BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING - 2004
Restaurant Levain. Opened with big plans--five-star cooking in the neighborhood. But you know how it goes with the best-laid plans of mice and Levain... Started life with a big-name maître d', but lost him before the paint on the sign out front had time to dry. Built its reputation on a big-name chef, paired a big-name sous--but that was yesterday, now it seems so far away. They left. Opened with no wine license at all--call it five-star dining, Mormon-style. Swapped that out for some jug-wine-tasting house-pours. Ditched that in favor of a wretched wine list. At the prices they were charging, an evening at Levain was less like dinner out, and more like the week that things go sour with the contractors renovating the kitchen. You wanted this, sure, but you didn't want it to cost this much, to take this long... But wait! What light over yonder window breaks? Why, they've brought Steven Brown on board to head the kitchen. Steven Brown the charismatic and charming. Steven Brown the kitchen-magician who can transform mere canned tomatoes into something that makes you want to leap out of your chair into a flight of interpretive dance. Steven Brown the conjurer of gnocchi that threaten to float up to the ceiling like bubbles from a wand, so buoyant are they. Steven Brown. They put the one thing in Restaurant Levain that could convince us to brave these deep waters again. But if you'd pick up the check, we'd be much obliged.