198 Orchard Street
AUGUST 13, 2013



In 1998, Chef Marc Gimarché opened Sabbatik, a restaurant which is closed two days for every day it remains open. It was open for fourteen days in September, reopened in November, where it was open until December, then closed until February, where it stayed open for six months, closed for an entire year, re-opened for four months, closed for eight . . .

I knew when I first heard about Gimarché that if I was going to make a living as a food critic, I had to eat at Sabbatik. That was easier assumed than done. In 1999 I was late, due to the fact that I had a child’s understanding of the subway system, particularly if that child had grown up across the country and was raised by coyotes. I didn’t think I would even get a second chance, but after a year of phone calls, I learned that my reservation was four years later.

Then in 2004 I was delayed by the New York City blackout—and had to wait a year after that because, citywide blackout or no, Sabbatik could not stay open.

Dining at Sabbatik became an obsession, and despite serious obstacles, I believed that one day I would be seated at Sabbatik's table, sampling food that I had read about for years (and in many cases, re-read).

Gimarche’s cuisine had been described as a revelation, and his premise was simple: “Food is hard to make. Not good food, all food. It is hard to make for the same reasons that make it hard to do anything well. I have devoted the first part of my life to the study of good food, and now I will devote my life to rest. Anyone who has tasted my food will understand why.”

There was no menu, only small dishes prepared and brought to the table with the most terse of descriptions.

Gimarché passed away two days ago, hit by a bus, in Queens. The family who ran the grocery that he frequented had no idea who he was. They were mostly confused by the idea of having a restaurant that was more closed than open.

In some ways I’m glad I didn’t get the opportunity to try Sabbatik. If Gimarché had an off-day, if I just didn't agree with his sensibilities, I would have been disappointed. I might have even questioned my calling as a food critic.

But then there is just the sense of life’s incompleteness, the things that we never get to experience—the ones we know about, anyway.



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