The most bizarre and startling restaurant news of the new year is that Graze won't live to see the other side of this weekend. You heard right, unfortunately. Owner Michael Chesley, who parted ways with co-owner and Executive Chef Jennifer James in September of 2006, issued a press release last week announcing the restaurant's impending closure. His reason: Despite garnering national attention for the restaurant's focus on small plates and local ingredients, Graze's lofty concept just didn't make financial sense.
"Since opening, Graze has excelled in many areas but has never been financially successful," he says in the release. "As the majority owner, I have used my personal funds to help maintain the restaurant these last four years. It is with great regret that I realize I can no longer continue with this course of action."
Graze will serve its last deviled egg this Saturday, Jan. 27. If there's a silver lining, it's that Chesley has no plans to close adjoining Gulp! Lounge. The jewel-like microbar will remain open seven days a week from 4 p.m. until the wee hours of the night. Although, I do have to wonder (aloud, as my phone calls to the restaurant were never returned) if the touches that made Gulp sparkle--house-infused vodka and fresh, organic fruit purées--will remain intact without the Graze kitchen to fuel them.
Another university area staple will shut its doors this weekend as well: IryshMac's Coffee House will serve its last latte on Saturday, Jan. 27. Longtime barista Tea Nielsen (pronounced "tay-uh," not like the beverage) explains that after seven years on southeast Yale, it was time for a change. "The owner [Erin Mowris] felt it wasn't a stable environment for a business."
Mowris will open a new, unrelated coffee shop in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, about one-half mile north of Osuna on Fourth Street. You'll note that's not exactly a haven for college-aged kids. "That's a lot of the reason why it's not going to be IryshMac’s. The students are what made it." Mowris hasn't settled on a name just yet. If you've got any ideas, let her know at the farewell party this Saturday from 6-10 p.m.
Still more closures: Clear across town, Eurasia Bistro (10721 Montgomery NE, in the old Minato of Japan building) appears to have closed. I guess the demand for $60 Kobe beef sashimi dinners wasn't high enough to keep its ample dining room filled.
It's not all doom and gloom in the restaurant scene this week, though. Just down the street, Savoy Bar & Grill has at last opened at 10601 Montgomery NE, in what for years has been the massive, languishing YesterDave's building. The stunningly redesigned restaurant is the latest effort from oenophilic brothers Keith and Kevin Roessler, of Zinc and Seasons fame. Savoy's exhibition kitchen shows off a menu heavy on wine-friendly cuisine like roasted meats, seafoods and locally farmed produce.
Lunch is served daily from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and dinner is available after 5 p.m. There's also the swanky Suede Lounge and vine-draped Patio Bar open daily at 3 p.m., with a happy hour from 3-6 p.m. Call 294-WINE (9463) for reservations.