One Vanderbilt and Daniel Boulud Aim to Bring Back Midtown Diners

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Just 17% of Midtown Manhattan’s workers have returned to their desks, according to Kastle Systems, which measures the number of employees who swipe security cards to enter offices. But a star chef is betting he can fill up the soaring dining room that’s coming to the neighborhood.

On May 20, Daniel Boulud will open Le Pavillon to the public. The restaurant stands high above the traffic on 42 Street, next to Grand Central Terminal. It occupies the second floor of the new 1,400-foot-tall office tower One Vanderbilt, where notable tenants include SL Green Realty Corp., which moved its headquarters to the building, as well as TD Bank and TD Securities Inc.

One Vanderbilt and Daniel Boulud Aim to Bring Back Midtown Diners

The 11,000-square-foot restaurant is dominated by plants, including a line of 20-foot-high olive trees. Their installation caused traffic to be stopped on 42nd Street so they could be transported by crane to the space, where crested pools of water have been built into the transfer beams to support them. “The restaurant cost less than 1 percent of the building [$3.3 billion], so I feel OK about it,” says Boulud. 

One Vanderbilt and Daniel Boulud Aim to Bring Back Midtown Diners

In keeping with the current trend of downplaying meat on menus—see Eleven Madison Park’s vegan makeover—Boulud’s cooking will focus on seafood and vegetables. His signature starter is Oysters Vanderbilt—a riff on the Rockefeller classic, with a vibrant chowder underneath the oysters and a hazelnut-parsley crust baked on top. The dish pays homage to the building and Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose master plan made  neighboring Grand Central possible. 

The de facto fish crudo is made with local fluke, cured with citrus, and then bathed in a fragrant botanical gin and tonic sauce. Boulud and the restaurant’s executive chefs, Michael Balboni and William Nacev, also go big on avocado, grilling till it’s a bit smoky and accenting it with green goddess dressing. The vegetarian girella pasta is presented as an exquisite roll stuffed with morel mushrooms and accented with nutty comte cheese sauce.

One Vanderbilt and Daniel Boulud Aim to Bring Back Midtown Diners

Only a few meat entrees will appear on the menu, including grilled lamb chops with oregano jus and beef au poivre, served as either a grilled strip loin for one or cote de boeuf for two.

The three-course prix fixe is $125. In the almost 40 years that Boulud has been cooking, it’s the first establishment that does not include some part of his name.

One Vanderbilt and Daniel Boulud Aim to Bring Back Midtown Diners

The dining room seats about 120 in a space that jettisons the classic white table cloths of fine dining. Instead, the tables are covered with an earth-toned cloth and nestled amid dogwood in a way that evokes your own private island. The bar, with views of Grand Central and the Chrysler Building, seats 46. “I’ve always wanted to work on 42nd Street,” jokes Boulud.

One Vanderbilt and Daniel Boulud Aim to Bring Back Midtown Diners

Eventually, there will be a Skybox like the jewel box-sized, glass-enclosed dining room that seats four and doubles as the chef’s office overlooking the kitchen at Daniel, the Upper East Side flagship. There, the space is accessible by ladder; at Le Pavillon, a staircase will lead to a more modern-styled Skybox, slated to seat four, too.

Boulud is also introducing a bar menu for customers who have a train to catch and lack time for a three-course meal.

Le Pavillon will be open only for dinner to start. The team anticipates the return of the Midtown power lunch in September, when they’ll introduce breakfast and lunch.

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