The partnership between Alexander’s Steakhouse and a James Beard Award-winning chef is coming into focus.
ONE65 — a multi-story bastion for French food in Union Square — opens two more of its floors to the public on May 24: A third floor bistro and a fourth floor bar and lounge. They join the ground floor patisserie that opened last week, and await a fifth and sixth floor fine-dining restaurant to complete the project.
ONE65 Bistro & Grill and Elements, bring the ONE65 project into focus. It’s a major partnership between James Beard Award-winning chef Claude Le Tohic and Alexander’s Steakhouse, who have spent years planning and renovating the tall, slender 1908 building at 165 O’Farrell Street, with designs by D-Scheme Studio.
The Bistro & Grill
Visitors to ONE65 Bistro & Grill will first pass by ONE65 Patisserie on the building’s ground floor, forgoing temptations like house-made macarons and croissants. Once up the elevator, chef de cuisine Jennifer Dewasha — highly visible in an open kitchen with lots of chef’s counter seating — will reward them with a menu of light lunch fare and heartier dinner options. There’s seating for 60 at the counter and at tables and booths.
Dewasha met Le Tohic at three Michelin starred Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas. And while ONE65’s inspiration is very French — and frogs legs and escargots have their place on the menu — “Chef Claude definitely does not want to be that Bistro that is heavy cream, butter, traditional French,” says Dewasha.
Instead of rich sauces and meats, diners will get mussels and fennel salads, stuffed, artichokes, and roasted king oyster mushrooms fired in the kitchen’s prized Josper charcoal oven.
“Going through the ranks of kitchen life, when I was younger, I was always the entremetier cook, the veg cook,” says Dewasha, a member of the Wahta Mohawks first nations who studied aboriginal food at culinary school in her native Toronto. “They always wanted men on meat.”
“Now that everybody has come around to vegetables being the most trendy type of eating, it’s come full circle,” she says, — and her experience plays to her advantage. At Joel Robuchon, she was the “chosen person” for the chef’s famous pommes puree, and her mashed potatoes, an homage to him, appear on the dinner menu.
Above ONE65 Bistro & Grill — but very much connected to it by a series of high-tech dumbwaiters — is the darker, more metropolitan Elements. It’s led by bar director Trevin Hutchins (Comma Ca in Las Vegas, Central Provisions and Tempo Dulu in Portland, Maine), and it’s situated on the fourth floor so Hutchins can send cocktails down to the Bistro & Grill and up to the fine-dining restaurant above. Don’t worry, he’s tested the dumbwaiters for spilling, and they run smoothly. Dewasha’s menu from the bistro below is available at Elements, too.
Still, some of Hutchin’s elaborate drinks may only be enjoyed at booths and tables inside the fourth-floor bar, which has room for 75. Take, for example, an All Bark and No Bite (five amari blend, Carpano bianco, Rittenhouse rye) served in custom-made glasses blown to fit like puzzle pieces around tree branches.
Other impressive presentations at Elements include a large format Bird in the Hand (a Paloma-style drink with Espolòn blanco tequila, Campari, grapefruit, honey, and absinthe) is served in a four-spigot absinthe fountain.
That contraption, rarely seen outside of New Orleans, hints at Hutchin’s inspiration: Classic, French-influenced New Orleans drinks, with lots of French brandy and agrichole rum thrown in.
“I wanted French influence, but chef also wanted to stress a sense of place, so we draw on lots of local spirits and seasonality,” Hutchins says.
Elements is named in a riff on the upstairs restaurant O’ by Claude Le Tohic — Eau, pronounced “oh,” is French for water. In keeping with that theme, Hutchins’ drinks menu is broken down into four elemental sections based on flavor profiles. “It’s a tool for the bartender and a tool for the guest,” he says. Naturally, the fire section includes a flaming tiki cocktail.
Another key element of ONE65 — wine, or as the French call it, eau de vie — has its place at the bar, too. Advanced sommelier Vincent Morrow (Gary Danko, Benu, The French Laundry) leads the program across ONE65’s floors, amassing a collection with direct suppliers from Bordeaux and here in California.
ONE65 Bistro & Grill will be open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings). Elements at ONE65 will be open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Both the Bistro and Elements will serve brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.