Courtesy of Union Square Hospitality Group
Last week I went to a packed screening in New York of Roger Sherman's new documentary about Danny Meyer, The Restaurateur. It's new in that Roger edited it and did follow-up interviews last year, but almost all of the footage was shot in 1998 and 1999, when the Union Square Hospitality Group was building two restaurants at the same time, Eleven Madison Park and Tabla.
I'll have more to say about the movie when the DVD is released, on March 29 (more, that is, than what everyone first remarked, "Tom Colicchio with hair!"). But what was most striking about the evening was the long Q&A afterward between Roger and Danny (I call them by their first names because I know them, and they're Food Channel contributors!).
The first matter to discuss was the painful, recent closing of Tabla, the last night of which was December 30, after more than 12 years. In the movie, Danny says that he's never had to close a restaurant and hopes never to. A large part of it is about his admiration of Floyd Cardoz, the classically trained chef, who is shown cooking at home in an unnamed suburb as the team thinks of what the new menu should be. The Tabla artwork, elaborate mosaic installations on walls and around the oculus, or circular stairwell hole that looks from second floor of the two-story restaurant to the first, is shown in construction. Tabla was ambitious from the start, with a luxe menu upstairs and a more casual "bread bar" below; the food had much of Cardoz's classical French training, with an emphasis more on Indian spices than Indian dishes.