Blueberry soufflé at Tabla
Jimmy Bradley

Jimmy Bradley

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
April 30, 2006

Jimmy Bradley


Prosciutto, creamy polenta and smoked mozzarella
Calamari and chickpea salad with garlic dressing
Meatballs Fried in Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the style of Ristorante Da Delfina

Jimmy Bradley is in no hurry. The chef who brought us The Red Cat, The Harrison and The Mermaid Inn works at his own pace. Jimmy doesn’t follow trends but rather cooks the foods he wants to and builds restaurants that show he knows what people really want: a sense that you care.

He opened The Red Cat in 1999 with partner Danny Abrams* during the pinnacle of what Jimmy calls the “BBD.”  The term BBD stands for bigger, better deal. It’s the concept of creating the next big thing — the larger, flashier, more extravagant eatery that will draw media attention and crowds because it is a … Bigger, Better Deal. I think perhaps New York City will always be at the pinnacle of the BBD phenomenon, since this is a city that’s constantly moving, and people are always looking for sensationalism. The BBD will never stop, but not everyone has to fall into its trap. Jimmy explains with his easy charm, “To understand a trend is one thing, to jump on board is another. To be a salesman is one thing, to sell out is another. Things that are popular don’t make it right.” I couldn’t agree with him more.

In the restaurant business, success or failure is easily gauged because there’s an emphasis on instant gratification. Patrons eat and either love it, send it back or even worse, don’t come back. But beyond excellent food, there are a million little details that can touch someone and make all the difference. People want a symbiotic package, where all elements of the dining experience complement each other — a continuity that flows together. Diners want to feel welcome and comfortable at an establishment. We want to go somewhere where the waiters remember who we are — our names, favorite foods and table. We are dying for an indication that those who are servicing us are paying attention. Jimmy’s restaurants are successful because people feel the warmth and dedication and want to come back for it. At the end of the day, the real measure of success for a restaurant has to be return patronage. That’s what tells you that you’re doing it right.

The Red Cat follows the simplistic American motto that quality and good work is rewarded. It’s a joint where people feel welcome and a bit removed from the realities of New York City just out the door. Even though people tend to get caught up in the excitement of trying new and different experiences, they will always seek to return to a sense of normalcy. Jimmy wanted to create an ambiance where someone can come three days a week and feel at ease. He knows that a restaurant is defined by its patrons, and that diners like to identify with the restaurants they go to. In other words, you draw the type of crowd you want, and those who go to The Red Cat are not looking for the BBD. Most people who return to the Red Cat, including myself, know exactly why we go back.

When faced with my request to do an off-the-menu tasting, Jimmy explains that it doesn’t make much sense in his case. Unlike The Mermaid Inn, the only concept restaurant in his portfolio which features foods from his New England childhood, The Red Cat and The Harrison are blank canvases where he can put anything he wants on the menu. And since the menu changes seasonally, it’s really hard to consider what is on or off the menu. He didn’t want to try to contrive something outlandish just to satisfy the assignment, nor was that the intent of my request.

The choices he’s made have allowed him a sense of freedom. He runs his restaurants to ensure flexibility and prevent himself and his customers from getting bored. His first cookbook, The Red Cat Cookbook, is being published this fall, but otherwise, he tells me he doesn’t have any big plans. I’m not sure I really believe him, but then again, seeing how he is able to take things in stride and has reached a really good place in his life, I have no reason not to.

Note: Danny Abrams and Jimmy Bradley announced an end to their partnership in May 2006. The two restaurateurs started The Red Cat, The Harrison and The Mermaid Inn together. Plans are for Jimmy to continue to run The Red Cat and The Harrison, and Danny will manage The Mermaid Inn.

Jimmy Bradley

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
April 30, 2006

Sichuan style chicken in hot and spicy sauce


It’s pretty straightforward — just downright yumminess. This cute little bird is wrapped in thin slices of pancetta, first pan-fried and then pan-roasted to give it that perfect consistency inside and out. The meat is tender and juicy with a light crispy skin on the outside. Everything about this appetizer is delicate and exquisite. The flavors are tastefully sealed in. Even the panzanella, with its croutons, tomatoes, garlic chips, parsley and basil, is just so gracefully delicious that you want to savor every bite. And it’s all gone before you know it.

Jimmy Bradley

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
April 30, 2006

Pearl Oyster Bar

227 10th Ave
(23rd & 24th St)

355 Greenwich St
@ Harrison St

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