Henri Soulé's New Siberia

Patrick Bradley |

If only... 

For those of you that need filling in, Henri Soulé is the late restaurateur who opened La Côte Basque (made famous by Truman Capote's Answered Prayers), formerly Le Pavillion and currently Benoit. Tao's latest incarnation, housed in the former Hiro Ballroom space, may not be for the ladies who lunch set, but certainly follows Soulé's blueprint of an Outer Hebrides, Elba or perceived Siberia by anxious diners. Only, instead of exiling low-status patrons to a rear dining room, the recently opened Tao Downtown has flipped the old guard standard.


According to New York Magazine:
When Rockwell Group designed the cavernous new Tao Downtown... the firm installed a 40-foot grand stairway to lead guests to the subterranean dining room. Some diners will never make it there, though; they’ll be spending the evening on the staircase itself, at one of six round booths that hug the walls at each of three landings, or on the sofas and tables that run down the middle. 
Now this isn't exactly a new thing; there are certainly restaurants that whisk those deemed as VIP's (or PX's, as they're called in the business) to a private room, a curtained booth, or simply a more discreet area of the restaurant (as everyone else cranes their neck to catch a glimpse). However, at Tao Downtown you'll really feel the perennial specter of banishment as the well-heeled and social elite are escorted past your table... while you fumble over hot edamame pods. 

Let me know if the sofas are comfy.