One of the criteria for a New York Times restaurant review is the place in question has to have been open for three months. Theoretically, this allows the restaurant time to work out kinks and to see what works and what doesn't. Tweaks are generally made more easily at thirty-seaters versus restaurants with 150 seats that are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And while Lafayette opened on Monday, April 15th, the solitary star from Pete Wells this week was not due to inexperience.
Andrew Carmellini is a master in the kitchen. For proof, one need only venture to Locanda Verde in Tribeca or The Dutch in SoHo, where the chef displays his proficiency in Italian and American cooking, respectively. Having worked under Gary Kunz at Laspanisse and then for Daniel Boulud for six years, Lafayette is a return to Carmellini's French roots. It shows in (most of) the food, but the restaurant falls short in execution and service.
"Nobody seems to have helped the servers pronounce simple French words on the menu. Specials weren’t mentioned until I asked," Wells writes, "And a menu change (trout in place of dorade) wasn’t disclosed until I ordered it."
"As for the food," the critic writes, "There are salads and charcuterie and oysters and shoestring fries. Almost all of it is worthy, but very little seduces you. Lafayette wants you to fall in love with it, but it tries too hard in some ways and not hard enough in others."
Single star reviews are a surprise when they're attached to ambitious restaurants run by extremely talented, respected, and established chefs. But the less than favorable reviews won't keep people out of the restaurants. If anything, they serve as a ruler and leave the staff on the receiving end with sore knuckles. Service and/or food will be improved upon, the pain will subside, and people will continue to wake up hungry. [NYTimes]