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VOL. 126 | NO. 225 | Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eighty3 Brings New Dining to Madison

By Sarah Baker

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The Madison Hotel’s Grill 83 has received a major face-lift, aiming to lure customers in its doors on a regular basis versus merely for special occasions.

Rodelio Aglibot, aka the “food buddha,” and his business partner Frank Fronda of Pilot Light have created the new menu and concept of Eighty3.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

After two weeks of renovations, the rebranded eatery opened its doors Wednesday, Nov. 16, under the name Eighty3, with two new chefs and more urban architecture.

The concept mirrors the nine-year-old hotel restaurant’s evolution from fine dining to one that now boasts more of an “upscale-casual type of environment,” said chef Rodelio Aglibot.

“We didn’t want to be such a rigid, hotel restaurant, we wanted to be a restaurant for the neighborhood as well,” Aglibot said. “The concept is built for people to come multiple times and we’re trying to achieve that with a more receptive atmosphere, more energy, and a menu that is very versatile and has a lot of options for people.”

Aglibot, known as “The Food Buddha” from TLC’s show of the same name, co-owns hospitality consulting company Pilot Light, along with his business partner, Frank Fronda, whose career stops include Palio in New York City and the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles.

In September, the duo was recruited to Memphis from Chicago by the Madison’s managing partner, Mohamad Hakimian.

“They help restaurants kind of rebrand, evolve or maybe in some cases, start over from scratch,” said Kerri Guyton, account manager with Obsidian PR. “They come in, they train, they design the menus. They’re doing this all across the United States. Actually, Aglibot’s got projects in Hong Kong, in the Cayman Islands, they really can see trends that are going on all over the world, so that’s what’s so cool about them coming to do something here in Memphis.”

Eighty3 held a sneak preview Tuesday night, in which Hakimian invited more than 100 past and present business partners, hotel clients and Downtown movers and shakers. In attendance were Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Lori Turner-Wilson, one of the driving forces behind bleu restaurant & lounge, which opened last month in the Westin Memphis Beale Street.

Bite-sized hors d’oeuvres gave guests a taste of what the new Eighty3 has in store, from sweet potato gratin to honey-soy glazed seabass. Cocktails included a frothy bourbon sour and a jalapeno-mint margarita.

Because with the exception of two steaks and the popular crab and shrimp spring roll appetizer, Aglibot and Fronda have completely revamped the menu to include unique options with affordable price points.

“If they’re craving a big steak, a salad and soup, we have that, but if they want to nosh and taste a few different smaller plates, we have that as well,” Aglibot said. “The menu is set up in different sections that helps describe these options for our guest, those being raw, our bread section, our dishes, plates and bowls. If you want to come in here and spend $60 or $70, you absolutely could if you’re buying high-ticket items like a steak, but it also gives someone the opportunity to come in and spend $30, $35 and still feel as full and get the experience of being in a new restaurant.”

But the restaurant’s changes don’t stop there. In efforts to modernize the dining experience with an updated physical space, interior design services were provided by Andre Landon and Marcia Mink with EDI International, a global firm specializing in commercial, leisure, hospitality, residential, planning and landscape architecture projects.

And a new sound system has been installed that distributes music throughout the entire dining area and locally made artwork with a “graffiti” feel adorn the walls.

But the overarching goal, Aglibot said, is an emphasis on the enjoyment of eating and sharing meals together. And that’s where Eighty3’s new leadership hopes to define the restaurant’s future fate.

“Because we have such a small clientele, we try to give our clients a sense of security where it’s not just one person who knows the menu,” he said. “Myself and Frank were here during the whole training period, so we’re very interchangeable. It gives our customers a little bit more reliability on us, because if they hire just one consultant chef so to speak, they’re sort of at the beck and call of their schedule. Now, it’s a lot easier for us to be both and have coverage for the hotel here in Memphis.”

Eighty3 will be open seven days a week during breakfast, lunch and dinner hours with brunch served Saturdays and Sundays. And it’ll be open on Thanksgiving.

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