The most important new restaurant in NYC history is Le Pavillon

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What’s the big deal about an expensive, 140-seat restaurant opening on the second floor of a Midtown office building?

Daniel Boulud’s Le Pavillon is only the most important new restaurant in New York City’s history. When it bows on Wednesday at One Vanderbilt, the soaring new skyscraper next to Grand Central Terminal, it will answer a question that’s crucial to the Big Apple’s post-pandemic destiny:

Can Midtown’s indispensable adult dining scene be saved? Without it, the city’s and perhaps the world’s most important business district – where offices remain almost 80 percent empty – is doomed.

If customers flip for dishes like Boulud’s hazel parsley-crusted poached oysters Vanderbilt, and flock to its gorgeous, four-sided 46-seat bar with Chrysler Building views, it will mark a triumphant return to the area of fine cuisine served with casual grace in a magnificent setting.

Buzz over Le Pavillon will help draw reluctant Zoomers back to their offices – not only at One Vanderbilt, but all over Midtown. A flop, on the other hand, would make owners and chefs think twice about opening another shoot-for-the-stars eatery. If the great Boulud couldn’t succeed,  even with the support of a powerful real-estate company, landlord SL Green, how could anyone else?

Midtown’s movers and shakers won’t return to their desks if the only options are pizza and 1,000 make-your-own-salad variations. Empty towers would spell disaster for landlords and for the city’s tax base.

In the past year of unprecedented tragedy and economic ruin, Midtown permanently lost the ‘21’ Club, Esca, Maloney & Porcelli, Hakkasan and Monkey Bar. The fate’s ominously unclear for many more beloved eateries that have yet to reopen – among them, Boulud’s own DB Bistro, Barbetta, the Polo Bar, the Grill and the Pool, Sardi’s, The Modern, Shun Lee Palace, La Jardinier, the Lambs Club, Bond 45 and Clement at the St. Regis.

Restaurants matter even more than Broadway to Midtown’s unparalleled concentration of bankers, lawyers, media moguls and creative wizards in every realm. For them, theatergoing is an occasional indulgence, but eating outside the workplace is an almost everyday affair, whether for a lunchtime “catch-up” with friends, a strategy session with colleagues or an after-hours celebration.

Of course, a successful Le Pavillon will also affirm that classical cooking and white tablecloths can still cut the mustard with the dining millions in an age when younger customers are embracing casual-to-chaotic venues with ear-splitting noise and obscure, brain-baffling menus.

Let’s root for oysters Vanderbilt – and for every marvelous morsel Boulud can dream up. Nothing less than Manhattan’s post-COVID-19 recovery depends on it.

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