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Restaurant Review: Grant Achatz, Science-Minded Chef, Turns to Cloning

“Our Bloody Mary is very unique,” our server said brightly. “It takes about 15, 20 minutes to make.”

“Is it served … cold?” my friend asked, hope flickering weakly in her voice.

It was. A few minutes later, a relatively traditional Bloody was poured over many tiny ice marbles inside the bowl of what looked like a small spittoon. Around the spittoon’s broad brim were arranged five garnishes, or side dishes, or condiments, including chopped razor clam with celery sorbet and a little pillbox of horseradish jelly.

When we were alone again, she sighed and said, “I was hoping for a glass.” The Aviary’s Bloody Mary, by the way, costs $ 38.

We had come to try the daytime menu the Aviary recently introduced after two months or so of nighttime-only business.

While the drinks gave us a bumpy ride, all was smooth once we embarked on the three-course, $ 45 lunch, starting with a roasted squash soup and a salad. Both had pieces of fruit and vegetable that had somehow been talked into tasting like more than they were. Finally there was a sandwich of fried, buttermilk- and yuzu-brined chicken thigh with pickles and shredded iceberg lettuce on a bun with more sesame seeds to the square inch than I’ve ever seen. The dressing was a toasted sesame sauce, and, like everything else about the sandwich, it was excellent.

Apart from a fried pork rind the size of a dish towel, the items on the evening menu are generally wispy: a single, wonderful tempura shrimp with slices of yuzu-scented pear; an octopus croquette under streamers of bonito. There is one of Mr. Achatz’s earliest inventions, the raviolo filled to the bursting point with black-truffle broth. It is still a marvel. There was only one dish I did not like, but boy, did I not like it: cold pork belly in a bland goo of banana curry, sandwiched between flat discs of iceberg lettuce.

These plates run from $ 11 to $ 29. Two or three would make for an interesting postcard from the inside of Mr. Achatz’s head. Ordering the whole roster would leave you a couple hundred dollars poorer and no wiser, though. The menu is not designed for that kind of eating.

Neither is the Aviary, although it’s hard to say just what it is designed for. Deals between chefs and hotels invariably entail compromise, but Mr. Achatz and Mr. Kokonas may have given up too much here.

Sunk a few steps below the hotel lobby and dominated by a view of the Central Park skyline, the space is an awkward combination of destination and waiting room. Achatz devotees who paid for their spots weeks earlier through Mr. Kokonas’s reservations and guest-tracking service, Tock, may find themselves at curved leather lounge chairs next to hotel guests taking phone calls between meetings.

The Wake and Bake cocktail at The Aviary. Credit Cole Wilson for The New York Times

There’s no sense of arrival, nothing to suggest you’re entering the domain of a restaurant group that has always refused to do things the usual way.

You do get that sense when you enter the Office. The Chicago Office is downstairs from the Aviary; in New York it is behind a wooden door just past the Aviary’s cocktail-assembly station. Suddenly faceless hotel luxury gives way to a den of leather club chairs, parquet floors, clothbound books, manual typewriters, contemporary art, eccentric antiques.

The two Offices are usually called speakeasies. This one looks to me more like the library of stately Wayne Manor.

The theme is tradition. This being an Achatz project, the theme is pushed to its limits and beyond. Micah Melton, the beverage director of both lounges (in both cities), scours auctions and private sales for old bottles of spirits. Some of the older ones go here for $ 500 an ounce or more, straight up. Others are mixed into what the menu calls “dusty bottle cocktails.”

As a way to get rid of money, this is both alluring and appalling. I couldn’t bring myself to order a $ 475 old-fashioned stirred from bourbon bottled in 1969. But I couldn’t resist learning what happens when 75 grams of shaved truffle soak in a bottle of Chartreuse. (It’s fascinating, but not more delicious than untruffled Chartreuse.)

The short food menu appears to have been printed by letterpress. On it are a number of time-honored plutocratic pleasures, such as cold oysters, foie gras terrine, and a really fine and forcefully seasoned tartare of ivory-veined rib-eye.

Steamed mussels in cream with leeks and bacon are $ 35. If any pot of mussels is worth that much money, this is it. Vegetable crudités may sound like nothing. They’re very much something, a miniature forest of fruits and vegetables treated this way and that, then set on chipped ice with a dip — a harmonious, understated vadouvan-squash cream the last time I went.

The contortions that Mr. Melton and Mr. Achatz put liquor through at the Aviary are as imaginative as cuisine gets; they probably have more freedom than they would if the place were a restaurant. But rather than asking how a Bloody Mary, say, can be improved, or what its essence is, they seem to ask: How would the Aviary serve it?

The answer always seems to require equipment. The bird-all-the-way-out drinks especially are like elaborate magic tricks with metal boxes into which the beautiful assistant will vanish. Somehow, the boxes upstage the assistant. The cocktails at the Office are more like close-up card tricks. My favorite is: Mix me a drink and I’ll make it disappear.

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The Aviary NYC, The Office NYC

80 Columbus Circle

(West 60th Street)

Upper West Side


Atmosphere The Aviary is a comfortably modern if generic hotel lounge; the Office does a hushed impersonation of a movie millionaire’s library. Service is extremely pleasant. Some servers are still learning the ropes, but there are a lot of ropes to be learned with any Grant Achatz endeavor.

Sound Moderate.

Recommended Dishes Aviary: black truffle explosion; octopus croquette; tempura Hawaiian shrimp; giant crispy pork skin. Office: mussels; salmon rillettes; rib-eye tartare. Aviary: $ 11 to $ 29. Office: $ 21 to $ 64.

Drinks and Wine The Aviary is inventive and the Office respects tradition, but both mix an array of cocktails that would be unimaginable anywhere else. Beer and wine are available, but beside the point.

Price $ $ $ (expensive)

Open Aviary: Daily from lunch until late night, with a one-hour late afternoon break. Office: Daily from cocktail hour until late night.

Reservations Accepted.

Wheelchair Access An elevator serves the accessible restrooms and the dining rooms, with some sunken areas reached by ramps.

What the Stars Mean Ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor, fair or satisfactory. One star, good. Two stars, very good. Three stars, excellent. Four stars, extraordinary.

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Can You Get Botox in a Facial?

Turns out you can now get Botox in a facial!

Botox. It’s that deep expression line on your forehead’s worst enemy, and for some, it’s the end of sweat stains on their tailored white shirts. And as it turns out, it’s also the star ingredient for a new facial (yes, facial) developed by board-certified and New York City-based plastic surgeon, Dr. Norman Rowe.

This might come as confusing, especially because the ingredient is usually injected into a muscle using a needle to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, or to prevent them from sticking around in the first place. In fact, according to the Botox site, that’s the only approved use for it currently.

Dr. Rowe, however, had other ideas. He created a virtually painless microneedling-like machine with cannulated needles that penetrate a fraction of a millimeter into the skin to deliver a bespoke cocktail of medications and ingredients, including Botox. At the same time they’re getting microneedling, they’re also getting an injection of different ingredients that can treat a plethora of different issues.

Unlike a traditional Botox injection for wrinkles that goes deep into the skin to hit the muscle, this injection of the ingredient is at the surface. “The microinjections we are giving inject a fraction of a millimeter,” explains Dr. Rowe. “All I’m doing is treating the skin and no deeper, whereas Botox fillers you inject much deeper than the level of the skin.”

Some other common ingredients used for the cocktails include hyaluronic acid and green tea extract derivatives for plumpness, and vitamin C to boost glow and radiance. “As you do the treatment with the cannulated needles, you make the holes in the skin—the medications go through the holes and in where they are needed.”

He adds, “I’m not using Botox for wrinkle sake; I’m using Botox for improving your skin look sake.”

So what is the Botox for if not for stopping lines from forming? Pore size and even oil production. After doing the treatment, he explains he’s had patients mention that their skin has become less oily, or some have even claimed their acne has cleared up. “One of the reasons we think that happens is, in our skin, our oil glands that are like little urns have an opening in them—there’s a muscle around that urn,” he explains. “When you need to sweat, that muscle contracts and squeezes the urn, as an analogy, out comes the oil as sweat. So if I diminish that squeezing, it will diminish the amount of oil secretion.”

Then, that opening becomes even smaller. Dr. Rowe says he’s decreasing “the body’s ability to squeeze that urn.” As he does that, he also decreased the amount of oil coming out of the pore, therefore making it smaller.

It’s a 20-minute treatment, and because the formula is individualized, it’s really ideal for anyone. And it’s not just for your face, either. “I’ve had women come in—they want to use it on their face, on their neck, on the décolletage, on hands,” says Dr. Rowe. Like a regular facial, it’s recommended about once a month.

After its given, the skin might look like you have a mild windburn, so moisturizing and sun protection are recommended. “Other than that, I’ve had women come in here on their lunch and they don’t mind going back to the office.”

As you can imagine, it doesn’t come cheap. Prices can range from $ 750 to a whopping $ 1,200! Ah, the price we pay to get the grease to go away. InStyle