Meet the new Met: Old favorite prepares to reopen

 It looks as though the long-awaited reopening of Métropolitain restaurant on Water Street may be nigh.

Since 1991, when it opened in its original location on the Downtown Mall (now occupied by Bizou), Métropolitain set the standard for fancy food and was on the short list along with C&O and, much later, Oxo– of special-occasion eateries downtown. Anniversary dinner? Métropolitain. Parents paying? Métropolitain. Entertaining visiting Saudi royalty? That's a tough one... hmmmm... how 'bout Métropolitain?

When news that this grande dame of dining would be closing its doors came this past summer, many local jaws hit the pavement. After all, this was the restaurant about which The New York Times once gushed: "If one were contemplating moving to Charlottesville, Métropolitain just might be the deciding factor."

Even some of the restaurant's employees were shocked by the news, and a few alleged that the matter had been handled badly by the restaurant's owners, Tim Burgess and Vincent Derquenne. Keicy Tolbert, a hostess who lost her job, called it "one of the most abysmal displays of callousness that I have ever seen."

But other employees rushed to their bosses' defense, claiming that the vast majority of Métropolitain's employees had been offered work at Burgess' and Derquenne's two other restaurants, Bizou and Bang.

Fortunately for the restaurant's deep pocket patrons, word quickly came that the closing wouldn't be permanent. Burgess told Dish back in July that Métropolitain needed "a makeover a new life." From the looks of things, that's just what it's received these past few months.

The patio area has been completely redone and is now covered by an arbor supported by thick brick columns. The interior features a retro-looking rainbow-hued bar and lots o' chrome a far cry from the more formal wood booths and tables of Métropolitain.

And it likely won't be called Métropolitain, either. Along with its new look, Burgess also told Dish it may have a hipper, shorter moniker: simply, Metro. Determining whether that remains the case will be Dish's next order of business.

Although a workman in front of the restaurant thought Friday, November 1, might be the big opening day, earlier this week Derquenne said he thought that might be premature. But before we could squeak any other details out of the master chef, he hurried off the phone, citing pressing work at Bizou. He failed to return our call by deadline, so we'll keep an eye on the transformed Metro for signs of an opening this week.

 

East to West, breakfast

 With all the action happening on Water Street, East to West, the Asian fusion restaurant next door to the morphing Metro spot, could be overshadowed. But we're happy to report East to West has some news of its own: Sunday brunch. Cynthia Nixon, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Justin Martin, says mid-day diners can stop in for brunch starting this Sunday, November 3.