Morbid curiosity along with a bit of masochism drew me back to Hudson Yards. Many of the restaurants that have been built there have seemed cursed on one level or another, but the latest one sounded uniquely inauspicious, starting with its timing. It opened in November — the 13th of November.

The Tavern by WS, as it’s called, faces west on 11th Avenue, offering a last nostalgic glimpse of the West Side railyards before they vanish beneath the second phase of Hudson Yards. (Yes, there’s going to be a second phase.) This winter, the restaurant’s front door has seemed like the most ferociously wind-battered part of the whole site, no small distinction. It’s such a forsaken spot that even the helpful greeters who roam the barren tundra between the buildings giving directions to despondent tourists stare blankly when you say you’re looking for the Tavern by WS.

Then again, it might be the name. To repeat, it’s called the Tavern by WS. If my instinct didn’t already tell me to beware of restaurants with bylines, past experience would. But an initials-only byline is even more suspect.

Who is this W.S., and why would he, she or they hide behind first letters? Is it Willie Sutton, the succinct bank robber? Will Shortz, the world’s only academically accredited puzzle master? Walter Slezak, the Austrian-born character actor? Watermelon Slim, the pseudonymous harmonica player? Wallace Shawn? Wayne Shorter? Whit Stillman? Wanda Sykes?

Credit…Ellen Silverman for The New York Times

I won’t get your hopes up any further, because the real WS isn’t a person at all. The initials turn out to stand for Wine Spectator, a magazine whose publisher, Marvin R. Shanken, owns the restaurant together with Steven M. Ross, the developer responsible for Hudson Yards, and Kenneth A. Himmel, another developer, who built the mall across the tundra where David Chang and José Andrés have their restaurants.

Wine Spectator is probably best known for assigning scores to wines on a 100-point scale. Numbers in the 90s can be seen in screaming boldface print on “shelf talkers,” those hanging sales pitches that dangle in liquor-store aisles like socks on a clothesline. The notion that a drink produced by sunshine, rain, dirt, vines and yeast can be judged by how close it comes to perfection, signified by a 100 score, never made much sense. Now that many drinkers are turning to quirky, imperfect wines, the Wine Spectator’s numerals seem like artifacts from an earlier time.

Perhaps this is why the Tavern by WS looks as if its designer, Rockwell Group, finished all its drawings for the dining room around 1999, lost them, rediscovered them last year and decided they were still good to go.

The interior’s most prominent features are the wine walls. There’s one by the host’s desk, two behind the bar and more on a mezzanine that seems to have no other purpose. And catwalks, too, because what use is a wine wall without a catwalk? All that’s missing to complete the Vegas-in-the-Clinton-era theme are women in bodysuits zipping up and down on cables to collect a Screaming Eagle here, a Harlan Estate there.

For a magazine whose current issue has such cover lines as “Bordeaux 2017: What to Buy” and “2017: Another Great Vintage” (that one is about Oregon pinot noir), these walls seem almost inevitable. Any magazine like Wine Spectator is going to promote wine as a status symbol; this just turns the idea into architecture.

The Tavern by WS is very nearly another case of an aging brand getting funky on the dance floor to prove that the old man’s still got it. But somewhere in an unseen kitchen behind those walls, a brigade of cooks is working like crazy to keep that from happening.

They’re led by Eli Kaimeh, who worked for Thomas Keller for 13 years, ultimately as chef de cuisine at Per Se. He was there in 2015, when I reviewed the restaurant, and the cooking seemed to have lost its conviction. At this new restaurant, though, he has a clear sense of what he wants to do and how to do it. The menu is a laundry list of routine American restaurant dishes like grilled salmon, but they’re almost all made over in ways that improve them without becoming excessively fiddly, a fate that is never far away in Mr. Keller’s restaurants. Mr. Kaimeh has helped turn the Tavern by WS into a good restaurant, despite its owners’ efforts to make it look like the opposite.

The minestrone has tiny pasta tubes, two types of shell bean, two types of string beans and miniature fried croutons that stay crisp as they float on the surface of very pure and sweet tomato soup. Excellent olive oil has been spilled on top. This minestrone has been cleaned up in too many ways to count, but it still tastes like honest vegetable soup.

The Caesar salad looks like a cross-section of an iceberg-lettuce head, which it essentially is, except that every leaf inside it has been somehow painted with a gratifyingly sharp Caesar dressing. The top is golden with toasted chips of Parmesan bread crumbs and grated Parmesan; crisscrossed over this are two anchovies, battered and deep-fried, fish-and-chips style. I have tried telling myself I won’t eat the anchovies first, but I always do.

The single slab of Nueske’s bacon would be worth ordering even if it didn’t come with a subtly upgraded spinach salad. (The walnuts are freshly toasted and the shallots are fried.) Lobster ravioli may be a little overcomplicated, but who will complain when the complications include lobster inside the ravioli, outside the ravioli and in the brandy-spiked sauce Américaine?

Although he spent a decade cooking tasting-menu portions, Mr. Kaimeh has a knack for making main courses that are big without being boring. Sea bass gets an herb crust and a really lively vinaigrette of chopped green and black olives. The skin on spatchcocked chicken is good and crunchy, and the sauce suprême tastes a bit like skin itself, or at least like the golden drippings on a Sunday roast. A lamb shoulder is braised until it simultaneously holds its shape and falls to pieces; it has enough flavor to make up for the somewhat blah heap of cavatelli, which might also be helped by another big spoonful of gremolata.

Some stunts backfire. The cucumber jelly shards crumbled over salmon rillettes have a slight back-of-the-fridge taste, and one of the few vegetarian dishes is also one of the few things worth steering clear of: a whole honeynut squash that seems to have had brown butter pumped into it.

Stephen Collucci, the pastry chef, treats American desserts affectionately but not indulgently. If a better crust can be supplied, it will be, as with the very thin and crunchy Graham cracker layer under the coconut cream pie, or the tender shortbread holding the excellent lemon meringue tart in one piece. I don’t know what to make of the crunchy, underbaked apples in apple pie, but I know that I’d skip it next time in favor of whatever doughnut has captured Mr. Collucci’s imagination at the moment.

His department also makes the gluten-free bread, which you might want to ask for even if you eat gluten. You will get long golden ingots of rosemary cornbread, or something very like it, and they will be wonderful.

Michaël Engelmann, who is in charge of alcohol, put together a robust wine list, closing in on 400 choices. Wisely, he doesn’t treat the document as the Wine Spectator’s greatest hits. It’s got a few much-hyped names, but the large number of bottles for under $100 is really something, and nowhere on the list will you see a point score.

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