"The moral is, things happen," says Whalen. "You just try to make them as amicable as possible, and then you move on."
True to form, the humble Whalen prefers to turn the conversation to the talents of his Tremont colleagues, rather than tout his own restaurant. He has bounced back from the meltdown by designing one helluva spring menu, bursting with the types of "crossover" dishes that have made him one of the city's most interesting chefs.
The new menu highlights the Asian-fusion tilt Whalen adopted while working with Wolfgang Puck early in his career. Take the playful chicken 'n' waffles starter ($7.75), a sort of upscale-Asian riff on the West Coast soul-food standard: Tempura-battered chicken, a lighter-than-air waffle, and a drizzle of white-truffle-infused honey send this little number into a tasty twirl. Then there's the crisp-skinned, tea-smoked duck ($22.50), served on a juicy bed of diced pineapple, red pepper, and hot chile paste.
Whalen mixes up his menu every six weeks or so, but he promises that Fahrenheit fans won't find any other surprises in the wake of his recent woes. "We've got a great staff, great customers, and a clear philosophy," he says. "I'd have to be nuts to change that." Fahrenheit is at 2417 Professor Street; snag a table at 216-781-8858.
Bridge work . . . Debonair maître d' Marco Rossi moved on from downtown's Ponte Vecchio (2100 Superior Viaduct Bridge, 216-556-8200) in mid-February, but the view and the food are as good as ever, vows new GM Deborah J. Smith. On the other hand, rumors of the upscale restaurant's demise are getting a little tiresome.
"We've got the same staff and the same chefs as we did before Marco left; now we're just moving forward under new leadership." Ponte Vecchio opens for dinner at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; lunch service should begin in April.
Rossi, meanwhile, is working on a new Little Italy project for chef Michael Annandono, a former colleague at Osteria de Valerio & Al. Annandono (most recently exec chef at nearby Gusto!) hopes to open Michelangelo's Italian Restaurant & Wine in May, in the old Villa d'Este space on Murray Hill Road; Rossi will run the front of the house.