Back story: The first restaurant to open in the Beekman hotel, inside grand old 5 Beekman, is Tom Colicchio’s Fowler & Wells. From Eater: “It’s named after a couple of phrenologists—or pseudoscientists who studied the shape of the head as a basis for personality traits—who used to work in the building, Colicchio says, and it’s just one aspect of the restaurant that’s inspired by the property’s history. The food, too, will be inspired by the past. Fowler and Wells’s menu will feature classic New York dishes that were popular at the turn of the century, with specials like lobster Thermidor and beef Wellington.” After going out on his own with Craft, Colicchio opened the Craft-related concepts Craftbar, CraftSteak (Las Vegas), the Wichcraft chain, and BeachCraft (Miami Beach), as well as Riverpark, Colicchio & Sons, and Heritage Steak. And he’s probably most famous for being a judge on “Top Chef.”
The atmosphere: Long with high ceilings, the room makes a swell first impression, and the decor is certainly genteel, with chargers, cut-glass stemware, tabletop lamps, smoked mirrors, and stained-glass faux windows. It holds together better if you don’t linger too long on any one detail, and even better if you don’t look up at the mottled HVAC duct. The lighting is flattering—and I rarely think that—and the night Adam and I were there, noise was not a concern. (The popular lounge in the adjacent atrium is another story.)
The menu: I’d call it Frenchified New American: Beyond the oysters Rockefeller and baked Alaska, there was little of the ye olde New York touted before the opening. (No complaints about that.) Prices reflect the ambitions of the decor: $17-$27 for appetizers, $28-$45 for entrées. Adam ordered the lobster salad and the black bass; I had the chestnut agnolotti and the scallops. And we split that pretty baked Alaska.
Gold star: In a marvelous touch—I’ve been ranting about this for years!—the menu states that food items will be 15% off during the “preview period.”
Room for improvement: That 15% discount ($20 in our case) buys the restaurant wiggle room on the food or the service, but not both. Let’s apply it to the service, which will hopefully improve, and leave it at this: As at so many new restaurants, the management was polished, and our server got the job done, but things went awry farther down the chain of command. As for the food…. Colicchio is famous for knowing how to extract flavor from an ingredient—when you ordered broccoli rabe or short ribs at Craft, you tasted broccoli rabe or short ribs. Everything we had at Fowler & Wells looked great but lacked that punch of flavor—even the truffles and the baked Alaska.
Anything else? The lovely lighting was not ideal for taking photographs of the room or, even more so, the food. The only picture I found online of a dish we ordered, the chestnut agnolotti, was by Bloomberg Pursuits food editor Kate Krader: Compare her photo and mine to see what a difference good lighting makes (and how you get a lot more truffles if you’re important). Below: Tom Colicchio‘s shot of the marinated fluke with radishes and finger limes.
Contact: Fowler & Wells is inside the Beekman hotel, 5 Beekman (at Nassau), 212-658-1848; fowlerandwells.com. It appears to be open for breakfast, too, judging from this photo, which I took through the window the following morning.
Recent New Kid on the Block / First Impressions articles:
• Skin Laundry
• Alexander and Bonin
• Harold’s Meat + Three
• Pixel Academy
• Pho King
• Rag & Bone