Ask any New Yorker and they’ll tell you, Times Square is for tourists. The reputation is well-earned. The five-block stretch of Midtown Manhattan is filled with the sorts of chains you can find anywhere else on Earth. You’ve got your Olive Garden, your Applebee’s, even an M&M Store. Into this predictable landscape arrives The Times Square EDITION, a newly-minted luxury boutique that’s eager to shake up the scene. Beyond the sleek lodging, offered at the ‘Crossroads of the World’, EDITION looks to assert itself as a serious food and beverage destination for visitors and locals, alike. Here’s what that means, from the folks that are making it happen.
Anchoring the area’s first luxury property are four outposts for dining, drinking, and nightlife: The Lobby Bar, with its laid back vibe and cream-colored furnishings; The Terrace and Outdoor Gardens, an all-day brasserie with chophouse influence; the emerald and velvet-appointed 701West–a fine-dining concept; and Paradise Club, a modern-day cabaret. All concepts are helmed by famed restaurateur and Michelin-starred chef John Fraser.
“The expectations of Times Square are quite low,” admits Fraser. “So introducing quality, surprise and theater has been our first priority. We are serving in beautiful spaces, so it is our job to deliver on the hospitality and product.” It’s an outsized task, considering the 800-person capacity across all venues. But Fraser relishes in being able to offer an experience for every occasion. He manages efficiency by keeping the concepts distinct and independent of each other. And by bringing on accomplished experts to focus on execution.
His point-people in that mission are Salvatore Tafuri, the hotel’s innovative Bar Director, and Amy Racine–an accomplished sommelier with high-end hospitality credentials–as Wine Director. “Sal is as creative a bartender as I have ever seen,” according to Fraser. “He is not afraid to push the envelope.” To wit, his seasonal concoctions seamlessly fuse unexpected herbs and spices with assertive spirits and freshly sourced modifiers. The Tennessee Cobbler at the Lobby Bar marries mint and lapsang suchong smoked tea with bittersweet vermouth and amaro, coaxed along by a drop of ginger. At 701West, the Purple Noon is a savory blend of rum, black currant, and smoked beet, presented in a smoky glass orb.
“The overall cocktail philosophy is to use the freshest ingredients and respect the natural cycle of seasons and related ingredients,” Tafuri explains. “Our focus has been to always use house-made syrups and fresh juices, which Times Square is not known for. We also focused on selecting glassware that would accent the atmosphere of each venue and complement Chef John Fraser’s cuisine.” The Bali Ha’i, for example, is a rum drink served with house-made mango noodles, served in an actual noodle bowl. The Ay Chihuahua is served in a squash-shaped vessel, next to edible flowers, atop a bed of wheatgrass.
Under Racine, the wine program is equally as bold. “I seek out clean wines that showcase great fruit,” she explains. “I want to always offer wines that aren’t over-manipulated by anything–too much oak, overripeness for achieving higher alcohol, acidified wines, etc. I like to experience purity of time and place, which is what I find to be the most beautiful part of a great wine. This can come from Old World, New World, organic, whatever hemisphere.”
At 701West she delivers much of this by the glass–including some deep vintages that wouldn’t make it to menus in any other part of the city, let alone Times Square. By the bottle are more than 600 selections, including a bevy of smaller producers who focus on social responsibility in winemaking. Brooks Pinot Noir, for example, is a family-run operation donating portions of profits to environmental charities. Their wine served here is a prototypical formulation of the standard style out of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
“All of the wine lists represent great producers, but more importantly they start a conversation,” says Racine. “The Terrace starts a conversation about social responsibility, and I think this is especially important in one of the most massive hubs in North America. No one needs to focus on wine lists that emphasize responsible wine makers in Times Square, but we do it because we should and it will better the community.”
At 701West, sparkling wine’s star status is elevated in the form of a Champagne Cart, ceaselessly making its rounds across the dining space. “I think most people enjoy a glass of Champagne to start the meal, but incorporating the design of our cart into the presentation makes that first glass even more special,” she notes. “It’s a lot of fun to have that experience table-side where you can see the bottles resting on a bed of crushed ice.” You also get to select stemware and have a personalized consultation with a bubbled beverage expert to land on the appropriate selection for your palate.
Off-menu is the notorious Movia ‘Puro’, an extra brut Slovenian sparkler, requiring an at-table disgorgement to remove the sediment in its oversized magnum bottle. It’s just one of many unexpected experiences now available in that most unlikely of New York dining destinations. The EDITION wants you to know that Times Square isn’t just for tourists, anymore. It’s presenting a strong case.