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It's time to say goodbye to one of our only celeb chef-led restaurants.
Last week we reported that David Chang was opening a new spot here next year and in the piece I wondered how he’d fare. I was concerned about this town’s fickle relationship with celebrity chefs and pointed out how much of a struggle Jean-Georges Vongerichten had with his spot in the Shangri-La.
Well, yesterday there was confirmation of said struggles: the Shangri-La announced that Market by Jean-Georges would close at the end of the year and that a new concept would reopen in April. The good news is that Shangri-La intends to retain all of the existing culinary talent, including executive chef Ken Nakano and chef de cuisine Alex Kim, as well as the front of house team.
It’s a funny thing: I’ve probably eaten there once or twice a year, mostly for lunch, for the past decade, and I don’t remember having a bad meal there. The service was always impeccable, the food solid (if consistently pricey). But I’d be lying if I said I’d miss the spot or don’t relish the idea of the team coming up with something new. I think the problem stemmed from the room’s dual mandates: on one side, you had the legendary inventiveness of Jean-Georges, and on the other the more locavore approach of Ken Nakano. The former was never really capitalized upon—no one would ever accuse the menu here of being a culinary high-wire act. It didn’t help that for most of its run Jean-Georges himself was a serious non-presence (I can’t recall him being in town more than once or twice). But his name was on the door, so I imagine Nakano was constrained by what he could do. My hope is that this plays out the same way the restaurant change at the Fairmont Pacific Rim did with the lacklustre Oru (I had to look up that name, btw) becoming the far more exciting Botanist.
For November, Market will offer a set menu that highlights some of the most beloved dishes from Jean-Georges and will close with a blow-out last night on New Year’s Eve. Tickets available here.