The long-awaited restaurant concept Tatiana by chef Kwame Onwuachi made its debut in New York City’s Lincoln Center Plaza on Tuesday, taking center stage among dining options at the newly renovated David Geffen Hall.
The $550 million renovation was designed to correct reported acoustic issues with the home of the New York Philharmonic. But the addition of Tatiana—which Onwuachi named for his sister—aims to breathe new life into the performing arts venue.
“Opening Tatiana at Lincoln Center is a longtime dream come true for me,” said Onwuachi, in a statement. “Having grown up in the Bronx, I know this area has long represented arts and culture. We’re drawing on the city’s vibrant 1980s music and art scenes and paying homage to the often-overlooked places which shaped the city’s fabric and creative culture.”
The James Beard Award-winning chef is known for the Washington, D.C. restaurants Kith and Kin (named one of the Best New Restaurants in America by Esquire in 2019), and the short-lived Shaw Bijou. He told the story of those restaurants in the 2019 memoir “Notes from a Young Black Chef,” with Joshua David Stein, and the followup cookbook earlier this year, “My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef.”
At Tatiana, the menu reflects Onwuachi’s upbringing in New York, Nigeria and Louisiana, with dishes like Egusi Soup Dumplings stuffed with sea bass and served with Nigerian red stew and pickled pearl onions. (Egusi is dried and ground up seeds, a common ingredient in West Africa.)
Other options include braised oxtails with rice and peas, carrot and chayote; salmon Creole with gumbo panade, roasted okra, and peekytoe crab. For dessert: a glazed honeybun served with powdered donut ice cream and starflower.
Onwuachi also co-designed the staff uniforms with Tanya Amini of Lady and Butler. On the restaurant team is beverage industry veteran Don Lee (Death & Company, PDT, Momofuku Group) along with Amy Racine (Sons & Daughters, JF Restaurants). The chef de cuisine is Kamat Newman.
The restaurant’s design with architecture firm Modellus Novus, or MN, attempts to capture the emerging Hip Hop scene of the 1980s, but also acknowledges the razing of San Juan Hill, the once-thriving Black and brown neighborhood that was bulldozed in the 1950s to make way for Lincoln Center.
For example, the designers used iridescent tile to mimic the visual effect of oil-stained wet city streets in the sun. Two structural columns in the dining room are lined with chromate-treated steel for a refined industrial aesthetic that press materials said harken to playing around fire hydrants on a summer day. Lighting pendants are shaped like clouds drifting over tables.
Preeti Sriratana, partner/managing director of MN, said in a statement that the goal was to showcase the inner beauty of traditionally industrial, or “ugly,” materials in a way that feels welcoming to all.
“The design of Tatiana dovetails with Lincoln Center’s own forward-looking mission to diversify and extend patronage for its world-renowned program of performing arts,” Sriratana said.
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