On Wednesday night, an haute cuisine menagerie unfolded at the Tin Building, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new “culinary destination” (read: food hall) in South Street Seaport. Housed in a former wholesale fish market and impeccably decorated by Roman and Williams, the newly restored space now features a mix of full-service restaurants, fast-casual counters, specialty shops, bars, and a barely concealed nightclub area, all “personally curated” by Mr. Vongerichten himself.
The space has been open to the public for weeks, but to honor its arrival, New York’s best-dressed foodies gathered early Wednesday evening to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an elaborate 50-chef procession through the cobblestone streets led by an aggressively bronzed Jean-Georges and his giant toque. Also involved: a giant wire fish sculpture that the chefs set down outside the building.
The fête continued inside, where I overheard someone describe the situation as a “haunted house, but fun” — not far off. Each area was themed according to its cuisine and offered a tiny menu of samplings, which everyone nibbled between snapping photos with the many costumed performers on stilts. As a barely functioning home cook, I cannot review the food, but I’ve scored every other aspect of the evening on a scale of 1 to 10 toques.
Seemingly capitalizing on the Tin Building’s landmarked status, there was a vague historical theme to the event. Outside, two separate pairs of actors dressed as Bonnie and Clyde posed for photos near a bevy of old-fashioned cars. A group of costumed “fishmongers” yelled out “Extra! Extra!” and handed out newspaper-style pamphlets about the venue at the entrance. Everywhere I looked, someone in a colorful pantsuit was waving down on me from stilts. Also, one woman dressed like Eliza Doolittle hung out inside a massive color-coded flower display. Score: 8 toques.
Food & Drink
Upon entering, I selected a rosé cocktail from a tray, which I quickly swapped out for an hibiscus-encrusted margarita. It soon became clear that every station was offering its own themed cocktail to accompany the food, and throughout the evening I managed to sample an espresso martini, several flavored margaritas, a shot of sake from a sushi bar where a woman played a Shamisen violin above my head, and a gin and tonic from the bar upstairs. (Luckily, I also took advantage of the Fiji water bottles on offer.) Near the circus-y candy shop and gelato station, I encountered a fish-shaped ice sculpture that turned out to also be an ice luge — two bartenders standing behind the ice sculpture funneled a pre-mixed tequila cocktail directly through the fish and into a plastic cup.
Over at what appeared to be a $15 customizable breakfast-sandwich shop, two women were holding up plexiglass contraptions seemingly built around their bodies and loaded with caviar dumplings. I skipped the salad in a cone (which admittedly looked pretty appetizing) and meandered past the very large fish display into a dizzyingly bright candy bar, where artfully packaged JG-branded toffee and gummy bears filled the shelves.
Upstairs, a ’50s-style baking demonstration was happening inside a darkened room with an ON AIR sign outside that also contained a bar serving dessert wine and a marble table piled with cakes and French pastries that Marie Antoinette might have deemed excessive. Next up was the packed taco bar, where I nabbed a blue-corn-tortilla taco and a cup of chips and guacamole. Also lacking for elbow room: the vaguely Orientalist, East Asian–themed nightclub half-hidden behind a curtain in Mercantile East, a tea-and-noodle shop with candy-red walls. There was also fresh pasta and pizza at the Frenchman’s Dough stand, a shockingly tasty Brussel’s-sprout situation at the plant-based café, hunks of bone-in steak in a brasserie-esque zone, and mini-cones of gelato with toppings. Score: 9 toques, minus one for an unpleasantly cold square of focaccia-corn pizza that would have been perfect under a heat lamp.
Amid the influencers and foodies elbowing their way between stilts, I managed to miss Martha Stewart, Luann de Lesseps, Questlove, and Brooke Shields, whom I later learned all passed through. I wonder what Martha thought of the prosciutto? Score: 7 toques
One man carrying a small flower bouquet told me he had to “suck somebody’s balls” to nab it from the display downstairs. Another woman I overheard inside the packed taco bar kissed her friend on both cheeks and assured her, “We’re not in Paris anymore. We’re in España or something!” Score: 2 toques
A mostly unremarkable DJ booth, which I barely heard over the din of chomping and chatter. Score: 5 toques