uses better meat. Cost wise, factoring in 4 T rides for Revere vs walking to MC makes them pretty close.

                                                  As to FR seeking a new location, I'd loveto see them in CTown for purely selfish reason..:) I imagine a ton of $ was lost here and want to wish the owner the best of luck.

                                                2. This is an old story, isn't it? Beloved place moves to a higher-traffic neighborhood, assumes much higher carrying costs, decides to change (usually by dumbing down) its formula in hopes of filling the larger number of seats in its shinier new home. Loses its old fans, getting a lot of bad word-of-mouth in the process, and doesn't do something compelling enough to build a new base. Failure inside of a year is the usual result.

                                                  Salamander springs immediately to mind. Geoffrey's when it moved to Back Bay. Cornucopia when it moved from West Street to the Waterfront. Sage. Bluestone Bistro (South End) morphing into Althea. Olives (except it refuses to die). Those are all higher-end, obviously; I wonder if folks can remember more modest, traditional places that also killed the golden goose this way.


                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    MC, I LOVED both locations of Cornucopia (& the food didn't seem to suffer with the move) - & it did seem to do pretty good business at the waterfront location. Not sure what went wrong there. I just didn't feel the same way about Salamander - it felt like something was missing at the Boston location.

                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        Don't forget usually having to raise prices to support higher rent and/or labor costs, thereby asking fans and newbies to pay more for said dumbed down food.

                                                        The two times I've tried Floating Rock (Lowell unfortunately, isn't commuter friendly for those on the south shore with no car), the value was not there. $30 for a decent entree and a terrible appetizer alone; prices I would expect at a fairly nice sit down restaurant and certainly for a much better consistent quality of food.