Jon B. Reopening Juliet Supper Club?

As I left the subway yesterday afternoon, I wondered if the rain had stopped. I approached the stairway to heaven and all things Meatpacking District when a man who looked like he had just seen Godzilla turned to me and said "It’s fucking Noah’s Arc shit out there.” Armed with a $4 umbrella, I went toward the rain, which seemed more like a portend to an Al Gore "I told you so" monologue than a midsummer relief. As I bravely entered the maelstrom, tourists huddled under awnings, looking like scared wet puppies. They looked at me like I was a fireman entering the burning tenement. I decided to sing and skip through the puddles and had the most fun. I entered my meeting at the Soho House with wet feet and a youthful grin. There, I kissed cheeks and shook hands with fabulous friends who told me secrets that I swore I’d wait on.

Someone asked me if I had been to Jon B’s new restaurant, punctuating the remarks with "air quotation marks and ending with wink, wink." I said, "No, I haven’t gone to RSVP yet and I don’t think I will.” They asked me if he was going to run it like a restaurant or if he would it do that for a while and then let it devolve into just another Juliet Supper Club. I said something like, "A leopard can’t change his stripes,” or “A horse is a horse of course of course," and the dude thought I wasn’t making sense. They put booze in those drinks at Soho House.

Another chatty fellow told me he heard from a lawyer that works with another lawyer that’s getting the liquor license that Jon B was going to reopen Juliet, which has been shuttered because of doing everything badly. This fellow swears that Jon will open there again as a restaurant. "OMG!" I offered while trying to escape. “It will be Deja Vu, Bang ,Bang, Bang all over again!” While the suits chuckled at my escape quip, I ran to the couch to take my meeting, waving to beautiful, wonderful, fabulous people at the bar. Soho House is all things to some people. I’m considering hanging there constantly for inside “wink, wink” scoops.

This Saturday night I am heading to Le Poisson Rouge to catch DJ/producer/old friend Frankie Knuckles. I chatted with him about the gig and the state of dance music yesterday. Le Poisson is really an important spot and has been since day one. It was good to catch up after too many years. Frankie will be joined by Miguel Migs, Sleepy & Boo, Mikey G, and Dan Fisher. It will be nice to hear some good ol’ house music. Electronic dance music is like a mosquito to my ears. I seek some vocals and the company of adults.

Last but not least, and the subject of tomorrow’s post, is this Sunday’s Xtravaganza Ball at XL. It will be everything. Tivo True Blood, On Demand The Newsroom, put your seriously chic outfit on, and head to this ball. I cannot recommend an event more strongly. This is the realest of deals. Please come done-up as that is the requirement at balls such as this. But be warned: there are few balls such as this. I must leave right now for my fitting, as I have been honored to be a judge and must look fierce. Tell you more tomorrow!

RSVP Opens in Soho, French Toast Never Tasted So Sophisticated

Remember Soho? That downtown Manhattan neighborhood south of Houston Street that once was poor and squalid, then became industrial, then artsy, then posh, and then treaded water while the economy did the Macarena? Well it’s back in business in a big way, having just received a ringing endorsement from restaurant and nightlife entrepreneur Jon Bakhshi, who chose it over the Meatpacking District as the location of his newest hotspot, RSVP, which opened last week on Watts Street with chef Seth Levine manning the kitchen. The restaurant and lounge serves lunch, dinner, late-night bites, and cocktails from noon to midnight during the week, staying open until 2am Friday and Saturday. We chatted with Jon B. to get the scoop on the exciting new addition to the neighborhood.

Where did the idea for RSVP come from, and why did you choose Soho for a location?
I felt that nightlife in New York had become stagnant, with everybody doing the same thing, so I wanted to create a place that’s a little bit different. Soho used to be the best place in the city, you know? Back in the day, it had the best restaurants, the best nightlife, the best of everything, so I just thought it would be the perfect place for RSVP. We want to be a little more sophisticated, so that’s why we went to Soho and not the Meatpacking.
How did you think up the name? 
It occurred to me that everything worth attending required an RSVP, so it seemed perfect. 
What’s the place like? 
It’s a restaurant with a lounge atmosphere, and the menu is very expansive. Most nightclubs don’t get busy until 1am these days, and one of my goals is to cater to large parties, so I wanted to create a place where people get there for dinner at 7, 8, or 9 and hang around for cocktails and conversation until they’re ready to go home. 
It has a cool and sophisticated look to it. Who designed the place? 
I designed it. It looks like a lavish ballroom, with the red velvet curtains and crystal chandeliers. I was going for a sexy, sophisticated atmosphere. There are L.E.D. lights all over the place, so we can change the lights to change the atmosphere.
Is the cuisine any particular style? 
I’m calling it modern American, but there’s something on the menu for everybody. When you go out to dinner with 8 to 10 people, some will want Japanese, some will want American, some will want French, and we’ll make sure that everybody’s satisfied. We have our salads, appetizers, pizza, raw bar, and our famous all-day every day brunch. Our signature dish is the RSVP Stuffed French toast [pecan-crusted brioche stuffed with maple-infused mascarpone and sheep’s milk ricotta], but we have meats, poultry, seafood, a whole variety of things. 
How about the cocktail program? 
We have about 15 amazing signature cocktails on the menu, and there’s a cocktail on there for everybody. We have the RSVP Bloody Mary, which is perfect for brunch, and we have a drink called the Lady Killer that’s already very popular.

APL Loses Its Chef, Can Greenhouse Be Cool?

On those cop TV shows, sometimes someone close to a cop is whacked, which means that the cop can’t get involved with the case because he or she is too “close.” Of course, the cop who is relieved of duty or assigned to a desk job just can’t stay away, instead spending the next 48 minutes tracking the bad guys and bringing them to justice or to a quick and violent end. I sort of feel that way today. The restaurant that I built around chef Camille Becerra, APL, is parting ways with her before it even opens. As construction was completed over the last couple of months, it became clear that the owners and Camille weren’t getting along. It was like cowboys and Indians, and although at times it seemed like it was going to work out, well, it didn’t.

Camille isn’t the type to feel comfy on a reservation, and the cowboys were inclined to box her in. Camille will move on to do her thing and without a doubt will be wildly successful. The girl can flat-out cook. At the Blackbook soiree at APL, she wowed us with all sorts of fun, unusual, and, more importantly, delicious treats. I will follow her anywhere for her Zeppole’s filled with Serrano and figs. My fear going forward is that Mark Dizon and I collaborated heavily with Camille in the design of the place, which was meant to be paired with her visions of colorful food and drink. Maybe this will still happen with the new chef. For all intents the joint is ready to go. Sure, there’s a bathroom mirror to be hung and a light to be focused here and there, but 2 hours of work will have it ready.

After almost a year of delays, when an egress was denied by a landlord and an alternative had to be approved by the buildings department, the joint now loses what I consider its greatest asset. The jury is still out on whether APL, pronounced “apple,” proves to be full of worms or a Golden Delicious. As far as me being too close to the action to report unemotionally or fairly – well, when clients hire me they are aware that I write and they understand that I tell it like I see it. They often reap the rewards when I tell their story. Sometimes I get criticized for writing glowing reviews on places Mark and I design. I try to always write as if Steve Lewis the designer and Steve Lewis the writer are different people. Alas, it’s hard to do — like that cop on TV, it’s hard to remain detached. I want APL to succeed because it’s something I helped create. I want it to work, but the loss of a chef hours before a restaurant opens is a questionable decision at best. My work there is done and I cannot dwell on it or lose sleep on it. I can only hope for the best for all parties involved.

Stuart Braunstein, ex-Collective Hardware honcho, is real close to being back in the game. With the full cooperation of the boys over at Greenhouse, he’s gearing for a February 1st opening of the basement space at that venue. He’s deciding between two names for the art-based watering hole. “Work in Progress” is my choice. His other option seems to be “The Altar Ego.” Icky poo on that one. If he wants to call it “Icky Poo,” I will consent, as anything is better than Altar Ego, with the possible exception of APL.

Stuart will present a blank canvas to a select group of artists, who will install their work as the joint’s design. About 30% of the space will be changing constantly, compared to the 70% that will change only sometimes. Stuart feels real comfortable that Jon B, Greenhouse’s notorious owner, actually gets it. I think Jon does as well. What other owner would embrace this crowd, this concept? The bottom line is that Jon is always aware of the bottom line, but this basement boite comes with a low overhead, and stands to add much-needed cache to his brand, which is at best is associated with bottles, bimbos, and bridge and tunnel.

Although Greenhouse and Juliet (Jon B’s other venture) have had moments in the sun, they are generally considered “B” clubs. But adding a layer of downtown credibility may extend his run and give him relevance with those who discount his huge success. Stuart says, “I got a good feeling he’s going to do the right thing, and if he does and this works the way I feel it will, we can take it to another level.” He’s asked me to design a small section and I think I will. Collective Hardware ended badly. Most passionate endeavors do. However, in it’s hey day, it was the only game in town. It was the only game that was unpredictable and smart and savvy, that catered to those who just don’t care about a table next to a Lohan or a squadron of models. By providing a blank canvas and the material budgets to scenester artistic types, Stuart will attract those seeking an edgier nightlife than what’s being provided.

Alig did something similar back in the day with the after hours joint Lotto. He redecorated an abandoned office with seven rooms, each week giving club artists 100 bucks per room to do their thing. Lotto was a success until it wasn’t, and maybe this idea will wear thin, or the powers that ”B” will get greedy. Whatever happens, Stuart should be congratulated for trying something newish, and Jon B should also be applauded for embracing the concept. February 1st starts with a friends-and-family-type run, and soon after the adoring public will be invited.

“The noise some people make” is not a comment from one of my readers, but an EP from my friend Madison and the band that bears her name. I will be on hand at 9pm tonight at Marty’s, 247 West Broadway, for a celebration of its release. The songs are catchy and rock and cool, and come from a sweet little gal who becomes a monster on stage. Madison is wonderful and I will be there to support.