Kitchen in the old Pop's space?
I haven't seen any reports about Kitchen in the old Pop's space since the end of July (though it's hard to find relevant threads by searching for a word as pervasive as "kitchen" on this board, so maybe I've missed something). Has anyone been recently, and what have your experiences been like?
My understanding is that Kitchen is owned by (or at least involves) the same folks as Marliave and Grotto (both of which I love) and is being run by the old manager from Pop's (which was one of my old stand-bys), but I have to admit that the concept behind Kitchen seems a bit gimmicky to me, so I'm a bit skeptical . . .
Scott Herritt of Grotto and Marliave is indeed the chef. The name is indeed a poor choice specifically because it makes searching for the place online very difficult. It is still owned by the owners of Pops.
The concept is a little gimmicky, but I've enjoyed most of the dishes I've had (I reviewed it for Stuff Magazine a couple of weeks ago), and I think the menu makes a lot more sense now that the weather is getting cooler. The lack of lighter dishes is going to be an issue for some. In this respect, I think it's a lot like Herritt's other restaurants. It will be interesting to see how the menu evolves over time.
Herritt is still the executive chef at all three, though he relies on lieutenants to run his kitchens on a day-to-day basis. I believe he has a limited partnership role at Kitchen, whereas he's chef/owner at the other two. He's been in Kitchen every night I've been there, obviously birthing the new baby with care. I still see him regularly at Marliave; I haven't been back to Grotto in a while (though I'm a fan).
I have faith that he can fine-tune the concept to be a winner. He had a very different, much higher-end concept for Marliave initially, but his timing / luck could not have been worse: I think it opened the week that Lehman Bros. failed. He tried to make a go of it for a few months before recognizing that the free-falling economy wouldn't support an $85 three-course prix fixe menu concept -- I'd also suggest the service wasn't polished enough to support the price point even in better times -- and retrenched Marliave to be much more affordable.
A remodeling of the second-floor bar/cafe to replace tables with the kind of big booths that Kitchen also features made it much more comfortable and appealing, too. Its patio is really pleasant, set in the quiet, sunny alley that is Bosworth Street, and has done brisk business in good weather. Marliave hung on to survive that grim period for the industry and seems to be doing pretty well to this day.
If too many people were to see Kitchen as a novelty concept that they wouldn't consider going back to regularly -- still a real risk, I think -- I expect he would tweak it similarly. He's a really good chef, and as important, a smart, pragmatic businessman.
The old Pops glass-topped bar on the left is gone, replaced by tables and big booths in the front section. Eight or nine seats along an L-shaped bar on the kitchen side, if memory serves, (which it often don't). The bartending is solid and leans a bit historical, much as at Marliave. The greenhouse section is pretty much what it was in terms of seating, but with less crowding. The sidewalk patio remains, too.