Delusions of Grandeur

by Alan Philips
06.24.2010

“So I'll start a revolution from my bed
'Cuz you said the brains I had went to my head”
- Oasis

What am I doing? What gives me the right to write down my opinions and send them to you as if they are fact? I can do whatever I want, that’s the new wave. Everyone is doing it, but why? Did you know that most people in our generation would rather take a job for less pay and have their opinion heard, then a higher paying position with less influence on their destiny? No more rich zombies, just poor ass hipsters with chips on their shoulders. Yep, clearly our country has a grand future, almost as bright as BP Oil and shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. So what do you do with all of these opinions? Obviously you shout them from digital rooftops, change your status, tweet the shit out of ‘em, or if you are feeling really wild, delete your whole Facebook account. Who is watching and listening anyway? 

The truth is, what I am referring to—social media, blogs—is becoming known as “Citizen Journalism”, and it is changing the world, every minute of every day. Revolutions used to take decades, now they will take years or months. These revolutions will overthrow governmental regimes (ref. Iran), change fashions and music (ref. Lady Gaga), or create movements in the world of food (ref. molecular gastronomy/farm to table restaurants). Information is moving at the speed of light and the ideas and opinions of our generation are an unstoppable force that will forever change society. So take the job for less pay knowing your ideas are contributing to a global phenomenon, but if you can, marry rich.

Delusions of grandeur, you bet your ass. 

So now that I am the ripe old age of 31, with an eye for money-grubbers and an ear for fun, here is a round-up of what I have done, since June brought back the beautiful sun…

The Round Up

Fridays Comes to Union Square. Union Square was the heart and start of downtown Manhattan—from my first real night out at Lemon Bar, to my offices at 41 Union Square West, to countless lunches and meetings at Coffee Shop, and great clubs like Spa, Palladium, System, and so much more. I held on through Whole Foods, Virgin Megastore, Forever 21, and ugh, Filene’s Basement. But with the arrival of T.G.I. Fridays, I “say goodbye to Union Square, say goodbye my baby.” 34 Union Square East, New York, NY 10003.

0 out of 4 cocktails – I hate that this restaurant even exists. 

Travertine’s food is good, but for some reason they play the music really loud. I love loud music, but I don’t understand why they play it so loud, because it doesn’t seem like they benefit at all from playing REALLY LOUD MUSIC. Simple rule, if it doesn’t drive more bar sales, turn it down. Chef Manuel Trevino is putting out some great pasta dishes including Pici with Sweet Italian Sausage, Gnocchi with Milk Braised Pork Shoulder, and Lasagna Di Casa with tomato braised Brisket.  My favorite part of the meal was the toasted bread they served when we sat down and the generously portioned quartinos of wine. The service was friendly but amateur; hostess texting on her blackberry and off-handed comments by undertrained staff. Coming soon is a downstairs lounge that should liven things up and speed up the lifecycle of this restaurant into its next incarnation. For the time being, enjoy. 19 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012.

2 out of 4 cocktails

Alidoro makes the best sandwiches in Manhattan. It captures the true essence of Italy and plants it in SoHo, combining the highest quality meats, cheeses, breads, and veggies available with a purely European ambiance and approach. I recently enjoyed a Michelangelo sandwich of prosciutto, provolone, arugula, and hot peppers, with the addition of house dressing and spectacular marinated artichokes.  I chose to have it on Semolina, one of 4-5 varieties of bread available. The taste of this sandwich was as good as a Peter Luger’s Porterhouse or Jen Georges Molten Chocolate Cake.  Take your time, savor every bite, and wash it down with the perfect summer accompaniment, cold San Benedetto Iced Tea. 105 Sullivan Street, New York, NY 10012.   

4 out of 4 cocktails – Best in Class

Cookshop is the perfect restaurant to take someone above 40 years old in the Meatpacking District. It is the anti-meatpacking restaurant. A stone’s throw from the madness, Cookshop is a serenely vibrant restaurant that is executed perfectly. All of the food is fresh and well prepared although it lacks that spectacular dish—the dish that makes you have to come back, rather than just want to. The drinks are generous and they garnish their martinis with Cerignola Olives, a very nice touch. The restaurant is not expensive for its class and feels more like it should be in San Francisco because it is young, but more about the food than the scene. I love this restaurant and recommend it highly, just not for those searching for Manhattan’s standard action. It is incredible that Marc Meyer and Victoria Freeman are able to exist under the radar with simply perfect food and hospitality. It is never forced and always delicious. Kudos. 156 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011.

3.5 out of 4 cocktails

Perry Street is a restaurant out of a bygone era of excess. Opened in 2005 during the go-go days of the real estate boom, Perry Street is austerely modern and cold. Although a fan of modern design, I have always felt that customers have no interest in eating or playing in cold, modern spaces. The food is still excellent, as is the service, but the restaurant is pricey and was slightly empty for my visit last week.  All the Jean George signatures still exist and the evening was great, but I think customers are calling for simpler dishes like he is doing at ABC Kitchen. Renovate this one and it will be the hottest restaurant in New York once again. Like Lebron, it just needs a different environment to flourish. 176 Perry Street, New York, NY 10014.

2.5 out of 4 cocktails – Food and Service still perfect, but the life is gone.

Grom & Pop Bar have made Bleeker St and 6th Avenue into the Gelato district. Grom is arguably the best gelato in Manhattan. It doesn’t blow me away like the Van Leeuwen Ice Cream truck, but it is definitely authentic and delicious. I think they probably struggle a bit to maintain quality because they are moving so much volume. Like always, I stick with the straciatella and coffee, or espresso in this case.  Pop Bar is a new Italian import that boasts Gelato on a stick, like a popsicle. It makes for a great visual (as you can see above) and surprisingly, it is quite delicious. The concept may be a little too kitschy for the general public, but you must try the banana flavor with chocolate coating… wowsas. (Grom) 233 Bleecker Street, New York, 10014. (Pop Bar) 5 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014. 

Grom – 2.75 out of 4 cocktails

Pop Bar – 2 out of 4 cocktails – if I was giving style points they would get a half point bounce, but the fact is gimmicks fade.  

Side Notes:

Villa Pacri is the new mega Italian spot in the meatpacking district from the team behind Bagatelle. They started in Bilboquet, quite possibly the smallest restaurant in Manhattan, and then moved to Bagatelle, RDV, and Kiss & Fly. Then they opened at the Gansevoort in Turks and Caicos, and now they are taking on this monstrous complex that has eaten two major restaurateurs in the last few years.  I wish them luck and hope they succeed, but with global aspirations and a midtown version of Bagatelle coming, there is a tremendous amount on the line. The ground floor will be an open-air rustic Italian café, dubbed La Gazzetta, which opens next Thursday. The basement will be a DJ lounge coming soon and then later this summer, you can expect a white-tableclothed restaurant on the second floor, a private banquet hall on the third, and eventually a rooftop bar. 55 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014.

Torrisi Italian Specialties, I have a bone to pick with you. I think you need to remember that applause can go away, just as easily as it comes. Yes, your food is delicious, but you need to handle your customers with care, because they will keep you open after the press departs. I thought about getting nasty, but I have decided against it, for the time being.  If you tell someone to come back at 8:45 for a reservation, you hold that reservation until 8:45.  You don’t call them at 8:17 once, and then give away their table.  Especially if they came at 6:30 to reserve that table and you failed to mention, when they called the previous day, that you would be closed for a private event until 8:45. And don’t ever forget, you always have a chance at service recovery, make it up to a customer and they will be yours for life. 250 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012.

Avenue’s 1 Year Anniversary took place last night. Everyone was told to wear white and Solange Knowles was the DJ. For those of you outside the business, this is a very intelligent way to attract her sister Beyoncé and ever-present husband, Jigga.  And they, my friends, are a great draw for Page Six, US Weekly, and maybe even Extra or The Hills. 116 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10011.

In more interesting news, I am told Jayma Cardoso will be departing Cain Leisure to work with Strategic Group at their new midtown space, Lavo. It’s funny how money changes situations… the world of nightlife never ceases to amaze. Jayma’s departure from Cain Leisure, a company she was integral in building, is the nightlife equivalent of free agency, except usually the free agent doesn’t own part of the team he is leaving. I am sure this is not the last we will hear about this story.

The Charles has closed for renovations or just closed. I am told there was bickering amongst the partners and the future is unknown. 234 W 4th Street, New York, NY 10014.

The Lion will be inching up in the next release of the “Trend Set” as one of the hottest, if not the hottest, restaurant in Manhattan. 62 West 9th Street, New York, NY 10011.

Kenmare is, as expected, masterfully playing the roll out of their downstairs lounge. I am expecting big things from Nur-ski for fashion week. The boys have also struck a deal to partner in, renovate, and run Don Hill’s. I think this will be a particularly exciting undertaking, maybe the one to watch for changing the stream of things to come. Great ideas come out of necessity. I guess someone needed something. 98 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012.

Le Bain, the new rooftop lounge at the Standard Hotel, opened last night. It is a partnership between André Balazs and André Saraiva, a “paris based artist and nightlife impresario” behind super trendy venues like Le Baron. It is said to sport an “ironically trashy American aesthetic” consisting of six pink waterbeds and may be connected to the “Black Bar” across from the Boom Boom Room. 848 Washington Street, New York, NY 10014.

Tenjune is officially the first relevant nightclub to utilize the current internet craze of limited time sample sales to sell bottles. For a limited time they sold bottle service with guaranteed admission for four people at a 40% discount. I find this very interesting and think that it will catch on more in heavy tourist markets like Miami and Las Vegas. The question is, how can you protect the brand while utilizing these valuable new technologies? 26 Little W 12th Street, New York, NY 10014.

I was looking up a quote for this article and put “great ideas come out of necessity” into Google. You know what came up? My own quote, from an interview in Blackbook Magazine last year. How f*ing cool is that, seriously? I am officially a Citizen Journalist, now I just have to find my revolution. 

Delusions of Grandeur, I think not.

See you next time at Cocktail Hour, where more often than not one drink turns into ten and no one knows where and when the night will end.
-AP

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