Popular Chef Tom Valenti is Excited to Open Oxbow Tavern on Columbus Avenue; Here’s What to Expect

By Jacqueline Leitzes

After taking some time off following the closing of his famed restaurant Ouest in 2015 – and subsequently helming the kitchen at the now-shuttered Le Cirque – award winning chef Tom Valenti, who is credited with bringing haute cuisine to the Upper West Side, is back with a new restaurant: Oxbow Tavern, located at 240 Columbus Avenue between West 71st and 72nd Streets, in the space of that previously housed Cafe Tallulah.

Oxbow Tavern is expected to open in the coming weeks, and in the meantime, WSR sat down with the chef to talk about the restaurant and his return to the neighborhood.

For starters, please share with us the origin of the restaurant’s name.

There is a beautiful frieze on the outside on the 71st Street side of the space – a depiction of two ox pulling what appears to be a wagon full of sugarcane. I chose to adopt it only because you just don’t see this kind of work done anymore – it’s kind of a lost art, and I wanted to preserve that.

You have stated that Oxbow Tavern will be a casual neighborhood spot. Why did you decide to go towards less formal dining and to specifically bring it to the Upper West Side?

I realize that while fine dining is not dead by any stretch – and thank god we’ve got Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, and Thomas Keller (those are near and dears) – for me, I wanted to more embrace what I think a neighborhood that is familiar to me is looking for – and is frankly how I like to eat. I think that I have always hung my hat on the fine dining hook, and while I’m not losing that here [see the information about the “dinner parties” below], I also want to be able to offer a nice sandwich. I mean who doesn’t want a nice sandwich?

What should we expect to see on the menu? Any dishes from Ouest or ’Cesca?

The nature of the cooking is going to be the same as Ouest, and there will be some dishes from there (the salmon gravlax and lamb shank will make an appearance) and from ’Cesca too – but the menu style will be more casual. We are going to have a great burger, tarte flambée, steak tartare, and more.

But for a collective fine dining fix, I have a beautiful downstairs private dining room that can hold 30-40 people, and when I am not using it for birthdays, an anniversary, or a graduation party, I’m going to create my own little “dinner parties”.

Please share more about these “dinner parties”.

The dinner party concept came to me after realizing that so many of my customers at Ouest didn’t know each other when they first started going there, but when it closed, they had become friends, lovers, and more.

The idea is to have them two or three times a month (more if the demand is there) and to open them up to whoever wants to come. It will probably take a couple of months to get started, but when I do, I will put the menu selections and dates on the website (oxbowtavern.com). As for the format, everyone will show up at 7:00 pm for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and mingling – and then after about an hour, we will sit down to eat, drink, and have fun!

The weight of running a fine dining restaurant seven nights a week/364 days a year takes a certain level of discipline and passion, and it’s not that I don’t have it, but I feel like the casual thing is more on a day-to-day basis what the Upper West Side is looking for. However that does not mean we can’t get fancy once in a while and do stuff that requires you to sit up straight – and these dinner parties will provide an opportunity to do just that!

And the space itself – what is the look and feel?

It is very much casual, just come as you are. There are 30 seats at the bar; it is a huge bar, which is delightful. You can pop in for a beer and a burger or sit down and have a full-blown meal. People always said Ouest was like Cheers, and I want it to feel like that here too.

You beat me to the Cheers analogy – and to me, Ouest was like that not only for its patrons but also for many of its employees. Will we see any familiar faces returning to work with you?

Yes, you will see some of the same smiling faces that you saw at Ouest.

Being that WSR is focused on the Upper West Side, can you share your thoughts about the neighborhood?

I love the Upper West Side, and I love my neighbors! It has the best shoe store (Harry’s Shoes), the best lox and eggs (Barney Greengrass), the best woman’s clothing store (CPW), John Koch Antiques, Zabars, Fairway, Levain Bakery (I mean where else can you get a cookie the size of your head), and so many great restaurants and stores!

Anything else you would like to share with West Side Rag?

I’m so happy to be back in the hood!

NEWS | 41 comments | permalink
    1. LG says:

      Tom – Remember the vegetarians creatively, not just pasta and risotto. Thanks, and good luck.

    2. KS says:

      Such great news! Sadly we have moved out of town since Ouest closed, but cannot wait to visit Oxbow Tavern and hopefully see many of the band back together – and enjoy TV’s food again! Congratulations!

    3. John Elari says:

      I’m already afraid of the prices.

    4. Gail says:

      We are happy as well!!

    5. Danielle says:

      Looking forward to it. Hope to see the same great bartenders and please, bring back the great Cubano sandwich at West Branch

    6. Dan says:

      Congratulations and thank your for bringing your experience to 72nd street. The frieze you mentioned actually was part of Victors Cafe a Cuban family who pioneered Columbus Avenue.
      There is also a West Side shoe landmark right down the block on 72nd street.Tip Top Shoes family owned since 1940. A wonderful Kosher deli Fine and Shapiro and the oldest bedding store Longs Bedding. Welcome to 72nd Street.
      Can’t wait till you open.

    7. BillyNYC says:

      As long as chef Tom Valenti is aware how we on the Upper Westside likes the best quality food that money can buy and a clean restaurant and the best service to offer and menu he may just have a big hit on his hands !
      Keeping in mind the 80% of the Upoer West side are single and love their deliveries late at night and ordering online this just may work. –

    8. Betsy says:

      I was worried since we’re regulars at Tallulah’s. Best bar and bartenders (Jorge and Edwin especially) in the neighborhood. Hope you’re keeping them on! Sounds like a great plan though. Please have a good bar-good “burger” or sandwich for pescatarian, vegetarians. We live at the bar! Good luck!

    9. Z. Perez says:

      Mr. Valenti, thank you, this was a wonderful warm interview. You seemed to have captured the essence of the UWS community and the how special the frieze is to those of us who grew up with Victor’s Cafe at this location and having the passion to give it life in naming it Oxbow. Looking forward to patronizing your restaurant, experiencing your menu and making new friends at Oxbow. Regards!!!

    10. Tamara Kirson says:

      This is such wonderful news! We used to talk with you, Tom, when you stood outside of ‘Cesca and greeted the neighborhood with smiles and interest. We have missed you and your food! The menu sounds like a perfect mix, and I’ve no doubt your presence and that of your staff will create a warm UWS ambiance. Yahoo!

    11. Louise says:

      The dinner parties sound fun: really looking forward to being a guest.

    12. Tom says:

      Lots of great comments. The loss of Ouest left a big hole on the UWS. I miss eating at the bar and enjoying that incredible smoked sturgeon appetizer. Hopefully it’ll show up on occasion at your new place. Lots of luck and looking forward to stopping by!!

    13. Jackie Tolkowsky says:

      Congratulations Tom! Can’t wait to enjoy your new place as I remember you not only from ouest but from your
      Other place / the one on east 81st street many years ago before you even moved to the West Side .
      My one grandmother lived at The Beacon and my other grandparents at The Berkeley, now a condo on
      West 73rd and Amsterdam! Plus I’m friends with someone who used to also live on west 73rd soaybe we’ll be coming in person together to see you !

      Good luck with the new Restaurant and the concept!
      I’m sure you’re gonna be a huge success! All the very best, Jackie!

    14. Stroll-N-Roll says:

      Will the venue, both upstairs and downstairs, be accessible to patrons who are confined to wheelchairs? We frequently enjoyed Ouest and would relish the opportunity to fully enjoy Oxbow.

    15. ben zinkin says:

      The more like Ouest the better. Especially Quail and your great green salad.

    16. Frank says:

      Really excited about this. UWS needs a new restaurant run by a quality chef.

      Can’t wait to make a reservation.

    17. EGF says:

      I am VERY excited about this! Those of us in the neighborhood who enjoy great dining experiences and don’t mind paying for them welcome you with open arms! I’ll be one of the first through the door.

    18. DuckDuck says:

      Awesome story, Westsiderag! Excited to have Valenti back in the 10023/4/5 area

    19. Michael Brand says:

      Tom: Hi, when will you be open for business?
      Am at 96 th at Columbus. You’re on target
      regarding the UWS.

      Best wishes,
      Mike Brand

    20. Edith says:

      The dinner party idea sounds so cool!

    21. Very excited and best of luck!

    22. Recently moved from the Oxbow, a bend in the Connecticut River in Northampton, Massachusetts, this sounds like a must try new neighborhood spot.

    23. EMERALD INN says:

      GONNA MISS TALLULAH BUT ALSO. SNT WAIT RO TRY OXBOW 🙂 GOOD LUCK GUYS

    24. BillyNYC says:

      Back in late 60s when I moved here (and still paying the same rent as I am paying today, ha ha) Victors café was probably the most successful and popular restaurants here at 71st St. and Columbus Avenue and the best and well missed. 10.00 bought you full dinner,
      I love the shredded Cuban beef dinner on a late Sunday afternoon after coming from the fountain in Central Park all day. Those were the days my friend.

    25. jim says:

      The best news so far in 2018.

    26. Steven says:

      Who remembers when this place was Penang? Miss that place.