Why NYC restaurant Moscow57 must sue Con Ed

It’s about the pelmeni–specifically, the pelmeni that just ravished me at Moscow57, a Russian-Central Asian restaurant and live music club on Manhattan’s lower east side.

Now, a lot of you may be wondering why I, a professed commentator on lawsuits, have here wandered off the Sidebar track to write a rave-up about a particularly exquisite dish that bears a family relationship to Shanghai soup dumplings–except that Moscow57’s dumplings are gossamer light and the broth cradles the dumplings instead of occupying their interiors.

Have I morphed into a restaurant reviewer?


The reason I’m talking about Moscow57’s pelmeni–described on the menu as “Russian ‘ravioli’ with dill chicken broth, sour cream & Russian mustard”–is because until September 19, 2014, you couldn’t have the pelmeni at Moscow57.

Here’s why: Moscow57 opened its red door on February 5, 2014, the three founding partners raring to go, having dreamed of and worked for years to develop the concept and design the place to evoke the aura of the fabled Russian Tea Room, owned by partner Ellen Kaye’s parents (and where she began her own restaurant career at the age of 4, filling the salt and pepper shakers).

They worked out the menu, found an excellent chef and gathered the staff they needed, completely renovated the space at 168-1/2 Delancey Street, got all the necessary permits and licensed contractors, plumbed it and lit it with exotic hanging lanterns that might have come from a Circassian chieftain’s tent. On the walls they hung art and photos from Ellen’s own collection, some of them photos of her family and famous patrons of the Russian Tea Room.

A la Russe, they infused herbs, spices and fruits into the mighty jars of vodka that sit behind the bar and dispense the signature Moscow57 drinks (scroll down the menu link to the drinks section and drool, especially over my personal favorite, the Moscow Mule, as great as it reads)…

BUT. Consolidated Edison of New York, our monopolistic energy company, did not get Moscow57’s gas turned on until last September, almost a year after its opening day.

Bummer. To put it mildly.

It was inarguably Con Ed’s fault that, for almost a full year, Moscow57 could not send delicious hot cuisine from its ample menu out of its kitchen into its warm red room and onto the tables of its eager clientele. They made do with inventive cold dishes, salads, sandwiches and dishes like herring, gathered from and credited to local purveyors.

Moscow57 obeyed all the rules, all the laws governing safety. Unlike other business people we have just this past week read about with horror, they did not ignore Con Ed’s rules, they did not illegally hook up their equipment.

Con Ed’s long, punishing screw-up was eventually reported on by Crain’s New York Business, but only after Moscow57’s gas was finally turned on. You see, you don’t ask journalists and reviewers to come to your restaurant when you are not fully operational. (The Crain’s link will give you an endearing video of the Moscow57 gang and the restaurant.)

As it happens, there is a very careful, complete record of Con Ed’s fumbles which severely cut into Moscow57’s revenue for nearly a year. Why? Because one of Moscow57’s partners has a genetic relationship to me–that’s the me who has scrupulously advised you potential plaintiffs on how to make a record and, even more important, a time line. And more on time lines.

So when that genetic connection, i.e., my brother Ethan–who has, via pseudonym, made a previous appearance as a plaintiff on Sidebar and who is a Moscow57 partner and its music director–told me about this miserable Con Ed problem, I jumped immediately to, “Gee, that’s a lawsuit.”

And he, in turn, told me he was gathering all the paperwork, including a lot of emails because that’s how Moscow57, its contractors and Con Ed primarily corresponded. As you readers know, within emails can be found smoking guns.

Bravo, Eth! I invited him down to my place where I applied all my rules for compiling a time line: he read out every email, with names, dates and times down to the second, and I wrote it into a new CaseMap table.

So now in this very computer I have a thorough time line of all of Con Ed’s errors and misdirections, and Moscow57’s diligent efforts to satisfy Con Ed’s shifting requirements.

Reading through the time line, seems to me that Con Ed had too many people working this particular job, every one of whom was giving and contradicting instructions without consulting with each other.

Do permit me an apt cliché: Con Ed’s too many cooks didn’t spoil the pelmeni broth. They didn’t allow Moscow57 even to make it.

I’ll keep you up with the progress of suing a major municipal utility. But don’t wait for my updates: take the F train to Delancey Street, walk east toward the Williamsburg Bridge and the red canopy at 168-1/2 Delancey, just after you cross Clinton.

I won’t command you to have the pelmeni–everything on the menu is great–but if you do have the pelmeni, you’ll love ’em.


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