By John Barrera
When I heard the restaurant at the new Whitney Museum was called “Untitled,” my first thought was that they must not have come up with a name that they’re happy with yet. I know how stressful restaurant openings can be, and thought the name wasn’t that important. These thoughts were fleeting and couldn’t be further from reality. Truth is, the vision for this restaurant is as clear as the glass façade of this beautiful Renzo Piano building.
A few weeks later while dining again at Untitled, I had the good fortune of having Michael Anthony serve bread to my table. Knowing who he was, I was somewhat surprised to have the Chef/partner in Gramercy Tavern and Executive Chef of Untitled schlepping bread and butter. I started a conversation, we exchanged cards, and I received an email a few days later asking if I would be interested in meeting Michael for a cup of coffee.
When I told George Capsis I was meeting Michael for coffee, he asked if it would be possible to join us. I said “of course” and so we headed to Untitled. As I said, the vision for this restaurant is as clear as glass and Chef Michael communicates that vision with ease. He spoke of Danny Meyer’s philosophy of treating the employees as the first tenant in any new business endeavor he takes on. This shows! Go into any Union Square Hospitality property and there’s a relaxed easy feeling going on. It’s reflected in the food and the people serving. I’ve eaten at Untitled three or four times in high stress dinner hours, as well as in early hours and later hours when dinner is close to being over—and I always feel like I’m the most important person in the room.
The Food served at Untitled I can only describe as “clean.” There are no muddled favors or sauces confusing the diner about what they are eating. The message of the food is as clear as the panes of glass surrounding the restaurant. That message is to take the freshest ingredients we can find and combine them into a well-balanced dish of flavors and textures.
A good example of this is the Pole beans, calamari, and hazelnuts. At first glance I was skeptical, but The Chef said it was a dish he enjoyed putting together, so I tried it on one of my visits. The pole bean had a hint of acid and the calamari tasted so fresh I almost slapped it. The crunch of the hazelnuts gave needed texture, but what pulled the dish together for me was the dollop of piquillo pepper purée—the sweet heat of the pepper added umami to the dish.
My wife had the Artichoke fettuccine, Swiss chard, black olives, and tomatoes, which she enjoyed very much. She never offered me any, and I didn’t reach for any because the fork she was holding looked sharp. I was also impressed with the beverage staff. The times I’ve eaten there, I’ve asked Eduardo or Marion to pick out a wine to go with our meals—this made them both as giddy as I get after a Jets win. And every one of the wines chosen far exceeded my expectations.
Danny Meyer, Michael Anthony and their staff have the beginnings of a real Landmark. A magnificent building, a spectacular location, a great museum. It’s a great palette for Union Square Hospitality group to shine. After talking to Chef Michael and hearing the vision set forth, I think they’re up for the challenge.