Exclusive Scoop From the Forge's Owner

While news about the Forge's relaunch has been slowly trickling

in (such as the hiring of Dewey LoSasso as head chef), owner Shareef Malnik

has been tightlipped about the legendary eatery's extreme makeover. It's a

marketing strategy he stands by, because he doesn't want to ruin the surprise of the

official unveiling, which will happen sometime at the end of February. Nevertheless,

he took time to reveal several exclusive details to Short Order.

"We are telling a new story," says Malnik, who has gutted 90 percent of the space since the eatery's closing this summer. "But we are being

careful because the Forge has a history and evolution. It's a living thing. The

inspiration is the world we live in. The world has changed enough from where we

were at to warrant a substantial change. We are not married to anything from

the past. If we did use something from the past, it was because it works, not

because it was already there. There are a few iconic design components left there

to pay homage, but it's a new restaurant. We are creating a new classic."

Expect the previous incarnation's over-the-top décor to be toned down. Even all

of the furniture has been custom-made.

Similarly, the menu has also evolved. It's no longer solely focused on carnivores hankering for porterhouses and potatoes. "Don't call us a steak house," Malnik divulges. "We will have a great selection of steaks, but we have this culinary ambition to be more than that. Anyway, there are enough typical steak houses in town to satisfy anyone looking for that steak-house template." Furthermore, Malnik remains mum as to whether entrées will be dramatically presented with silver domes, as in the past.

The Forge 2.0 is also jettisoning its hedonistic Wednesday-evening parties in favor of becoming a destination for foodies every night of the week. "In the early '90s, it was very avant-garde to combine fine dining and having a good time," he remarks. "It was eclectic, phenomenal, and beautiful. Now, it's passé for me to be doing that. Maybe I've grown up. Not to knock it, but I want to be a pioneer in the direction we are going. It's about access. In years gone by, it was about excess." Despite Malnik's modest claims, however, expect to see his fabulous friends -- such as Madonna, Brett Ratner, Shaquille O'Neal, and Sharon Stone -- rubbing shoulders in the François Frossard-designed dining room.

"We paid attention to detail in all areas, from food, architecture, and design to layout, menus, pricing, and wine," Malnik notes. "Prices are more reflective of the economy. We want the Forge to be open, friendly, and accessible. It's an out-of-the-box philosophy."

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Jacquelynn D. Powers