Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The state of Empire

Last night I went to the Observer's real estate party at the Empire Hotel -- and even a jaded reporter like me was impressed.

The rooftop lounge is really quite spectacular; it's an glass enclosed deck that looks out on the city and is really lovely. (Fellas: If you don't mind being overcharged your date will be impressed -- mine was.)

Plus, the catering for the party was done in-house, and I learned after the fact that the restaurant is the work of none other than convicted felon, Jeffrey Chodorow.

Chodorow is one of those cats I can't help but have mixed feelings about. I generally hate his restaurants; they're usually dramatically overpriced with mediocre food. Frank Bruni was pretty much correct in his assessment of Kobe Club -- a friend of mine took his fiancee there for dinner and left because he thought the room was so scary. I, for one, didn't quite feel the need to flee -- but it really wasn't my speed at least in terms of decor.

That being said, I do think he's an interesting character. When I went to the restaurant in the Dominican Republic at the Maxim Bungalows when it was under the Chod's management (it no longer is) I was impressed. (Mostly.) Overall, the food was good. And the one party that I went to at Kobe Club the food wasn't terrible. (China Grill, on the other hand, I have many more problems with.)

Moreover, the one time I met Chod, he seemed like a pleasant enough guy. And when he entered into his huge feud with Bruni, I almost took Chod's side. Bruni isn't the greatest food critic in the world (at least for my money) and Chod's within his rights to say so. Moreover, Chodorow seemed to be acting out of genuine hurt. It's hard to fault somebody for being offended when someone tells them that they're unworthy, or incompetent, or whatever. Especially on something so dear to the heart.

But all that is back story...

The food at the Empire was, quite frankly, fantastic!

I didn't overdo too much because I had a dinner to go afterwards (see future entry), but they had these wonderful kobe beef sliders -- which tasted like they had soy sauce on them or something. But whatever it was, it worked.

The tempura shrimp was also pretty bad ass -- not too battered, nice sweet sauce.

And they had these mini-mozzarella and mushroom paninis. Awesome.

For health reasons I stayed away from the peanut butter and jelly foie gras (which sounded gross, anyway) and some sort of elaborate shrimp crab cake -- but the server swore to me that they were delicious. And she looked like a trustworthy person.

The long and short of all of this is: Check out the roof bar at the Empire. And while you're there, it won't hurt to order a snack or two.