New XVI Lounge Sexes Up Midtown Hilton

Considering that it all started back in 2004 with Herr Lagerfeld’s first collection for H&M, it’s a wonder that it’s taken so long for hotels to join in the deeply pragmatic twinning of the high and lowbrow. But swish newcomer XVI Lounge might just be kicking off a whole new trend: fashionable cocktail lounges in distinctly, um, not fashionable hotels.

Perched atop a Hilton Garden Inn (for those of you not familiar with Hilton brand hierarchies, HGI is geared mostly to families on a budget) over at 251 W. 48th, there’s a delicious sort of culture clash built right in to the environs. To wit, the name “XVI” is ostensibly a reference to Marie Antoinette’s hubby King Louis (the bar is actually located on the 16th floor, mind), as the decor conveys a modernist’s approximation of Versailles pomp — though it’s not so much foofy as it is cooly opulent. Yet, despite the glamorous presentation and its Juliet Suppercub/Pink Elephant pedigree, XVI is in little danger of becoming a magnet for misbehaving socialites. Service is casual but attentive, cocktails tend away from all that over-thought mixology nonsense in favor of the fun and sexy — the cinnamon-flavored XVI Cooler, the mint-vodka-based Ivy Fizz — and projection screens play to imbibing cinephiles. Significantly, a side-entrance, which takes guests through a dark, winding, haunted-house-worthy secret corridor, skirts all visible connection to the hotel itself. But overall, XVI may just be a harbinger of things to come, as even rather quotidian hotels begin to comprehend the value of boasting a chic nightlife destination.

Indeed, the imagination reels with visions of Bungalow 8 in Motel 6. But, you know, don’t quote us on that.

BlackBook Celebrates Fashion Week with Siki Im at Juliet

As if we were going to sit back idly this Fashion Week while all the other fashion houses and mags had all the fun. No f*cking way. Last night, we got in on the action with a blowout at Juliet, that sceney scenster restaurant and club thingy on the outer limits of Chelsea. And what would a party in honor of fashion be without the opportunity to give props to someone who actually does the damn thing. BlackBook New Regimer Siki Im — whose Fall/Winter 2011 presentation went off smashingly the other day — was our chosen honoree for the evening, as he and his nearest and dearest were treated to a feast before the guests arrived.

While tracks from DJs DJ Price & Franco V blared across the speakers, the crowd swarmed the bar, everyone needing a taste of the sweet, sweet nectar provided by Clase Azul, a smoky, tender mezcal. More shout outs: DOT AU, photographer Jennifer Cyr, Mark Baker, and Juliet for that damn fine food. Until next time!

Fashion Week & Valentine Menus at Juliet

Next Wednesday night, BlackBook will take over Juliet for a Fashion Week afterparty guaranteed to melt your slushie. In the meantime, though, why not enjoy the restaurant’s special prix fixe menus commemorating both Fashion Week ($35) and Valentine’s Day ($75). Warning: contains both calamari and red velvet cake. Check out the menus after the jump.

5 Course $75 Prix Fixe Valentine’s Day Menu (Choice of 1 item for each course) Artichoke Bruschetta Flash Fried Calamari with Honey Basil Vinaigrette Sautéed Tequila Lime Shrimp Cilantro Pesto Beef Tenderloin Brochettes — Caesar Salad Greek Salad Spinach Salad Mesclun Salad — Mediterranean Penne Pasta Gorgonzola Walnut Linguine Lemon Garlic Mussel Linguine — Lamb Chops-Balsamic Apple Glaze, Sweet Potato Puree and Asparagus NY Strip-Merlot Mushroom, Red Pepper Mashed and Glazed Beets Beef Tenderloin-Moroccan Marinated, Saffron Rice and Asparagus Salmon-Lemon Leek Butter, Eggplant Puree and Spinach Scallops-Artichoke Coulis, Sundried Tomato Pesto Risotto Tuna-Pepper Crust, Wasabi Sauce, Cauliflower Puree and Rainbow Chard — Red Velvet Cake Chocolate Molten Cake Turtle Cheesecake Pear and Apple Cobbler

$35.00 Fashion Week Prix Fixe Menu (All courses served family style for sharing) Artichoke Bruschetta Hummus, Tzatziki And Baba Ganoush With Fresh Pita Flash Fried Calamari With Honey Basil Vinaigrette — Caesar Salad Greek Salad — Honey Ginger Chicken-Roast Carrot Puree, Asparagus Salmon-Lemon Leek Butter, Eggplant Puree, Spinach Mediterranean Penne-Penne, Artichoke, Olive, Tomato, Spinach, Feta — Turkish Baklava Pear Cobbler

Old School After Hours, Greenhouse to Sell?

Monday night, after Bingo at the Bowery Poetry Club, we trudged through black snow and brown sludge to Heathers for my pal Tina Vaden’s birthday bash. Tina is my on-again-off-again photographer and a cutie, beauty, non-snooty talent and all around great gal. Heathers had my old brain percolating, as I was consumed by a sense of déjà-vu, all over again and again and again. While my Amanda danced with Tina and the ladies, I sidled up to the bar to chat with old friends. I asked, “What was this place?” and was told “Brownies.” After a dozen “no shits,” I strained to remember.

I couldn’t picture it, I couldn’t find anything to confirm the gut feeling: no landmarks or telltale signs remained or jogged my old conscience. I was assured it was true. I whipped out the Droid but alas, Wiki hasn’t gone there yet. Brownies was usually the end of the line. The last desperate place after an evening of failure or too much excess. It was the place to go if you couldn’t go home. It wasn’t necessarily a dead end for the dead heads who stumbled into the place at 7am, or even later. It was the last chance to get a drink, or a pop, or someone to get icky with. It was always there, but reliable and Brownies couldn’t be used in the same sentence. It was one of best after hours clubs of all time.

After hours, as I know it, is long gone. Every so often a place sneaks open for a minute, and I bet there are a few right now that people don’t blab about, especially not to an old dude with a column. Of course, there are legal parties that go past 2am, but the bars are closed, and the sense of being mischievous is absent. One of the key ingredients of a true after hours joint is its illegality, and the sense that some of the patrons, and probably owners, shouldn’t be messed with. These days, the people who shouldn’t be messed with are not part of the club culture. Probably better off, but a certain amount of film noir-like experience is lost. Fun may not describe it, as the feeling has a deeper, visceral impact. Maybe we have been too sanitized by a society that likes us all packaged, neat, and predictable. Maybe some types of lust and enlightenment can only be found in the cracks.

Without after hours, our nights end at a predictable hour. Our lusts and desires are packaged into cabs, and rushed to a million dormitories, and our secrets are played out in familiar settings. We live our lives through characters we channel from Kindle, or from movies which will always be 2D, no matter how many of them are made in 3D. Brownies, Crisco Disco, Save the Robots, AM/PM, The Nursery, Nickel Bag, and their ilk, have been banished to memory by our elected puppeteers. It’s probably a good thing, but there was a time when the night stretched into day, and there was always the next place to find that special something, or someone, you might not even want, but just had to have. I used to tell an old joke that described my disease, so of course I’ll tell you now. “In 20-plus years in the club business, I never went to bed with an ugly woman. Of course, I’ve woken up with a few.” Brownies, I did not recognize you, but you probably didn’t recognize me.

A couple columns ago I alluded to “turmoil” over at the Greenhouse space. “Turmoil,” a little birdy told me, was not the right word. I have been assured that the kids, and everything over there, is alright over at Jon B’s Vandam Street money machine. Rumors still reach my very big ears that Jon’s “green,” as in environmentally-compliant joint is being sold. The rumors say that his Juliet Supper Club, named after his mom is making big bucks, and is also for sale. Both places are open 7 days a week, and are banging, so the possibility of a sale seems unlikely. Still, my sources are reliable and ethical, and it just feels true.

I called my old friend and asked him about it. He didn’t really answer, but instead, just asked me questions like “Where did you hear that?” It was followed by a chuckle and a “Who did you talk to, what did they say— do you believe them?” And so on. He never denied the story, and he chuckled a bit, and offered me a clue in the form of still another question. He asked, “You know me, why would I sell?” I do know Jon, and my feeling is that the old adage, “The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence” may apply. In this case, Greenhouse may be greener, and able to make more money, elsewhere. Jon has always vied to be in Vegas, and is well-connected there. His idols in the business are not the glamour guys, but those making mega-millions. Vegas, and its cash, are a powerful and irresistible siren for the man, I believe. His Miami Greenhouse is in construction, and I believe that a climate that is warmer in general, and warmer for the club business, is in his cards. He ended our chat with a cryptic “You will be the first to know, the first with the story,” and I believe him as I think I am.

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.