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Epsteins Pal Jean-Luc Brunel Quietly Sells Off His Infamous Modeling Biz

Modeling mogul Jean-Luc Brunel is quietly selling off his MC2 agency in Miami, The Daily Beast has learnedwhile authorities in France search for him as part of their investigation into his friend, the millionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The 74-year-old talent scout has long been accused of supplying underage girls to Epstein and of drugging and raping models himself. Brunel denied both of these charges.

Brunel reportedly vanished after Epsteins jailhouse suicide, and French prosecutors want to speak to him about Epstein's abuse of minors abroad. Last week, cops searched his Parisian home and the offices of Karin Models, the agency Brunel led before launching MC2 Model Management. Brunel created the agency MC2 in 2005, reportedly with $1 million from Epstein, who regularly housed Brunel and MC2 models at his Manhattan apartments, according to the testimony of a former MC2 bookkeeper.

But while Brunel has dodged the press in recent years, hes allegedly already sold MC2s assets in New York and is currently in a deal to sell MC2 in Miami. The French agent also helped to create at least two new boutique modeling firms: The Identity Models in New York and 1 Mother Agency in Kyiv, Ukraine, former employees say.

The New York office of MC2, according to one MC2 lawyer, sold its assets to a new firm called The Identity Models in 2017.

And MC2s Miami location is allegedly in the process of transferring its assets to The Source Models, an agency run by MC2 executives Jeff Fuller and Petra Pedraza. A representative for The Source said MC2's location in Miami will shut down.

Staff at MC2s third location in Tel Aviv did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Brunel has claimed MC2 lost business over his ties to Epstein. In 2015, he filed a lawsuit in Florida state court against the financier, claiming, MC2 was worth millions of dollars; now, due to the illegal actions of Epstein, MC2 is almost worthless.

The fashion industry veteran also denied any connection to Epstein's sexual pyramid schemewhich involved enlisting underage girls for massages in his Palm Beach and New York mansions. Epstein would molest the girls or even rape them, and had some of his victims recruit even more minors for him to abuse.

But Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims Epstein kept her as his sex slave, identified Brunel as a purveyor of minor girls. In a 2015 affidavit, Giuffre said Epstein groomed her for sex with his powerful friends including Brunel and Prince Andrew (who also denies the allegations).

Brunel would offer the girls modeling jobs. A lot of the girls came from poor countries or poor backgrounds, and he lured them in with a promise of making good money, Giuffre stated, adding that Brunel joined Epstein and gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell for orgies with children in locations including the U.S. Virgin Islands, New Mexico and Palm Beach.

Jeffrey Epstein has told me that he has slept with over 1,000 of Brunels girls, and everything that I have seen confirms this claim, Giuffre said.

Jeffrey Epstein has told me that he has slept with over 1,000 of Brunels girls, and everything that I have seen confirms this claim.
Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre

Sigrid McCawley, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner who represents Giuffre and other Epstein accusers, told The Daily Beast that Brunel should be on authorities radar as a key participant in Epsteins child sex-trafficking ring.

We have to carefully look at the people who are around him and who are providing him with these females, and Jean-Luc Brunel was doing exactly that, McCawley said. He was using the ruse of a modeling agency to bring Epstein young victims.

Soon after Giuffres claims made news, Brunel issued his only public comment on the matter: I strongly deny having participated, neither directly nor indirectly, in the actions Mr. Jeffrey Epstein is being accused of. I strongly deny having committed any illicit act or any wrongdoing in the course of my work as a scouter or model agencies manager.

Still, Brunels bad publicity over Epstein may have led him to shutter the MC2 offices. At the same time, sources say, he helped in the creation of two other modeling agenciesthough his name does not appear on publicly available corporation records for either.

Multiple former MC2 employees and models told The Daily Beast that Brunel was considered, at least at the beginning, as the man who helped create The Identity.

According to its website, the agency was founded in 2017 with the concept of a creative boutique to work on and develop different profiles while creating individual identities for those represented.

The Identity is run by Mathias Pardo, a French-born talent scout who is listed as vice president of the company in New York state corporation records. (The identities of the president or any other executives of the Delaware-incorporated firm aren't publicly known.)

He was using the ruse of a modeling agency to bring Epstein young victims.
Sigrid McCawley, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner

Pardo, who for years worked with Brunel as an MC2 agent, told The Daily Beast that he owns and founded The Identity in 2018. He denied Brunel played a role in founding the modeling firm. Mr. Brunel has absolutely nothing to do with The Identity, Pardo said in an email on Sept. 13. He did not return further messages.

Yet in 2017, one Identity model allegedly joined Pardo at New York's Mercer Kitchen for a meet-and-greet that included only one other person: Jean-Luc Brunel. According to the model's mother, Lea Assenmacher, the young woman showed both men her portfolio during the rendezvous at the chic Soho restaurant.

The model told her mother that Brunel was very polite and drank a lot of champagne, as they made small-talk about the fashion world. During their conversation, Assenmacher claimed, Brunel and Pardo indicated that MC2 would cease operations and The Identity would take its place. The girl signed a contract with The Identity soon after.

She felt Jean-Luc Brunel was the final arbiter" of whether she was signed, Assenmacher told The Daily Beast. Mathias was deferential to him.

Two former MC2 employees told The Daily Beast that initially, The Identity operated out of MC2s offices on West 14th Street. The only ones working for The Identity was Mathias and Jean-Luc Brunel, one ex-staffer said, and referring to Brunel, added that it seemed like, They just wanted to open another place without his name.

Serena, a second former employee who asked to withhold her last name, said, I was around for a lot of the logistical conversations about the conversion into The Identity. It mustve turned over a month or two after I left, if even. But the goal of The Identity was the younger faces would represent it while MC2 stayed the same, but I dont know if that happened.

The Identity shares the same attorney as MC2Ian Illych Martinez of Floridaand houses its models at the same East Village apartment once used by MC2.

Martinez also represents The Source Models and 1 Mother Agency, which Brunel allegedly founded in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2014, former employees and models say.

The Identity and MC2 share models and at least one other talent agent in common: former MC2 hand Vinicius Freire.

And a review of The Identitys website shows that 20 of its 67 models are also currently signed with MC2 in Tel Aviv or Miami. At least 12 Identity models are also signed with 1 Mother Agency. (Some models have contracts with all three agencies.)

In an email, Martinez said Brunel is not an owner of The Identity. The Identity Models, Inc., entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement with MC2 Model Management, LLC. in 2017, Martinez wrote. The Identity Model, Inc.s sole shareholder and one of two officers, is someone other than Mr. Brunel.

According to the October 16, 2017, Minutes of Organizational Meeting, two individualsneither of whom were Mr. Brunelwere elected officers, the attorney continued. Any ownership allegations regarding Mr. Brunel or any other entity with his involvement is expressly denied and refuted by the corporate documents.

Other than the aforementioned, there is no further comment regarding this matter.

The goal of The Identity was the younger faces would represent it while MC2 stayed the same.

Martinez did not answer followup questions on Brunels involvement with The Identity, The Source Models and 1 Mother.

Meanwhile, Marcia Gomez, a spokeswoman for The Source Models, said the agency is owned by Pedraza and Fuller, who was Brunels longtime business partner at MC2. Indeed, the contact email listed on The Sources Instagram page is an address.

Mr. Brunel is not involved and has no connection whatsoever to this organization, Gomez said in an email. Additionally, MC2 Miami will be ceasing operations.

Gomez said MC2 Miamis assets will be sold to The Source Models. (Fuller and Pedraza did not return messages seeking comment.)

Asked why Fullers wife, Hilary Altman, is the registered agent for the Ukrainian agency 1 Mother in Florida corporation filings, Gomez said, Recently, as an inducement for 1st right of refusal in the Miami modeling market, Jeffs wife agreed to be the manager for the domestic company and be a liaison for this business.

"Mr. Brunels involvement with 1 Mother was limited to providing a loan at its inception, Gomez added. Once the loan was satisfied (several years ago), that completed his involvement with 1 Mother.

Reached by The Daily Beast, one model signed with 1 Mother said she believed Brunel was the owner of the agency and that she saw him at the Kyiv office last spring.

Another model who left 1 Mother told The Daily Beast that Brunel was the owner and that "he came a few times to Ukraine to visit all models.

But Katya Talanova, CEO of the 1 Mother Agency, told The Daily Beast that she owns the firmnot Brunel. We had been working with MC2 Miami for some time, Talanova said in an email. They had a first right of refusal because of loan that we had (that was covered long time ago).

Asked about Brunel, Talanova said, Mr. Brunel has nothing to do with 1 Mother Agency. He is out of business and doesnt have any connections with us.

She declined to answer follow-up questions on the loan she referenced.

Vladimir Yudashkin, who says he co-founded 1 Mother with Brunel in 2014, said the agency was the Frenchman's brainchild. Jean-Luc approached me and we started to work together, Yudashkin told The Daily Beast.

He wanted models who worked for 1 Mother to think that they are booked to MC2 to represent them in New York because MC2 is the best choice for themnot because MC2 is financially related to 1 Mother and 1 Mother has no other choice to work with MC2, Yudashkin said.

When the time came to place the models in the U.S., Jean-Luc pushed to work exclusively with MC2," Yudashkin added, and potentially with The Identity in the future.

Brunel, according to Yudashkin, wanted to open a new agency in America.

He had told me that hes not happy how MC2 is doing and saw that the image was a problem and he wanted to open a new agency, Yudashkin said. He wanted to name it The Identity and Mathias was supposed to be the person who runs it.

Yudashkin said MC2 was supposed to be the agency for more commercial modeling jobs, while The Identity's goal was to become a high fashion agency.

In 2017, Yudashkin left 1 Mother Agency because he felt it was impossible to work with Brunel.

I was in the position to lie to models about MC2 and it was intolerable for me, he said.

When the time came to place the models in the U.S., Jean-Luc pushed to work exclusively with MC2, and potentially with The Identity in the future.
Vladimir Yudashkin, formerly of 1 Mother

In February, Ukranian model Natalia Kulakovskaya filed a lawsuit against 1 Mother and MC2, alleging that Mother breached its fiduciary duty by forcing her to work with MC2. The complaint, filed in Miami-Dade County, alleges Mother and MC2 share common control and/or ownership and that it was self-serving and profitable for Mother to work with Mothers affiliate.

Martinez filed a motion to bring the case to arbitration. Kulakovskayas lawyer, Nicolas Cuetara, said he will not comment on pending litigation.

The Ukrainian agency sued another model, Daria Khlystun, in November 2017, claiming that she breached her contract by failing to pay 1 Mother commission from her earnings with other agencies.

In her answer and counterclaim to 1 Mothers complaint, Khlystun denied violating her contract and instead claimed it wasnt valid because of duress/undue influence and fraud and/or misrepresentation by the agency, among other alleged transgressions.

Khlystun claims she suffered damages because 1 Mother Agency failed to provide financial support, visas for travel, and housingand didn't allow her to select the agency, or model manager, of her choosing.

She alleged 1 Mother abused its influence to force her to work with agencies that werent in her best interest," according to one November 2018 court filing.

One of those agencies was MC2, which she claims is "affiliated" with 1 Mother.

Khlystuns lawyer, Cuetara, filed a notice of service of a proposed settlement in February.

Martinez did not return messages seeking comment on the 1 Mother lawsuits.

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How Skate Kitchen Vividly Captures Teen-Girl Sex and Skate Culture

Hit up a skate park on Manhattans Lower East Side and, amid the skater bros and dudes smoking weed, youll find a tight-knit unit of talented teenage women. With unruly hair whipping their faces and socks pulled up under their Vans, the women belong to an inclusive group of young female skaters self-dubbed Skate Kitchen. The names a two-fingered salute to all the dickheads who have jeered at them to get off the quarter pipes and back in the kitchen.

These are the badass women cruising and kickflipping through Crystal Moselles Skate Kitchen, a narrative film adapted from the girls real lives. At its center is Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a Long Island native and skillful skater who religiously follows the girl gang on Instagram. Breaking her mothers rules, Camille begins trekking into the city to hang at the womens stomping ground, skating and smoking and making online videos. She becomes fast friends with the crew, getting particularly close to Kurt (Nina Moran), a no-filter firecracker, and Janay (Ardelia Lovelace), whose comfortable house and kindly dad make for a great summer refuge.

Riding the Brooklyn G train in 2016, Moselle, whod blown everyones mind the year before with her stranger-than-fiction debut documentary The Wolfpack, overheard a couple of teens recounting their past nights escapades. Moselle couldnt help but listen in. Nina has this incredible voice. It just travels, says Moselle, wearing giant crescent moon earrings and sipping on a green juice in Manhattan the week before the films release. She can silence a room.

But what really caught Moselles attention wasnt what the girls (who turned out to be Vinberg and Moran) were saying, but what they were toting: skateboards. When they got off at the same stop, Moselle cornered the teens and introduced herself while trying to covertly record them on her phone. They totally caught me, Moselle recalls. I actually still have the video.

The chance encounter spurred a years-long collaboration, resulting in what would become Moselles first narrative feature. To pen the script, Moselle copied down stories from the womens lives and shuffled them around on a big board. The Skate Kitchen consulted on every step, taking part in periodic improv workshops to ensure each scene felt organic and the dialogue true to their vernacular.

Similar to The Wolfpackin which Moselle observes a gaggle of teenage brothers quarantined in a tenement apartment by protective parentsSkate Kitchen engages the sort of anti-scripted yet lightly stilted vibe of a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Dialogue is slangy and off the cuff. Thats valid is the movies most-recited phrase.

But reproducing skate parlance was only one part of Moselles mission. Devising realistic day-to-day conversationsranging from tampons to crushes to hookupswas the bigger challenge. Theres a real innocence to these girls and their scene. Its not, like, drug-fueled. Its very fun, Moselle says. I think Nina told me about how shed made out with three girls in one night, and I was like, OK, thats something we have to recreate.

In one scene, lounging at Janays, Kurt interrogates Camille about her sexual preference. Do you like dick or pussy? she demands. Boys I like boys, Camille offers. Unfazed, Kurt replies, I like pussy. Good pussy. Later on, Camille approaches a different friend about a guy shes been seeing. Do you like him? she asks. I like how he gives me head, the friend replies, her mouth curled into a sly smile.

I love to see New York in a new perspective. And to shut down the idea that New York is dead. Im like, you dont hang out with enough teenagers. These girls are finding a new version of New York every single day.
Crystal Moselle

Story-wise, Skate Kitchen hits familiar coming-of-age beatsthe strict mother, the best friend secrets, the love trianglebut its casual verisimilitude elevates it to a league of its own. Of course, it doesnt hurt that its characters are dynamic, hardcore female athletes, the type of women you dont tend to see on the big screen.

With the movies buzz, Moselle has become the newest inductee into a nebulous girl gang of her own, an expanding (but still criminally scant) array of modern female directors approaching womens stories with a refreshing sense of authenticity: Andrea Arnold, Dee Rees, Elizabeth Wood. Arnolds 2016 teen road epic American Honey is a particularly frequent point of comparison for Moselles film due to the parallel hip-hop soundtracks, zippy handheld camera, and brave trust in first-time actors.

The only young professional cast member in Skate Kitchen is Jaden Smith, who plays Camilles love interest Devon. Smith came to mind for the part while Moselle and the crew were brainstorming actors; it was important that whoever played him actually knew how to skateboard. Serendipitously, Smith had DMed Vinberg on Instagram months earlier, complimenting her videos and inviting her to skate in Los Angeles should she ever be in town. Like Shia LaBeouf in American Honey, Smith slips into the ensemble seamlessly, drawing undue attention only via his hair, dyed bright red.

Moselle also shares Arnolds observant eye and sense of adventure. New York City has a long cinematic history, but in Skate Kitchen the familiar environs feel fresh and invigorating. The secret, Moselle says, was letting the girls take the lead. I love to see New York in a new perspective, she says. And to shut down the idea that New York is dead. Im like, you dont hang out with enough teenagers. These girls are finding a new version of New York every single day.

Teen girls have long been seen as notoriously mysterious creatures, and notoriously difficult to capture onscreen. But thats only because the majority who have endeavored to do so are of a different gender and generation. To them, the Skate Kitchen may as well be from another universe. Its no wonder viewers are also likening Skate Kitchen to Kids, the canonized exemplar of raw teenage realism written by a young Harmony Korine: Both films got a boost from someone on the inside.

Theres so many stories about what people think women talk about, says Moselle. The people that are putting the films out into the worldtheyre not women, theyre men. And I think its time for them to realize that people do want to see these films. That they want these stories to live.

She adds, Whats cool is that I think a lot of these films are being financed right now, but as far as them actually getting out into the world, its a little bit more tough. So I think its just about pushing forward.

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Kushners Deutsche Bank-Backed Property Stung by Tenant Troubles

In a six-floor retail space near Times Square, the Guy Fieri restaurant has closed and construction hasn’t begun on celebrity chef Todd English’s food hall. A tourist attraction featuring a 1/87th scale model of New York City was behind on rent for two months as of December, according to loan documents.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When Kushner Cos. bought the property for $296 million in 2015, then-Chief Executive Officer Jared Kushner had big plans to capitalize on the tens of millions of tourists who visit the area every year. Deutsche Bank AG financed the endeavor before selling most of the debt to investors across Wall Street a year ago. Those investors were shown disclosures describing the retail space as 100 percent occupied and estimating it would throw off $24 million of rent annually.

But Fieri, English and Gulliver’s Gate, the operator of the miniature Manhattan, account for $9.9 million of that rent estimate, which underpinned a market-defying appraisal boost and helped justify $370 million of loans, the disclosures show. Problems with these spaces could make the economics challenging.

Documents Requested

Last year, New York prosecutors requested documents from Deutsche Bank related to the property, where the Kushners used the debt to take out $59 million in cash. It isn’t clear what prosecutors are looking for. But mortgages granted under generous financial assumptions then sold to others who will bear the risk have piqued their interest in other cases. A spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Deutsche Bank.

Despite the turbulence, Kushner Cos. says it isn’t worried.

“We are very happy with this investment and continue to meet all our financial obligations and will continue to do so in the future,” Christine Taylor, a spokeswoman, said in an email.

Gulliver’s Gate was cited due to a technicality and payments were only a few days late, she said. The company has a letter of intent for the Fieri space from a prestigious tenant at a higher rent, and the operator of the food hall is making final adjustments to its plan, she added, saying the changes are increasing the value of the property and will attract more visitors.

A spokeswoman for Gulliver’s Gate said that it “is up to date on their rent and paid in full on their lease” and there are “no concerns” about its future there.

Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, left his role in the family company when he joined the administration a year ago and divested from some assets. He says that, to avoid conflict of interest, he’s no longer involved in the business.

Watch List

New managers of the loans bought from Deutsche Bank have taken notice of the property’s issues. Even if they were brief, the missed payments by Gulliver’s Gate, the second most lucrative tenant, triggered a clause in the Kushners’ loan documents allowing creditors to demand any excess cash from the property until the problem was resolved, according to reports from debt servicers. Managers also put the retail space on watch lists for potentially troubled debt because it lost money for nine months through September 2017 after accounting for interest payments, the reports show. That’s because new tenants were given millions in free rent, a common tactic used to fill store spaces. Kushner Cos. set aside $11 million of the loans for the free rent. Disclosures don’t describe that figure as including funds for vacancies.

Bumps in the road are common when repositioning buildings, which can take years to reach full earning potential. But the retail tenants at the former New York Times building at 229 West 43rd Street posed special risks. Disclosures for potential lenders show that none had a credit rating from Fitch, Moody’s Investors Service or S&P Global Inc., unlike many large retail properties that tend to be anchored by stores with known credit profiles.

Full Occupancy?

In truth, maintaining full occupancy looked tough from the start. When the debt was sold to investors, the 500-seat Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar had been beset by negative reviews, and Todd English and his partners hadn’t yet taken possession of the space for his food hall. The chef, who has pulled out of another project, was scheduled to open for business there last April. Gulliver’s Gate, reportedly a $40 million endeavor, had not yet opened and was an untried competitor amid the glitz of Times Square.

On a recent Monday afternoon, the area reserved for Todd English was empty and unfinished with no sign of construction. Banners hung outside read “AFI Retail,” the name of a subsidiary of the building’s previous owner.

“We continue to work towards delivering this project,” Richard A. Chinsammy, executive vice president of Outstanding Hospitality Management Group, English’s partner for the food hall, wrote in an email. A spokeswoman for English said the restaurant is now scheduled to open in December.

Logos Pulled

Logos for Fieri’s restaurant had been ripped from windows, though a large metal sign remained above the doorway. A spokeswoman for Fieri declined to comment.

Upstairs, about 50 people were visiting Gulliver’s Gate. Two attendants said it was busier on weekends. Tickets for the 49,000-square-foot space filled with miniature buildings are $36 for adults and $27 for children and seniors. Tickets are also included with purchases of nearby hotel rooms, according to online reviews.

When Kushner Cos. bought the property in 2015 from Africa-Israel, the distressed firm of Russian diamond magnate Lev Leviev, online retailers were ascendant, and the future of brick-and-mortar stores was uncertain. So filling the property with tenants offering experiences seemed smart.

Ocean Odyssey

In addition to Todd English and Gulliver’s Gate, Kushner signed National Geographic, whose “Encounter: Ocean Odyssey” promises an “incredible underwater journey” without any danger of getting wet. Bowlmor Lanes — with bowling, an arcade and party spaces — was already there. Neither tenant has been reported to have any problems.

The expected surge in income preceded a new appraisal in October 2016 at $445 million plus additional cash in accounts, indicating a stunning growth in value that far outstripped the broader Manhattan retail market, which had suffered a slowdown. Against that valuation, the $370 million of loans represented only 83 percent of the value, the investor disclosures showed. But Moody’s and Kroll, the risk-assessment firm, found in independent calculations that the loans exceeded the value.

Four Trusts

Deutsche Bank’s $285 million loan to Kushner Cos. was divided into four trusts with pieces of other loans to be sold to investors as commercial mortgage-backed securities. All told there are 163 loan pieces in the trusts, but only seven have been flagged on watch lists — including the four Kushner chunks. The Kushners received another $85 million in high-interest loans from SL Green Realty Corp. and Paramount Group.

In determining how much in interest payments the property could handle, underwriters estimated that costs to manage it would run about $4 million, disclosures show. If it achieved full rent of $24 million, that would indicate a modest cushion after making interest payments: about $18 million annually, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. But any loss of tenants with no immediate replacements could change those numbers quickly.

The situation might get worse before it gets better. In an October legal complaint against the Plaza Hotel, which contains a Todd English restaurant, the chef is accused of sexual harassment. In November, S&P downgraded the debt of another tenant, Guitar Center, saying it thought a potential debt restructuring could occur in the next six months, “a transaction that we would view as tantamount to a default.” A Guitar Center spokeswoman declined to comment.

Entertainment venues are more likely to experience money crunches in an economic slump than traditional retailers, Kroll said in its March report on the property and its debts. “This may subject the loan to increased risk of default and loss,” the firm said.

Still, there are worse venues to hunt for new tenants than Times Square, which commands the highest retail rents in the city after Fifth Avenue.

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    Wall Street Picks the Best New Restaurants in New York

    It should come as no surprise that Bloomberg Terminal users (aka the who’s who of the financial industry) eat out a lot. After all, there’s a lot of business to be done at restaurants, and it’s been a big year for New York dining, especially with the relaunch of the former Four Seasons space. So we took a poll among readers of Red Dot NYC, a weekly restaurant-openings newsletter available on the Terminal, to determine their favorite restaurants across the five boroughs. No surprise: It’s still all about Manhattan. 

    Here are New York’s top new restaurants, as chosen by hedge fund managers, traders, and other Wall Street insiders.  

    The Grill

    The runaway hit for Wall Street diners: the Grill. 
    Photographer: Anthony Causi

    The runaway hit among the Bloomberg audience. And why not: The landmarked dining room from Major Food Group celebrates New York’s chophouse culture with a prime rib cart that rolls from table to table and a fabled bar, with its long list of martinis.

    The Pool

    A little foie gras snack, from the Pool.
    Photographer: Zack Dezon/Bloomberg

    The splashy (hehe) restaurant opposite the Grill puts an emphasis on seafood prepared simply—and foie gras amped to 11—plus an exquisite and pricey raw-bar selection and the best caviar service in the city. 

    4 Charles Prime Rib

    On a quiet West Village street, 4 Charles has the vibe of a small private club. The menu features prime rib, salt-crusted and roasted for hours. It’s served in multiple ways, from thinly sliced to a 16-ounce center-cut to a bone-in double cut that goes for $89.

    Le Coucou

    Power dining in New York at Le Coucou.
    Photographer: Corry Arnold

    One of the city’s newer power-dining spots is not far from the Financial District in lower SoHo. From the gleaming, open kitchen comes such reinvented French classics as pillowy seafood quenelles in lobster sauce and duck with figs and foie gras.  

    Loring Place

    Loring Place
    Photographer: Aliza Eliazarov

    A vet of Jean-Georges Vongerichten kitchens, chef Dan Kluger serves New American dishes in a laid-back West Village dining room. Grain salad with smoked chili aioli, grandma-style pan pizza, and barbecue chicken from the wood-burning grill are all crowd-pleasers.


    This stylish all-day café is from the same team behind Cosme, a destination restaurant famed for its duck carnitas. The menu here features Mexican treats such as herb-topped guacamole and fried fish Milanese, accompanied by a basket of fresh tortillas. The tequila and mescal list is stellar.

    Empellón Midtown

    Fancy nachos and tacos at Empellón Midtown.
    Photographer: Evan Ortiz/Bloomberg

    Chef Alex Stupak has expanded his downtown Mexican empire to 53rd Street and Madison Avenue, where he serves tacos that riff on such classic midtown dishes as hash browns and roast beef. The bar is great for after-work margaritas and guacamole—and indulgent seafood nachos worth the $30 charge.

    Lobster Club

    The third restaurant to open in the Seagrams Building from Major Food Group, this stylish space designed by Peter Marino evokes a Japanese brasserie, with sushi and teppanyaki-grilled wagyu skirt, lobster, and branzino. There’s private dining space for up to 50 guests.


    Photographer: Paul Wagtouicz

    The modern Middle Eastern restaurant, down the block from Gramercy Tavern, is co-owned by the founder of the popular Breads Bakery (you may know its famous chocolate babka). The unconventional menu includes gigantic Jerusalem sesame bagels, seared scallops with chestnut cream, and Palestinian tartare made with hand-cut beef and smoked eggplant.  


    The Butcher’s Feast at Cote.
    Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

    This dynamic Korean steakhouse specializes in the Butcher’s Feast (which we named one of the year’s best dishes), which gives guests the chance to sample multiple cuts of beef selected by chef David Shim from the dry aging room. That might include 45-day-aged rib-eye and Cote galbi, or marinated short ribs, cooked on the grill at your table. On any given night, you might see David Beckham or Chrissy Teigen.

    Emily West Village

    Brooklyn’s hit pizza spot set up shop on a scenic West Village corner. The stars are thick, chewy, and cheese-crusted, with such options as Pig Freaker (bacon, kimchi, miso) and Street Fair (sausage, cherry peppers, tomato sauce, mozzarella). Burger fanatics are familiar with the double-stack Emmy Burger, which comes with caramelized onions, American cheese, and curly fries.

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      Why Foodies Should Flock to San Francisco Instead of New York

      Michelin has delivered some good news to the Bay Area.

      Today, the restaurant bible announced the places that it has awarded one, two, and three stars in and around San Francisco. The news had been postponed, due to the wildfires in the area.

      There are now seven Michelin three-star restaurants in San Francisco. The newest addition is Coi, a modern, thought-provoking restaurant near the Financial District. Chef/owner Daniel Patterson handed over kitchen duties to Matthew Kirkley early last year; in response, the restaurant gained a star. “Matthew Kirkley has taken the restaurant to another level,” says Michael Ellis, international director of the . “He can combine sweetbreads and skate. He can serve a dish like sea urchin mousseline with grapefruit caramel. You think, ‘How can that work?’ Yet it does.”

      The newly three-starred dining room at Coi. 
      Source: Coi

      Patterson agreed. “I’m so happy for Matt,” he told Bloomberg after hearing the announcement. “He’s worked incredibly hard and he’s very deserving. I knew when I hired him he would cook at a three-star level and it’s great to see that hard work truly recognized.”

      New York has only six Michelin three-stars, at least for the moment. The 2018 winners will be announced on Monday, Oct. 30. It remains to be seen whether New York will gain any more; the Bay Area seems to be ahead of the Big Apple in terms of creativity and ambitious cooking, and it has an affluent, young, tech-industry workforce that supports this—at least on the higher end. 

      The Michelin two-star category included mostly good news, too, for the Bay Area. Two restaurants were freshly named: the modern Mexican Californos, in the Mission, and the exceptional, farm-based, Japanese-minded Single Thread, in Healdsburg.

      In all, 55 restaurants earned Michelin stars; last year there were 54. That bucked the trend for the area’s inexpensive restaurants—the Bib Gourmands, Michelin’s cheap eats, listed 67 spots this year, down from 74 a year ago. (For anyone wondering whether the charming, New American Rich Table was taken off that list because it landed a Michelin star this year, the answer is “Yes.”)

      Another worthy addition to the list is Kenzo, the elegant Japanese omakase spot in Napa that’s attached to the winery of the same name. It’s owned by video game mogul Kenzo Tsujimoto, chief executive officer of Capcom Co. Also notable is In Situ, from chef Corey Lee. His restaurant in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art received a star for recreating the world’s most famous dishes from such chefs as Massimo Bottura, David Chang, and Wylie Dufresne

      The extraordinary Single Thread catapulted to win two Michelin stars in a single year.
      Photographer: Garrett Rowland

      One restaurant that was downgraded from two stars to one is Campton Place. “It went to an all-tasting-menu format, which is fine, but the bar is higher,” notes Ellis. Several one-star spots shut their doors, including Aziza, Mosu, and Nico.

      “There’s a lot of high level cooking going on in San Francisco right now,” Patterson says. “It’s at the highest level I’ve seen it. When we opened Coi [in 2006], there was nothing. I’ve seen it go from zero to where it is now. It’s been a  remarkable evolution.”

      Ellis says we’ll have to wait until the New York stars are announced to see whether San Francisco has emerged as the better food city. “New York has a lot of talent. But there’s a particular, creative energy and almost unlimited ambition coming out of California. There are huge Asian and Mexican influences, access to incredible products both locally and from Japan, and a young, thriving audience. It’s a perfect cocktail of things coming together for the city’s culinary scene.” The full list follows.

      (An asterisk denotes a new entry.)

      Three Stars

      A post shared by Saison (@saisonsf) on

      Benu, San Francisco
      *Coi, San Francisco 
      The French Laundry, Yountville
      Manresa, Los Gatos
      Quince, San Francisco
      The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
      Saison, San Francisco


      Two Stars

      A post shared by CALIFORNIOS (@californiossf) on

      Acquerello, San Francisco
      Atelier Crenn, San Francisco   
      Baumé, Palo Alto
      *Californios, Mission
      Commis, Oakland
      Lazy Bear, San Francisco
      *Single Thread, Sonoma County 

      One Star

      A post shared by Kin Khao (@kinkhao) on

      Adega, San Jose
      Al's Place, San Francisco Mission   
      Aster, San Francisco Mission   
      Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
      Aziza, San Francisco 
      Bouchon, Yountville
      Campton Place, San Francisco
      Chez TJ, Mountain View
      Commonwealth, San Francisco   
      Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
      Gary Danko, San Francisco 
      Hashiri, San Francisco
      *In Situ, San Francisco 
      Ju-ni, San Francisco
      Keiko à Nob Hill, San Francisco 
      *Kenzo, Wine Country 
      Kin Khao, San Francisco  
      *Kinjo, San Francisco
      La Toque, Napa 
      Lord Stanley, San Francisco    
      Luce, San Francisco
      Madera, Peninsula, Menlo Park 
      Madrona Manor, Wine Country
      Michael Mina, San Francisco
      Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
      Mourad, San Francisco
      Octavia, San Francisco
      Omakase, San Francisco
      Plumed Horse, South Bay
      The Progress , San Francisco

      It takes a team to get a Michelin star: the staff of Rich Table.
      Source: Rich Table

      Rasa, Peninsula
      *Rich Table, San Francisco 
      Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
      SPQR, San Francisco
      Spruce, San Francisco
      State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
      Sushi Yoshizumi, Peninsula
      Terra, Wine Country
      Terrapin Creek, Wine country
      The Village Pub, Peninsula
      Wako, San Francisco
      Wakuriya, Peninsula

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