A Sneak Peek Major Food Group’s Next Big Thing: The Lobster Club
It’s a balmy Monday afternoon in late October, and Jeff Zalaznick doesn't have his cleaver.
This member of Major Food Group, the hit-making restaurant team with chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, isn’t sweating it though. The cleaver is a gift from renown architect Peter Marino. He’s best known for his sprawling, shiny luxury retail designs like Chanel Ginza Tower in Tokyo and the Louis Vuitton outpost in LA—but not so much for the family of butchers he descends from.
“He wears butcher cleavers around his neck all the time, and he yells at me every time he sees me not wearing mine,” says Zalaznick with a chuckle. “He wears them because his family was in the meat business. He has a real connection with food.”
That’s just one of the reasons why Major Food Group decided to leave the whole design of The Lobster Club in New York City in Marino’s hands, from plates with Marino’s Picasso-like lobster sketches to the Jackson Pollock-esque floor tiles. For the non-landmarked space in the Four Seasons hotel—also home to their revamp of The Grill and The Pool—they had full control over what to do with the space unlike their other two projects. And they did something surprising. They handed off the creative reins.
Carbone, Torrisi and Zalaznick are known for not just dipping their toes into a concept but diving deep into it through extensive research, and coming out the other end with a completely new but somehow very true version. Take Carbone, for example, their New York City-based red-sauce joint. Red tuxedo-clad front-of-house staff take the orders and dish sass, and there’s tableside Caesar salad service. It taps nostalgia but turns out technical, delicious food. That’s the through line of all their restaurants, from neon-pink Dirty French to bagel-doling Sadelle’s in New York City—a commitment to concept and a reimagining with attitude that’s all Major Food Group.
Now as their brand expands, Zalaznick and the team knew they had to grow. Enter Tasuku Murakami, the chef behind The Lobster Club.
“Rich and I have a great passion for sushi,” says Zalaznick. “We eat sushi a lot together as well as on our own, and we both loved Sushi Azabu. It started being the only place we went. We only wanted his sushi.”
Before landing the job at The Lobster Club, Murakami oversaw the sushi at the Tribeca sushi temple, maintaining their Michelin star over the two years he was at the helm. Once Major Food Group decided to do their own version of a Japanese brasserie, their foray into Asian cuisine, the first person they reached out to was Murakami.
“From my heritage to my training, from my life in Japan to my new exciting life in New York City, we are fusing my classic Japanese background and training with the Major Food Group style,” says Murakami through a translator.
That means robata, gyoza, teppenyaki-style entrees and steaks as well as the bold, simple sushi that drew Major Food Group to Sushi Azabu in the first place. It’s a new era for Major Food Group but also the space itself. With its Picasso-inspired sculptures designed by Marino, original Picasso plates hanging behind the bar and Marino’s interpretive collages, the design harkens back to its old home as The Brasserie, a French-ish spot open 24/7 back in the heyday of the Four Seasons.
“You saw everything at 4 o’clock in the morning, from bankers who had just closed a giant deal to people who were out of their minds coming from Studio 54,” says Zalaznick. “There was this convergence of all these different worlds in the 70s and 80s. That fun spirit and excitement is what we want to bring back to life in the space.”
And with the original Picasso plates hanging back at the bar of The Lobster Club and beverage director Thomas Waugh making yuzu sake bombs, it’s certainly not hard to imagine that The Lobster Club won’t get its groove back in Major Food Group’s hands.