Chef Rodelio Aglibot, the culinary director behind Grill 83's rebranding, has definite ideas about the newest incarnation, eighty3, and this one is particularly strong: "You want to create a concept that's in a hotel but not a hotel restaurant. There's this feeling that you just don't go to the hotel restaurant."
Madison Hotel owner Mohamad Hakimian agrees, having worked hard to establish Grill 83 as a destination restaurant in its own right. After nine years, Hakimian was looking for a way to keep this reputation strong, so he brought on Aglibot to shift eighty3 away from the white-tablecloth fine dining of Grill 83 to something new.
"Upscale fine dining is going away, and more upscale casual, 'fun dining' is taking the place of that," Aglibot says. "The food is going to be very interactive. It's modern American, which means we'll have Southern influences, Italian influences, Asian influences, but all interactive — plates that can be shared and playful things."
One of the more convivial aspects of dining at eighty3 is in the "breads" section of the menu. What Aglibot envisions is something like the experience of fondue — everyone gathered around a hotpot with dipping bread — except the offerings will be more varied. He was hesitant to give away too much before eighty3's big reveal this week, but Aglibot mentioned that a number of breads and croutons would be offered as well as toppings like crab meat and baked artichoke hearts and a number of dipping sauces and broths.
Aglibot has an impressive pedigree as a culinary consultant, a position that blends business savvy with kitchen artistry, and he has a tendency of leaving successful and innovative restaurants in his wake. He also recently starred in The Food Buddha on TLC, a show where he went from city to city, getting advice on local restaurants, and famously ordering OOE ("one of each").
This "one of each" policy peeks through in eighty3's emphasis on small portions for tasting and sharing. More than 50 options keep your palate entertained, including bar snacks like candied maple bacon, a "raw" portion of the menu with tuna tartare, sweet potato gratin, Gruyère macaroni and cheese, skillet-braised mussels, pan-roasted corn with chorizo, and what Aglibot considers some of the best cornbread in town — crispy and moist, served in a cast-iron skillet with honey jalapeno butter.
"We really encourage sharing and communal dining," Aglibot says. "It's not only conceptual. It's about pricing. There's something for everyone on the menu."
But traditionalists searching for familiar foods and entrée portions will be just as comfortable at eighty3.
"It's about making people feel comfortable when they move into a new concept, not intimidated by the menu," Aglibot says.
Chop salads, seafood, and Grill 83's signature steaks are still on the menu. Breakfast features Southern favorites, like chicken-fried steak, biscuits and red-eye gravy, pulled-pork hash, and deep-fried French toast. The lunch menu consists of twists on standards like the steak sandwich, with caramelized onions and Brie. Instead of the played-out portobello burger, the vegetarian sandwich is made with braised leeks and mushrooms served on Parmesan-encrusted bread.
Eighty3 will keep the same hours as its predecessor. Breakfast is served seven days a week from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner Sunday to Thursday is from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Look out for Sunday brunch at 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
eighty3, 83 Madison (333-1224)