Seen & Heard: China Blue Is Not Quite Ready

361 Broadway••• Something is happening at the storefront at 361 Broadway, the pretty landmark getting converted to condos. The partitioning—not very visible in the photo above—makes it looks more like bank (or office) than retail.

••• China Blue really botched its opening night. (I try to avoid going to restaurants so soon after opening, but last night was the only chance I could get there before leaving town.) I showed up right on time for my 8:30 reservation, having walked 20 minutes in 25-degree weather, but the hostess, when she arrived at the podium, wouldn’t even look at me. Finally, I asked if I could check in, and she hemmed and hawed. I explained that I had a reservation, and she said she didn’t know, they didn’t have enough staff, they had had a lot of walk-ins…. “Why would you seat walk-ins when you have reservations?” I asked, pointlessly. “Why did you take the reservations in the first place?” She said I should wait at the bar and she’d try to find out if they’d be able to honor my reservation. Then a patron, on her way out, said that she had waited at a table for 90 minutes, never even getting to order. So I bailed, too. Then I got this from C.: “We went tonight but despite the promotions (you, the NY Times and the signs on their doors), they said that tonight—and the next few nights—are friends and family only. To their credit, they said that the kitchen was running slow and that we shouldn’t consider eating there. They stated that the ‘grand opening’ is Monday but I don’t get the sense that they’ll be ready by then.” I look forward to trying it, but I’d give it at least two weeks; the ineptitude and awkwardness was that bad. Also, the restaurant should really play music—the atmosphere was eerie to the point of Lynchian. Update: Was that too harsh? Maybe I should’ve said to give it a few days. If anyone does go, please file a report on it.

••• The barista at Box Kite Coffee asked if I could recommend anywhere in Manhattan that felt like old New York and not scrubbed and bourgie, “with bonus points if it’s around here.” I was stumped. The Clocktower Gallery came to mind, but that has closed. Any suggestions for her?

••• Keanu Reeves flick John Wick is back in the hood on Sunday—signs are posted around Chambers and Reade.

••• The New York RoadRunners Half-Marathon popped up on the agenda for Monday’s CB1 Quality of Life Committee meeting; guess it’s back. And this was added to Tuesday’s CB1 Seaport/Civic Center meeting: “South Street Seaport/Uplands Area, application for liquor license for Supercraft Group LLC.” Anyone know anything?

••• A reader offered some clarification about why Franklin Place is being built the way it is: “When the project was originally designed 7 years ago, by splitting the building into two it made it a ‘modification’ instead of a total tear-down. Thus, avoiding ‘red-tape.’ I don’t know how this works but since then several other people have told me the same thing. I also know that for both projects (new and old) that the plan was always to go up to about half way (they are at 10 floors now), then demolition the front, then build up front floors to match, and then finish all remaining floors (I think they are going 20 stories up) together.”

••• I was crossing W. Broadway today—mid-block, because I’m very busy—and I noticed that the Department of Transportation has forced the street down to two lanes just south of Chambers, before opening it up to three again at Warren. It seems especially odd, seeing as how people often double-park outside the Smyth. Maybe it’s just for the duration of the construction?

WBway at Chambers

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  1. I have no affiliation with either China Blue or with the restaurant business in general, but being piqued because of bad service during a soft opening is uncalled for, not just by you, but by the people who complained to you. its called “friends and family” precisely because those people will be not just tolerant of bad food and service, but also give the owners constructive feedback, without undue bad publicity.

    Eric, you could have just said “China Blue is going through a soft opening. If you decide to try a reservation or walk-in, be prepared and be gentle.”

  2. @China Doll: There was never any mention of a “soft opening” or “friends-and-family period” in the restaurant’s promotion of its opening (including in the sign on its door), nor when I called to reserve a few days ago. There was no mention of it when I showed up last night — only C. got that explanation. And while I’m prepared to put up with wonky service or a slow kitchen during the first few days of a restaurant’s opening, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they honor a reservation, especially on a Thursday in the busy holiday season. And if that’s not possible, for whatever reason, then they should figure out how to get that message across in a way that is, at the very least, apologetic. Because there was never even an apology.

    “Be prepared and be gentle” sounds nice, but it doesn’t remotely get across the sheer inability of the restaurant to function last night.

  3. If it were a friends and family only opening, why did the restaurant bother booking a random reservation? Or why didn’t the obviously incompetent hostess apologize and explain this to Erik? Those are a few of the obvious questions @Chinadoll could have asked instead of being a shill for an opening that likely just went wrong.

  4. Out of the three restaurant goers (out of, what, a hundred?) mentioned in the “story,” we have one woman C who was told it was a soft opening, Erik who was not told it was a soft opening, and one woman who we aren’t told whether she knew or not, only that she waited 90 minutes for a table. Given that it was already 830, we’re asked to believe that this last woman had been there since 7PM? Who goes to dinner in Tribeca at 7PM? Tourists. She was probably pissed and she made as damning a statement as she could. So we have three eyewitness accounts, and a restaurant full of other people who may have had a different experience.

    Erik got his feelings hurt by a hostess (a HOSTESS!), so he turned around and interpreted everything in the worst possible way, and published it his neighbors.

    So this has nothing to do with being a shill. Maybe the hostess’s treatment of Erik is a harbinger of another #fail. But like so many articles in TC, it just seems punitive.

  5. @ China Doll … sure sounds like you are affiliated with the restaurant.

  6. RE: the barista at Box Kite Coffee — try The Dream House over South’s.