BELOVED RESTAURANT OUEST CLOSING THIS MONTH

ouest

Ouest, the local-friendly restaurant on Broadway between 83rd and 84th street, will close its doors later this month. Co-owner Tom Valenti told the staff this week that the end could come as soon as June 13. When we stopped by Thursday night, Valenti was speaking with emotional customers at the packed bar and didn’t want to chat about the closure with us.

ouest4He asked one regular “How’s it going?”

“How do you think it’s going?” she said. “Not good.”

Valenti told the Times that the lease was up and that the neighborhood has changed too much.

โ€œWe used to get the artists, writers, intellectuals, performers on a regular basis,โ€ he said. โ€œBut a lot of those Upper West Side old-timers, people like Sidney Lumet, are gone. And the new people in the big apartments have different interests.”

Ouest has been around for 14 years. It serves “Nouveau American” food, and New York magazine called it “appealing enough to shatter the misperception that there is a lack of worthy places to eat on the Upper West Side…Valenti has honed the menu to the point where almost every dish resonates with love-it-in-an-instant flavors that mask their degrees of difficulty.”

The Times says Valenti is “looking at other options,” but it’s not clear whether he’ll open another restaurant.

Artist Enrico Miguel Thomas stood nearby on Thursday painting a picture of the restaurant’s facade for a customer who wanted it.

ouest3

NEWS | 57 comments | permalink
    1. Lauren says:

      blaming his closing on the change in neighborhood yet the place is “packed” ? Something doesn’t add up here, you don’t close a successful business

      • Christina says:

        I’m sure it was packed because It Is closing. And I’m sure even a packed place on occasion would not make up for the inevitable outrageous rent increase after their lease is up. So it does add up.

        • cece says:

          I live, literally, across the street from Ouest and can see in the windows at night, It is packed all the time, it is a very busy restaurant with a regular crowd and a regular bar crowd of seasoned 60 somethings, and they rent it out for film shoots about 6 times a year, so I am sure that this is not due to a simple lack of popularity with excellent people like Sidney Lumet (really, this is why you’re closing, not enough fancy intellectuals to eat your braised meats?). I am sure the rent is higher than Tom Valenti would like for his bottom line, but please, he should blame the neighborhood that has supported him all these years, that seems fair. I see him smoking outside all the time, maybe he just needs more money to support his habit? He has closed other successful restaurants in the past — Alison and Cascabel– I’m sure those neighborhoods were to blame as well.

      • S louie says:

        They key term in the article was “lease was up”.
        It means even the successful get screwed.

        As George Carlin warned us…”america is finished!”

        Property owners have returned as powerful landlords over us peasants. The upper middle class is next.

    2. C says:

      Well…crap. It was expensive, and occasionally a little heavy, but…I loved sitting at the bar, I loved eating at the bar on weeknights, and I loved taking my parents there. I guess I get the ‘hood has changed, but still, crap.

      • screamingparrot says:

        The rent is skyrocketing and it’s getting do commercial with chain stores. Some of the restaurants are the same as on the east side. I’ve noticed that the new people moving in are not so interesting.its too expensive without the interesting flair it had even 2 years ago.

      • Cyrus says:

        Crap is right. It was definitely a go-to restaurant for us. Service was always good and the food quality was above average. Whatever reason they’re closing shop, it is still a loss to the neighborhood.

        It will be missed.

    3. Young Sally says:

      I guess the people in the giant apartments are working too hard to afford those enormous apartments instead of enjoying some of the places that attracted them to the UWS originally.

    4. Warren Handelman says:

      This is a big loss for the neighborhood and myself. I did my part by going every week.

    5. Don’t blame the neighborhood. Ouest was never that special, although it thought of itself that way. Food was ordinary, kitchen was inattentive, place seemed tired a long time ago.

      • Joe says:

        I agree. Food was just average and service was sub-par. General vibe around the restaurant when it opened was that they were doing us all a favor by bringing fine dining to the UWS. No thanks. There are much better (and less expensive) options now.

      • StevenCinNYC says:

        I agree with Joseph, it was never that special. I went when it first opened, but the food was mediocre, the crowd at the bar blocked the path to the host stand, and they had an attitude. Maybe some place better will take over. I wish Tom Valenti well, but I have never liked his restaurants.

        • Elbo says:

          Agreed. Utterly mediocre.Valenti has been phoning it in for years.

          • Jack St Mary says:

            To all nay stayers. To say the food was mediocre and the service not great goes against the years of superlative reviews, packed houses, excellent wait staf, exceptional bartenders, incredible food, magnificent decor, and one of the truly great destination restaurants in New York City is unconscionable. Those of us who are the vast majority will miss it terribly and will always remember the joy Ouest gave us. Good Luck to all who work there and hopefully we’ll see down the road.

            • UWS-er says:

              Well, it’s a matter of opinion, so saying you didn’t like it is hardly “unconscionable.” Yeesh.

            • 92nd street says:

              Come on!
              Are you kidding?
              May be it was the best on that block?

              The difference between the newer crazy expensive UWS and the older less expensive, is that the newer residents work a lot more to make ends meet.

            • Nancy Fedder says:

              Perfectly stated. An adult restaurant with style and beautiful. Will miss our favorite waiter (they guy with the blonde hair who has been there forever). Great bar and there is nothing even close to it in terms of special. ๐Ÿ™

    6. Carol says:

      People on the UWS are no longer interesting to the restauranteur and some of the commenters? (Paraphrasing) What in the world does that even mean?

    7. Paul RL says:

      Wow, this is bummer news. I had many good meals (and Martinis!) here, especially in the earlier years. It was the first upscale restaurant in the area, and for me it was an instant classic. Au revoir, Ouest – you will be missed!

    8. Jan Hazard says:

      So sad that Valenti is closing Ouest. This was the first restaurant that brought fine dining to the UWS. He was a trail blazer and I thank him, Really wish he was not going to leave Broadway. DON’T GO TOM!

    9. nj says:

      The change is like a tidal wave over the whole UWS! Nothing is going into these places and it is starting to feel like a gohst town.

      • Cyrus says:

        Uh, yeah. That’s exactly the word I would use to describe the UWS, “ghost town”.

        (sarcasm)

        • Paul says:

          You remind me of the Yogi Berra quote, I think regarding Coney Island, “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.”

          Still, it is sad to see the continual conversion of everything on the UWS to a chain or a bank.

          And yet, even McDonald’s at 81st Street has been rent-hiked out of existence, so what does that tell us about the shape of things to come.

    10. Francoise says:

      Very sad. But it seems they are doing quite well: every time I try to make a reservation, it’s full. Something else must be going on.
      Beautiful space. I loved it.

    11. Carmen says:

      I love Ouest. Sitting at the bar on nights when they had delicious cheese puffs was an enormous treat. But something is going on. Candlelight Wines and Basics Plus, right next door, are gone. The walk-in medical center Weill Cornell took them; perhaps that’s what’s taking Ouest too. The kids version of Harry’s Shoes seems to be holding on, but since Duane Reade closed that large space on the same block has remained empty. Not a good sign.

      • Jduy says:

        FYI – Basics plus took over the defunct wine store and is expanding to include both sites. It’s going to be awesome!

        • Lorraine says:

          I thought the medical offices took over the wine shop location to build an elevator. I thought I read that here.

      • Basic Plus is NOT CLOSED! They are EXPANDING & took over the space of the wine & liquor store because the rent got jacked up so high the liquor store went out!

        The real issue is THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH!!

      • RF says:

        Basics Plus is not “gone,” it is closed for renovation. They’re actually expanding, which is a good thing!

    12. MLevin says:

      I used to go to Ouest often and the food was always good. However about 5 years ago, my friends and I each ended up paying $70 for our dinner. That is simply too much for a regular spot. I never went again. I am sorry, but Mr. Valenti’s explanation of the lost of his customer base is simply not true. I know how hard it is to run a restaurant but he priced himself out–and, as far as I know did no marketing whatsoever.

    13. drg says:

      Give me a break!! The restaurant has been here ONLY 14 years… since 2000. This is not a 50 year mom and pop heirloom of the old old UWS. I am sure in 2000 people bemoaned the closing of whatever place was there BEFORE ouest opened, thinking the character of the neighborhood was changing forever. The only thing seemingly fixed in this neighborhood is commenting how nothing is like it used to be.

      I agree with the posters above that the restaurant was ok, nothing special… and every time I look in there it is PACKED (after the movies across the street). something surely doesnt add up.

    14. Amy Eller says:

      So sad to lose Ouest!
      Will miss my Ouest Martini, the gravlax and chickpea pancake & the best green salad ever. My all time favorite meal. My lobby restaurant. Wishing Tom Valenti and the entire staff who always made me comfortable the very best of luck in all future endeavors
      Amy Eller

    15. Amy says:

      It may have been local – and around for years – but it was too expensive to be a “regular” or a “family” place for us. Never been.Not sure how all those artists, intellectuals, and performers afforded it.Big Nicks probably fit that bill a bit more.

      • Tostonesfix says:

        I blame the young, wealthy Upper West Siders. They can’t be bothered to support local establishments. Many are too self-absorbed or busy being helicopter parents. There is also a heard mentality. I see people lined up for some places but other, perfectly fine places get virtually ignored.

        In almost every other neighborhood in New York City there is loyalty to local restaurants and bars. People actually make it a point to get out and live. Doesn’t seem to happen as much on the UWS.It seems as if people only go where their friends go or are looking out for the next thing.

    16. Ellen says:

      The food and service has declined and I stopped going when I had a reservation and was given a very bad table. When I said I preferred another table the host said “well, you’ll have to wait 45 minutes for another one.” I left and never returned. I did immediately go to another UWS restaurant and the owner had a busy restaurant but because we were regulars he found us a table after a wait. He was polite and concerned about our satisfaction which Ouest never was.

    17. Sue Kantor says:

      Interesting, what does “different interests” mean. Is it that if you are not an artist, etc. you couldn’t possibly like good food? We had dinner there many months ago, we were disappointed and knew we would not go back. Was it the food or that we did not fit the profile?

    18. Nancy says:

      The prices were too high for this “intellectual.”

    19. Eddie says:

      I thought Ouest was fine for a special occasion meal. I always hesitated to go for fear of having to push through the bar of the pseudo-intellectual old time UWS eccentrics who Valenti’s lamenting the disappearance of. I’m sorry that I apparently was not cultured enough to truly enjoy your restaurant. I would offer to revert my business to a more appropriate low brow restaurant like McDonald’s, but now they are leaving too. The horror!

    20. Uswlifer says:

      Looks like the perfect space for the new McDonalds!! Problem solved.

      And you all just complain and complain…..when did the UWS become one big peanut gallery?? Haha

    21. I am really disappointed at the negative comments toward Tom Valenti and Ouest. I have been a regular there since it opened. The food has always been consistently first rate and the staff is 100% professional….many of them have worked there since day 1. Even if you did not love it, do you honestly think anything better will replace it? You want another bank or shoe store? This is the same story that befell Union Square Cafe. Just greedy landlords in a real estate bubble that cannot last forever.

    22. ScooterStan says:

      Re: “Ouest … will close its doors later this month.”

      Guess it was “time to give it a Ouest” ? ๐Ÿ™‚

      As is said, ‘Ouest is Ouest and East is East, and never the twain shall meet’

      Hopefully, not head-on while on the same track.

    23. Ed says:

      I never patronize any restaurant whose name I can’t pronounce.

    24. Cato says:

      Maybe the owner can subdivide the space. The Broadway storefront would be great as a little, local coffee bar, and the bigger West 84th Street space could be a dry cleaner’s.

      Or maybe Fifteen-Buck Burger next door can expand. They’d probably do well in the new neighborhood — ridiculously overpriced, noisy and decidedly low-brow. And now that Mickey D’s is gone, they have no competition for their fries so will probably be adding clientele from down the street!

      • Jeremy says:

        Oh, Cato . . . you’re just cranky from yelling at all those kids to get off your lawn. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Learn to embrace us low-brows in our shortpants and sideburns, and maybe you can swindle us out of our halfpennys!

      • libraryuser says:

        Actually, the place was a laundry before it became Ouest. Plus รงa change …

    25. Ted says:

      With any luck it will become another generic 15.95 UWS chicken place. Or a bank. Or a Walgreens. Soulcycle?

    26. Suzanne Shepherd says:

      Dear dear Tom……..i am saddened to learn the loss of OUEST……I LOVED IT AND I LOVE YOU. SUZANNE

    27. Leslie Rupert says:

      This is So Sad. It’s a real loss for the neighborhood. Ouest and Tom Valenti will be missed.

    28. Erica says:

      Tried it twice. Food and service bad both times.

    29. Matt says:

      I just need to clarify for everyone that looking in the front window and seeing a packed bar has nothing at all to do with the number of guests in the dining room. I used to work there and I can tell you that the bar and the dining room are almost two different worlds. Business, in fact, was on the decline.

    30. Paul RL says:

      I think one thing that is important to note, is that the Upper West Side used to be much more of a destination for folks from other neighborhoods in the late 90s and early 2000s. There was actually a good, trendy scene up here. Downtown has taken over much of that market, and it seems that we are much more of a bedroom community these days.

    31. N says:

      Been for dinner a few times and just never much liked it. Reminds me of Celeste or Nice Matin or the now departed Loi, restaurants that seem to hold promise and could be great but are not. On a brighter note, the new place on 72nd seems to be ready to open any day now – Ribbon.

    32. AW says:

      The food was well-prepared but the menu was dull and predictable. I don’t know why the owner is closing the place but frankly IMHO as far as eating is concerned it’s no big loss.

    33. Andrew Kelly says:

      I think it used to be a chinese resturant. I remember when it opened it was really great, but the past 4-5 years it has become dull and dusty.

      I will miss it but I missed it before now…A good run.

      The scene is above 112th & Frederick Douglas now…

    34. Norma MT& Carl W Braun says:

      We are in mourning with this closure of one of our favorite places to eat for the excellent tasty & innovative meals & drinks, the ambiance & the service.
      Please say Tom will open elsewhere SOON

    35. Peter K says:

      tom valenti is now the chef at my favorite uws restaurant cesca! so cool !