NYC's Winter Getaway: Aspen Social Club

NYC's Winter Getaway: Aspen Social Club

by Luiza Oleszczuk
02.25.2009

Imagine lingering in a warm, wood-clad lobby of a skiing resort, with deer skulls gaping from the walls, while yellow cabs cut through 47th Street right outside the glass door. That sort of contrast awaits visitors of Aspen Social Club at the Vikram Chatwal’s Stay Hotel-- where the hip, fractured shapes inspired by modern art and architecture coexist with the quaint warmth of a fireplace-lighten mountain cottage. Only such lounge décor pros as Steve Lewis and Mark Dizon could have made that work and create a soothing hide-out right off Times Square.

Aspen Social Club seems a déjà vu, especially for those familiar with its downtown counterpart, Aspen on 22nd Street. And even though the glitz of faux-Miami Highbar is retouched here with rough rustic elements like barn pieces, you might still sense the chic elaborateness of The Brier Group (Aspen, Amalia, D'Or, Highbar). Just in case the wood and leaf-ornamented fixtures did not convince of genuine Aspenness, the designers went as far as putting deer heads above the copper-topped bar.

But the dominant warm feel does by no means come from the faux, round fireplace gracing the 110-seat dining room, but the rough birch panels (supposedly taken from a 19th-century barn in Scranton) nestling everything that is not the eye-popping glass wall with incrusted birch trunks. And, of course, there’s the overwhelming presence of Jason Miller’s $100,000 ceramic antler chandelier.

On the casual note, the long wooden bar makes you want to sit down and hail a whiskey on the rocks while recalling the cozy hangout in Dumb and Dumber. The loungier part of Aspen Social Club is stocked with long benches which make it resemble a country train station waiting room at points, but, luckily, the brilliantly thought-through dim lighting saves the ambience, adding a mysterious, even magical touch to the décor. Even the long brown leather banquettes can give a cozy feel when used in the right way.

The rear space is dominated by canteen-style dining tables. And as classy as their entourage is, their arrangement supports rather a dinner in two than a social gathering. Chef Adam Ross, the lounge cuisine know-it-all who fixed the menu at Amalia coined a sophisticated list of small plates (served from 11am to 10pm) featuring such Colorado-inspired gems as the bison slider with smoked cheddar and gonzo sauce ($6), elk sausage with cranberry-apple compote ($11) and yellowfin tuna devilled eggs ($9). For those craving a high-end breakfast, Aspen Social Club offers an extended menu of early morning combos, like the Denver omlette, hash browns and biscuit ($13), making a real skier’s morning in the city possible. Even the cocktails were thought out to remind us of the snow-covered country, and so the signature concoction of Bailey’s and Chivas Regal, the Biff, is evoking the long time regular of real Aspen, Hunter S. Thompson (though the bar also hides a good choice of tequilas).  

It is also the creator of gonzo journalism that lent the name to Aspen’s private dining room, or the “gonzo room,” a 16-seat glam event space with a separate bar and Thompson’s quotes scattered on the walls. The gonzo room was already abused by the wild private bashes of Vogue, Saturday Night Live, Harper's Bazaar, Surface Magazine, Moet, Hennesy, Morgan Stanley, Ford Models, AOL and ABC TV. 

And this tendency for attracting people of show-biz is one of the reasons why Aspen filled up the first day and remained a popular hangout ever since. The slick (sometimes even sly) midtown crowd heads there to loosen up ties and social restrains. The fashion-conscious girls sport mini dresses and latest shoes’ trends that would be just a bit too much for a restaurant, but are just right for a lounge-restaurant crossbreed.  And the same goes for the loud music that might make conversation impossible, but encourages dancing all night long. If you have never been to real Aspen, you might think that is just like its midtown version would look like.

The only question that continues to bother us is: what did the owner, Greg Brier, want to achieve? Because if he wanted a lounge, he should have invested into softer couches instead of hard benches and table chairs. He should have put the tables closer together and make them lower, so that they do not bring to mind a high school cafeteria. And if he wanted a restaurant, he should have made the plates larger and the décor less posh. As Aspen Social Club tries to be both, the result is somehow confusing.

Aspen Social Club
157 W 47th St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 221-7200

For more info on Aspen Social Club, click here.


 

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