EMM Group Opens The General, A Sure-Fire Hit

I’ve was invited to the friends and family opening of The Generalthe new restaurant from EMM Group at Bowery and Spring. EMM is Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein. They are the force behind Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, CATCH Roof, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, SL, SL East, Tenjune, Chandelier Room, Revel Nightlife, FINALE, and Bow, and lots of other stuff. Bow and Finale are the other parts of the Spring and Bowery space that once housed Boulevard and Crash Mansion. Executive chef Hung Huynh of Top Chef fame offers up modern Asian cuisine in a red-chaired gilded wallpapered paradise. All the inside-info is here.

Opening up this time of year is interesting. Most operators look to open in the early or late stages of spring or fall, and with 300 seats, there will be a lot of kinks to be worked out. Groups like EMM have fewer kinks than most.  Opening now allows the place to hit its stride as the nice weather and affluent snowbirds return. They can do no wrong in my book. The General stretches the Bowery strip from its previous above-Houston Street border where joints like Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, Gemma, Peels and many others serve neighborhood residents and well-heeled visitors. This is not the Bowery of my youth. Little Steve Lewis trivia: my great uncle was one of the famed Bowery Boys.

Most clubs reported near-normal attendees for the week after New Year’s but much lower revenues. People went out but seemed to be tapped or burnt out.  For all except for the very top operators, New Year’s Eve is a loss when you account for the naturally slower nights preceding it and the after-effects. I’m still beat up from all the rushing around, and Christmas bills are still being paid. Getting me out requires special coaxing.

Many people obviously get terribly drunk on New Year’s Eve and try hard to slow it down for a couple of weeks. Then there are those resolutions which often include a step back from the boozing. My resolutions always end in a vow to break all my resolutions ASAP. We are still enjoying tourist dollars, but those will fade away as vacation bucks tend to fly to warmer climates this time of year. The cold keeps people in and, well, you get the idea.

EMM group is way ahead of this game. They have a built-in clientele that’s enamored with all their other joints. CATCH is still more than killing it, and the word "NEW" is always a sure draw. The General, a NEW offering from an established hospitality group enters as a sure thing. I’ll keep you posted.

EMM Group’s Sweetest Weapon: Pastry Chef Thiago Silva

Arriving ravenous to an interview with a renowned pastry chef was a bad idea. I knew it the moment Thiago Silva – the 28-year-old Brazilian executive pastry chef behind all OF EMM Group’s restaurants –  placed a massive, glazed green tea donut and mini honey jar before me, and uttered three little words: “It’s cream-filled.” With that, I was off to the races, cutting open the donut, scooping up the green tea mascarpone cream, drizzling the honey all over its lemon honeycomb-topped self, and leaving no crumb behind. Thiago wasn’t fazed. It’s most patrons’ natural response to the signature dessert at The General – EMM’s newest hotspot: an Asian-inspired bar, restaurant, and downstairs jazz lounge.

But at The General, the doughnut doesn’t stop there; the Bowery spot has become known for Thiago’s most nostalgic, breakfast creation: cereal-topped doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts topped with Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and filled with their respective cereal creams. “A lot of people think I was high when I came up with the idea,” Thiago says. “But I wanted a breakfast item, so I combined my favorite breakfast cereals with my really great doughnut recipe.”

The doughnut recipe is another wildfire idea Thiago’s concocted that’s become EMM Group’s top-ordered dessert across all their restaurants. On the sweets menus of their spots CATCH NY, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, and Abe & Arthur’s, you’ll find one signature doughnut. For CATCH Miami, it’s their key lime doughnut. At The General, it’s green tea. For the rest it changes, with flavors like pumpkin and peaches and cream.

But Thiago – the man who grew up in Astoria and ironically bellowed “Feed me, feed me, Seymour” in his star-turn as the man-eating house plant in his high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors  – brings more than doughnuts and plated desserts to NYC. He’s also a master of cakes, known for creating outrageous cakes for EMM’s clients, most notably a four-foot-by-four-foot 16th birthday cake with a confetti cannon, fog machine, and lights. Suddenly, the chef doubles as an electrician.

“I googled how to do the electrical and wood work for the cake,” says Thiago. “And that’s what I love about making cakes – you never make the same cake twice, you never know what kind of order you’ll get. It’s a collaboration with the client, and you’ve got to deliver and make it memorable.”

Thiago, who’s had no formal culinary training, has made lots of memorable cakes for folks you might recognize: Brooke Shields, three cakes for Sofia Vergara, and the entire New York Giants squad, the day after they won the Super Bowl.

“That was the best, they’re my team,” says Thiago. “And Sofia is funny; she told everyone at the party that she stayed up all night making the cake.”

But nowadays the chef is staying up all night for a whole new reason: he and his wife have just had a baby boy. Full name: James Brenden Silva (adorable video here).

“He’s my favorite kind of sweet,” Thiago says. “Him, and tiramisu.”

The General

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