Skipping Work is Worth it for Brunch at Bustan

“I’m in chocolate heaven,” said Avneet.

Last Friday afternoon, BlackBook staffers Emily and Avneet decided to skip out on the office and head uptown to Bustan for a mid-day feast. If you’re going to go all out, this is a pretty good place to do it.

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We started off with guava fruit juice, which had a slightly spiced flavour and a macchiato to keep us refreshed.

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Garlic flatbread and black olives for the appetizer, yum.

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Chicken and foie gras merguez shakshouka! A tongue twister that tasted unreal.

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Jumbo lump crab benedict with potatos and spinach drizzled in truffle oil. Rich and tasty, just the way we like it.

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Layered with chocolate and sprinkled with bananas, the Nutella flatbread was one for the sweet tooths.

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To finish off, the challah bread French toast  with syrup, crème fraîche, and blueberries, was a real treat.

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Emily enjoying the French toast!

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Bustan is located at 487 Amsterdam Avenue, New York.

Ludlow Manor In Trouble With New York State Liquor Authority, Selling PB & J Sandwiches

A special friend has relayed the information that Ludlow Manor, that ambitious club/lounge/(restaurant?) had an awful time with the New York State Liquor Authority at the full Board Meeting Wednesday. Nobody got hung or shot, but they did get buried with being forced to turn in the liquor license for safekeeping the end result. My ex-wife took my cat Violet for "safekeeping" 20 years ago and I haven’t seen either since. Ludlow Manor is fronted by Georgie Seville and GaGa’s ex Luc Carl, something the board took note of. The Times reported that Luc called himself an owner and, by SLA rules, that isn’t strictly true. It is merely a harmless exaggeration club-runners use to describe themselves when they often own nothing more than their wardrobe. I wont reveal the names of the real owners here.

His and his attorney’s attempt to calm the savage beast of the board bordered on comical. The board wanted to know why they weren’t serving food, a basic condition of their license.They pointed a finger at universally-hated Con-Ed, which hadn’t gotten around to giving them gas. The board asked if they currently served any food at all while waiting for power. They answered cold sandwiches. When pressed about what kind of delicious and nutricious sandwiches they were offering, they replied peanut butter and jelly… and also turkey. My man on the scene did all he could to contain his laughter, but the scene was sober and guffaws would have been inappropriate and dealt with severly. When asked about why the upper two unlicensed floors were operating, fingers were pointed at a no-longer-employed bad, bad publicist. The club’s lawyer was less than dynamic. The board was less than sympathetic. A $10,000 fine was assessed and the license grabbed until a  fully-functioning kitchen appeared, at which time another hearing would be held.
 
Last night, they were closed. I visited Georgie at Ludlow last week to get the story, but I didn’t really need to ask him any questions. He was slumped on a bar stool and looked worried and beaten. Usually an upbeat gent with a million-dollar smile, he looked shaken and stirred, with little spark in his famously bright eyes. He talked about bills piling up and employees out of work. I wished him luck, knowing that luck would have nothing to do with it.
 
Kenmare was in front of the same board. They were found guilty of serving a minor booze. Liquor lawyer legend Warren Pesetsky pointed out a discrepency in the bust. An undercover purchased two beers for $16, but expensed $38. When cross- examined at a preliminary hearing, the undercover explained he was good tipper. Kenmare is currently closed, awaiting a knight in shining armor to revitalize the space as a restaurant. Banter between the owner and SLA board was about the chef quitting. The board queried about it being strange that he couldnt find a chef in NYC . The owner wanted to get one form his other restaurants and none seemed enthusiastic about getting involved. Here, too, the real owner did the talking as the former "front owners" Paul Sevigny and Nur Khan were someplace else being "owners."
 
This is not a put-down of those two guys or any of the other "owners" that are merely the handsome faces put out front to generate buzz and get things working. In reality, the marketing  people or operators who aren’t on the license define a joint way more than the squeaky clean fellow who invests the cash and gets to get a license.  A new concept is coming at Kenmare. The place was shut on advice from lawyers who understood that a wrath from above would surely come as the kitchen got closed, leaving only the lounge to cause trouble. The license was surrendered voluntarily while violations and concept are defined. The voluntary surrender of the license was the right way to handle it .. the police raid and subsequent taking of the license at Ludlow…not the right way. Sources tell me the peanut butter and jelly defense was never considered by Kenmare’s attorney.

A Little Bit of Rum & Hope

For me, this summer of love has been well…lovely. I decided to file only three days a week until Labor Day reignites my passion for writing this labor-of-love column. Yet here I am again. I’ll keep it short and as sweet as that apple rosemary puree they put on my porkchop over at Hope Garage, which had its friends and family opening last night. Yep, it was a garage and yep, it’s on Hope Street, number 163, right off of Union. When they officially open, they’ll be open until 4am. The staff and food and ambiance will have me walking over as soon as that happens. The thing about this friends and family gathering was that it was full of friends who I never see on this side of the river. Most are still shocked that I live nearby as I am shocked that they still live over there. I play and work in Manhattan, but I walk my dog and thrive in Brooklyn. I might not have attended, but Noelle Bailey, who many of you know from the doors of NYC clubs, told me I had better go. She’s out in Colorado now, finishing up her PHD. She’s the type that will reach right through my computer screen and yank me if I disregard. She won’t have to command me to attend again. Hope Garage is a welcome addition to the hood.

Tonight I will attend the 2FEET 12INCHES opening reception for C.ZAR a screening at White Rabbit, 145 East Houston Street. That starts at 7pm. Robert Aloia, who is curating this and a series of other events under the 2FEET12INCHES brand, always has a hot, eclectic turnout.

This Saturday I’ll pop out for the day to The Montauk Beach House, my home away from home. My pal Paul Sevigny will be DJing and celebrating the birthday of DJ Peter Makebish. They’re also launching a "New Revolving Showcase for Local Artists" under the title “Downtown Art.” I’m gonna leave early Saturday morning to beat the traffic and take a 10-hour energy thing to get me home to my own bed. Yep, I still roll like that.

Tomorrow is National Rum Day…yep. Those good people over at Sailor Jerry Rum are taking over Mother’s Ruin, 18 Spring Street (Mott and Elizabeth), and are offering up $2 Sailor Jerry Slushies all night. I did some research because, yep, I roll like that, and National Irish Coffee Day is January 25th, World Whiskey Day is March 27th, National Bourbon Day is June 14, and National Tequila Day is July 24 – which is way too close to National Scotch Day on July 27. National Vodka Day is October 4th and, of course, National Hangover Day is January 1st.

WTF?! This Fall’s Nightlife Gossip

I remember my first date with Jeannie LoVullo like it was yesterday. She chewed a lot of gum and said "what the fuck" a lot. This weekend was like a date with Jeannie LoVullo; my movers, who were indeed shakers, were chewing gum and saying "what the fuck” a lot. They got me saying it. I didn’t have time to go out but did answer the phone and heard bits and pieces of what seems like a great game of musical chairs. I’ll get to the bottom of all this faster than you can say "wtf," but for now you will have to accept these moist and fuzzy tidbits. I hear that Nur may be leaving The Electric Room on his way to the newly remodeled TriBeCa Grand. My source who is usually unreliable swears it’s true, citing contract endings and stuff like that. I also hear that Travis Bass will also bring his special brand of whoopee yippee yay nightlife to TriBeCa. This may be a temporary thing, as he is slated to be a honcho over at the 199 Bowery space that EMM Group is developing for November. OK, OK,. I’m pausing for a WTF…

I heard that Jamie Mulholland was all set for that bank space on the corner of Houston and Essex which has, for years, been so many things to so many people. Now, this other group is there doing something irrelevant, and I’m not sure what’s going on with Jamie. He would be the perfect fit for what is an imperfect space. I’ll find out WTF is going on and tell you when the time is right.

 Also, I am told that Vala Durvett has taken over the job of putting asses in seats over at the almost new Bishops & Barons. They kicked Danny Kane and his crew out for lack of performance, according to another fairly unreliable source. Translation: they opened at a bad time, withered during the summer, and kicked their team out as the season began. Vala is a good fit for this joint as its 14th Street East location is a tough destination. Bishops is located right between the IHOP, and they just opened Bait & Hook, my pal Div Patel’s (formally of Nest) seafood joint. WTF, Vala has her work cutout for her, trying to hook people over to a hood where no man has gone before. Good thing she knows a lot of women. It can be done; Beauty Bar has been there since WTF – the last century. I’m sure I’ll get some calls to clarify, and so I will.

Moving has been one big WTF and I’m a bit frayed. I’ll be at BINGO as usual tonight to get my mojo back, and if I win I’m just gonna yel…you got it.. WTF!

What Would Steve Buscemi Do: NYC’s Automatic Tipping Rules to Be Enforced

How far out can you move in Bushwick before you fall into some lake or find yourself actually out of the city or can’t access a subway. That’s what club and restaurant workers are asking themselves as more and more places begin to comply with the (sort of new) tipping regulations. Will tipped employees be able to support themselves now that IRS rules about mandatory gratuities (a.k.a., "autograt") are to be strictly enforced?

The latest update says the added practice of adding an automatic tip of say 18% more or less to large parties needs to be reclassified as a wage rather than a tip. All sorts of grief comes from this as payroll tax withholding and sales tax stuff, not to mention tons of added paperwork, which requires day staff an additional expense owners won’t enjoy or probably agree to.

It will be easier just to end the practice at the expense of the help. The server would have to be paid minimum wage instead of the lesser server wage. It’s a can of worms and the industry ain’t fishing. Autograt will be eliminated. Some places are fooling around with a suggested tip but this probably won’t fly with the government, which will see it as a scam to get around their concept. They would be right. The industry has changed over the years. Cash used to be king, but now its all about the plastic. Hiding or underreporting tips has become harder for those trying to make a living a buck or 3 at a time.

We live in a city where tourist dollars pay for the bread and butter and tourists—especially foreign ones who don’t tip as well as locals…if at all. Without forcing the issue and demanding tips, bartenders and wait staff will suffer. Gone will be the $500-a-night tips and a change in lifestyle will ensue. Without wads of cash, bar employees will spend less. There will be fewer meals in late-night diners and less disposable income for shoes and such. There will be peripheral damage to the economy in general. Staff will seek out cheaper rents in less attractive neighborhoods or live with more roommates. The industry will be less attractive to aspiring models, actors and artists who depend on tip money while they try to make it here.

New York City may become a less attractive option for artist types who just can’t pay the bills. Bar staff may become less attractive as other options surely exist for the beautiful. Fewer "B" models and aspiring actors will find financial support in hospitality and find other options or move back to Peoria or go to back to school and abandon their dreams of stardom. Starving artists working as waitrons may actually starve.

The sky may or may not be falling, only time will tell. But change will be felt come January when all need to comply. I think you might see a time where joints just pay a wage and keep all that tip money and pay the taxes on it as required. Instead of server wages, places may opt to pay a bartender $250 a night and let them grab cash tips as they will. Drink prices may go up a buck or 2, but have a "tip included" line added. Naysayers scream doom. But they screamed doom when smoking was banned.

What Do Bankers Eat? Chef Josh Capone of The Exchange Knows

On Wall Street there is a new chef in town: Josh Capone, who has come from the East Coast to take over the kitchen at The Exchange. Haven’t heard of this restaurant? Formerly known as SHO Shaun Hergatt, the name naturally had to be amended with the regime change. The décor remains the same, but the menu has changed to reflect what Capone calls “San Francisco sensibilities.” Meaning: you will find their dinner prix fixe to consist of local and season ingredients like their current dishes including beet salad, butter roasted hake with artichoke and caramelized veggies, and chicken on the bone in a roasted garlic broth. I caught up with Capone to find out what he was bringing to The Exchange and to finally learn, what do bankers eat?

So, what do bankers like to eat? 
A banker, as in Nothing But Trouble, a/k/a the worst movie ever? Well, bankers like meat, meat, meat, meat, and tuna.

Do you find working at The Exchange and dealing with the Wall Street crowd is different from your last job in San Francisco? 
No, a cook’s life is the same no matter where you work or whom you cook for.

Why did you decide to switch coasts? 
To lose three hours of my life. Actually, my girlfriend got a great job offer so here we are.

What kinds of dishes help relieve stress? 
For me anything with bread. For guests, anything rich and familiar.

What new ideas are you bringing to the kitchen at The Exchange?  
I am bringing back the old school, large meat roasts, big portions, and food that looks and tastes like food—meaning, no thermal reversible gels. 

The Financial District is known to be a bit lacking in places to eat, what do you think makes The Exchange successful?
We do great food at a great price. With the exception of those newer restaurants near the World Financial Center, food in the financial district falls into two categories, bad take-out and bar food, or steak houses. 

What does The Exchange bring to the area?
With the exception of Wall and Water, there is no sense of what The Exchange brings to the neighborhood.  I developed a menu that has a decided San Francisco sensibility while emphasizing seasonality and locale, and I managed to do this at reasonable prices. Our overall experience along with our wine list presents a great value, and when you walk out of the elevator onto the second floor, Wall Street truly feels miles and miles away. It really is a much-needed escape. 

If your cuisine was a business tycoon, who would it most resemble?  
Rockefeller for world domination!  Or Bill Gates, because we [the food at the restaurant] are forward thinking, sensitive to the masses, but still very creative.

San Francisco Opening: Preservation Hall West at the Chapel

The storied New Orleans venue named after the legendary band (turning 50 this year) has made the 2,200-mile haul to Northern California, setting up its first satellite in Mission District: Preservation Hall West at the Chapel.

Though it launched with a trio of shows by its venerated namesake act (pictured here), and has already featured Steve Earle and Elvis Costello, the new Preservation Hall West at the Chapel is intent on upping the buzz of already buzzy Valencia Street by presenting very contemporary indie darlings like Here We Go Magic and The Joy Formidable. In a century-old building originally devised as a mortuary (we’ll spare you the "rock is dead" jokes), it’s a spectacular setting for live music, with bands playing under a 40-foot arched ceiling, right by the on-site restaurant. 

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‘Fifty Shades of Grey’: Where to Do It Yourself, All Over NYC

Whether you love it, hate it, or just get off on it, there’s no denying Fifty Shades of Grey is an S&M-ridden force of nature. Guys are reading it, libidos are reawakening, and the sale of rope at hardware stores has significantly increased

So why not get in on the action? Here are our top five places to do it yourself, live the Fifty Shades life, all over NYC. Fuck yes.

Holy cow, oh my. Am I blushing? Did I just bite my lip? 

Please don’t hit me. 

Hipster Brunch Grows Up: Q&A With George Weld, Owner of Egg

This year has been a busy time for proprietor George Weld, who has run the superbly good (but insanely packed) Egg in Williamsburg for over five years. Now, just a few blocks away, he has what he refers to as his “grown up” restaurant Parish Hall. Aside from churning out successful eateries, Weld is known for focusing on seasonal and local ingredients and some, in fact, come from his six-acre Goatfell Farm upstate. Despite the following Egg has for brunch—lines at peak times on the weekend can take over an hour—don’t call Weld the “brunch king,” even if he deserves it.

I noticed on Facebook that you aren’t fond of the new title you’ve been crowned with.
It’s fine. I knew it was coming and I was trying to get a heads up on people trying to make fun of me.

You have to admit, you do brunch well. How did you get started?
Egg started as a breakfast only restaurant. Some friends of mine had a hot dog stand and they weren’t using it in the mornings. They asked if I was interested in opening a breakfast place and I had wanted to open a restaurant. Plus I love breakfast so it seemed like a good arrangement. I didn’t expect, I didn’t even think there would enough people up in the morning in Williamsburg to make it work. It was a bit of an experiment. We had to close at noon before the hot dog place opened. And we were there for like two years before we took over the whole place.

What is it about brunch?
I feel like brunch, of all meals, is the one you want to ease people into, and it’s a nice role to play in people’s lives. I love it. We have a broad range of customers from those bringing their parents in, those hungover, those who haven’t gone to bed yet—it’s a fun way to see different people.

What inspired you to open your new joint Parish Hall?
Parish hall has been in the works for two years. There are a lot o f reasons behind us doing that. One of them was we wanted to have a place for our cooks and servers to grow into. Give them another place to express their creativity. Also, it seemed like the kind of place the neighborhood was ready for, like it had grown up a bit. A lot of my friends don’t come to Egg anymore because it’s too crowded and rambunctious. It’s nice to have a place that’s a little more relaxing.

How much does your farm play into the restaurants and what you serve?
It varies from month to month. Last year we had a full time manager, but this year we are so busy with Parish Hall it’s a little less ambitious. We are focused on getting a structure in place so it will be more productive next year. But, we already get great produce and eggs from great farms that do it exclusively, and I want to keep doing it with them. It was never really my goal to provide everything, but more to give people who work here a chance to grow food and to maybe get some varieties of produce others don’t have.

You also opened up Hash Bar at Smorgasburg this year. What sparked that idea?
We joked about doing it for a long time. We had one spastic cook for a while who loved working the flattop and had too much energy to really work around. So we joked about setting him up with his own place and flattop to make hash. Last year we committed to serving hamburgers and stuff to concertgoers [on the Williamsburg waterfront during shows]. Smorgasburg started at the same time and we kept looking at it and wanted to be there and around people excited about food. So, this year, we decided to try out the Hash Bar idea. It’s the dream audience for food, people are willing to try anything and are excited about it.

Where do you like to eat brunch?
I haven’t been out to brunch in a long time, thought I have had great brunches at Prune. But, aside from Egg and Parish Hall, I don’t go to brunch save for a place I go to upstate called Jake Moon, about a half an hour outside of Albany.

Any other restaurant ideas going on in your head?
We will see how Parish Hall and Hash Bar goes. Besides, it’s fun to see them find their way.