Oceana’s sayonara to 54th Street was one of the most heartfelt soirees I’ve probably ever experienced, but I also have to say it was also the closest to a hostage situation I’ve been in in a good long while. It even featured what looked like a video of the victim just before the beheading. The accolades went on. And on. Luckily, the downstairs bartender had an Energizer aspect, and the kitchen kept the really sensational food coming as well. (Each of the three chefs responsible for consecutive three-star ratings did three mini-dishes.) Unfortunately, guests were the untrusting sort and were hoovering as fast as the stuff could be sent out. One snapped at a waiter that food was coming too slow upstairs; one waiter snapped at a guy who summoned him over with a full tray: “I’m trying to get these to people who haven’t had 12 already.” But it mostly felt like an end of two eras in one space. When I was in restaurant school, one outing was to the kitchen at what was then Le Cygne in a city where the only serious places were traditional French. And when RM first cooked at Oceana, we went for Bob’s birthday and had a blowaway meal. Lolling on a banquette in a room about to be abandoned, I could remember exactly where we sat and half of what we ate. My friend who had never eaten there found the space gloomy, but that would be like judging the hotel in “The Shining.”
Everyone’s moving west these days, and I wonder how that will play out. When I got home, I rode up in the elevator with neighbors just in from an anniversary dinner way downtown at a French restaurant who said: “There’s money out there. It’s just not seemly to show it.” Pizza is the new brioche.