The French Room has been in a holding pattern since Anthony Dispensa was let go earlier this year. The storied establishment had remodeled its decadent interior, freshened its façade, and then struggled to keep an executive chef in the kitchen.
The changes were not only to the façade, but to the menus: a movement toward fewer restrictions and less stuffiness in the tasting-menu format. In a post in which I discussed this and Dispensa’s departure, I also noted that Stephan Pyles’ Fauna, a tasting-menu restaurant-within-a-restaurant (inside Flora Street Café) was also hiring.
As it turns out, the chef who opened Fauna and spent only a few months there, Diego Fernandez, will be the one to head The French Room. Much attention has been paid (including by me) to Fernandez’s time working in the kitchens at San Francisco’s Quince and Chicago’s Alinea, both restaurants held out as models of elevated dining.
I did not have a meal cooked by Fernandez at Fauna, though I did dine on an early menu of his successor, Peter Barlow’s (read my review of Fauna for this month’s magazine here), which included a few dishes from Fernandez’s repertoire. I had also seen the opening menu. While the individual dishes had worked—and in fact brought the gorgeous flavors of a beignet filled with ethereal, decadent foie-gras-oyster mousse—I’d found the opening menu scattered, not representing an arc in the way a tasting menu could or should.
And so it remains to be seen how Fernandez’s style will play out at The Adolphus. Recently, Ruben Toraño was hired as pastry chef for The French Room, City Hall Bistro, and the suave hotel coffee shop Otto’s. His work has been lovely at CBD Provisions and Commissary.
Let’s see how they work together as a team.