Up from Iridium

Wanna feel like a rube? Walk into the P.J. Clarke’s across from Lincoln Center around 10 and ask for a table. The host will smugly inform you that “the kitchen will only be open another three hours.” What he clearly didn’t realize when four of us dragged in out of the brutal cold was how often we have been turned away by Manhattan restaurants at the same hour in the last year. Not in Kansas anymore, my ass. But we were so happy to be welcomed at all that we sat down and I tried not to consider how much the place looked like one pane in a hall of mirrors. Eight years into a fresh century, why were we in a newish bar that could be either the Ginger Man or T.G.I.Fridays? But our friend’s recounting having shot the original for New York magazine back in the day did inspire me to pull down the first Britchky collection I ever bought, from 1980-81, to revel in his takedown of the prototype. Steak tartare was “spread across the bottom of dog bowls,” salmon “should have been poached sooner or caught later,” steaks “needed salt and pepper the way a peanut butter and jelly sandwich needs peanut butter and jelly,” and all of it was dispensed from “what looks like a small prison kitchen.” Could there have been a less likely candidate for cloning?