Nublu Celebrates 10 Years in Clubland

Ten years in clubland is 15 in dog years and around 105 in human years. It is a magnificent achievement, and the folks at Nublu – which include one of my favorite people on this planet, Daisy Payero – are celebrating in spades, in hearts, in diamonds, and their club, which is back where it belongs. That was a run-on sentence because Nublu was forced to run on over to Hayne Southern’s Lucky Cheng’s basement space for six months while licensing issues were resolved. After nine years, somebody discovered that there was a nearby church, and that’s a no-no because we all know that churches and alcohol don’t mix. Anyway, they are back in their original abode but, alas, with only a beer, wine, and sake license. But according to everyone I speak to, they haven’t lost a beat. That beat is grounded in the unique and eclectic music they offer and, as Daisy has told me, "it’s all about the music.”

Owner Ilhan Ersahin has decided the celebration should be a month-long shebang:

"Nublu has become a cultural haven for musicians from around the world known to blend different styles from electronic, jazz, dub, to indie, Brazilian, and global beats. From small clubhouse to music powerhouse, Nublu has undoubtedly stayed humble to its roots, and there is no better way to put it than in Ilhan’s own words: "We are just playing music."

Nublu’s 10th anniversary features an incredible lineup from June 1-30, including Sun Ra Arkestra, Brazilian Girls, Wax Poetic, Jojo Mayer’s Nerve, Taylor McFerrin, and Jetlag feat. Andy Rourke from The Smiths. World0renowned DJs will also join the festivities, featuring Moby, In Flagranti, DJ Logic, Tim Sweeney, and many more."

I asked Ilhan all about it.

Nublu is back to its roots and celebrating 10 years, albeit with some slight changes including a wine/beer/sake-only bar and some menu offerings. Is it truly all about the music and can you remain profitable without a full bar?
Yes, I hope we keep the same vibe going. Great music is still always here and it’s getting better and better everyday! Many of the resident bands who have played here for years continue to rise and draw more fans, so yes, I guess you CAN say it is all about the music or rather all about art. Alcohol-wise, our bartenders have concocted a nice drink menu with sake so there is still a “cocktail” vibe at the bar, and we do have good wine and food to offer now as well.

How do you feel Nublu has impacted the New York music scene over the past 10 years?
I think Nublu has grown into something unique. It has developed into a space where the criteria is about good musicianship and personal expression, meaning that we never have cover bands or jazz acts that play standards etc. It’s all about making your own music on a high level. Over the past 10 years lots of great bands have been born here and many bands and DJs have played here and developed. Nublu has never been about being yet another place where you just do a "gig.” It’s more about developing a sound and developing a band or an idea or compositions.

I do think Nublu has had a very important role in NYC, but the interesting side of Nublu is that it has become global. You will find people from Tokyo, Paris, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, etc. that know and follow Nublu now. That following has developed a bit because of Nublu records, a bit because of the club, from our jazz festivals that we now host in some of those cities yearly, and from traveling the world playing with various Nublu bands.

You have started taking Nublu global with a club in Istanbul and jazz festivals in Sao Paulo and Paris. Tell us what the response to Nublu and its sound has been overseas. Is this the next phase for Nublu?
It has been very good and always a growing movement which is the most inspiring thing. This past February we sold 5,200 tickets for a 5-day Nublu Jazzfest in Sao Paulo where we booked some US acts and some Brazilian acts. Pretty amazing for a second-year festival in Brazil, so the interest is there for sure. More and more radio stations around the globe are also adding our tracks.

Can you share your favorite Nublu moments from the past 10 years?
There are too many! I never know where to start, and my philosophy is always that the latest is the best…. so this past Friday night was an amazing night. The vibe was so great, people looked really happy, and the bands and DJ sounded fantastic. Of course we have had our star moments, like when Gilberto Gil came in and jammed, or when Kevin Spacey or Keanu Reeves most recently came in. Flea have stopped by and hung out at the bar, and soccer star Ronaldino shows up to our Wednesday night Brazil parties.  But in general we have many, many amazing nights at Nublu and I think the main reason is that Nublu is a "destination" type of place. We don’t get too many passersby who happen to stop by; we get an audience who plan on coming to Nublu for the night to have a good time and enjoy good music.

You had to relocate Nublu to a temporary space back in fall 2011… Did the six months in a strange place result in losing an audience or have you gained new faces?
Nublu has always been upside down and turned around. I think being on Avenue C and basically being in Manhattan and having live music and DJs every single night, and basically not advertising anywhere, has always made nights very random. There are always new faces mixed with old faces around here so that hasn’t changed a bit.

On the things to list for all you party people, I can’t recommend a soiree more strongly than New York Night Train’s bash at Home Sweet Home  tonight called “Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down.” Jonathan Toubin spins 45s and bringing you tracks you can’t hear anyplace else. It is the rarest of rare music. We’re not talking B-sides; we’re talking e,d,g- sides. A cool, cool crowd gets down and dirty and totally sexy in this basement that I absolutely love.

Also on the check-it-out front is Bantam, 17 Stanton, which has opened its backyard in time to catch the outdoor craze, which has revelers on roofs, by pools, and on curbs. I DJd there last night with Kelle Calco and these great guys Sonic Relief. It was splendid.

A Cherry Bomb of Sushi Hits Chelsea

There’s something sexy about Cherry, the latest venture into Asian cuisine from BONDST’s Jonathan Morr, which opens up in the Dream Downtown hotel this Wednesday. First, the décor by Studio Gaia exudes a pop-culture romance with a cherry-red, cherry-shaped entryway. Once inside, the plush velvet seats, polished wood floors, and merlot-colored wall hangings cry out for ruby-lipped ladies to dine clandestinely with men in snappy suits. Second, with former Le Cirque and Momofuku Ma Peche chef Andy Choi leading the kitchen, they are pumping out modern Japanese cuisine with a French twist. This means you can find sharable treats including foie gras with short rib gyoza, uni-poached eggs, black cod shumai, and tuna spring rolls.

However, Cherry’s specialty is their sushi and sashimi menu. With this, you can order à la carte or go for the omakase tasting menu, where Choi dishes out his selection of items including salmon belly sushi, spicy caviar, giant clam, and golden amberjack sashimi. They also have a selection of sakes curated by sake specialist Chris Johnson, which features some rare and special varieties like Harada Nama Muroka and Daishichi Myouk Rangyoku. In true classy fashion, you can also reserve a bottle of liquor for your visits, or, just settle into one of their craft cocktails.

Each dessert comes with a cherry on the top, and, since the kitchen stays open until 2am, you can eat early, in the light of day, or secretly at night, depending on your company.

Sake Lovers Unite: Celebrating an Ancient Beverage Tonight in Manhattan

In the ancient tradition of Japanese drinking, New York welcomes the all-day sake festival, The Joy of Sake, to The Altman Building in Chelsea today. For twelve years this event has taken place, and every time it gets a little bit bigger. This year, they host 171 sake breweries and will pour 359 premium labels that range from junmai, ginjo, and daiginjo sakes.

“Sake is not the piping hot beverage most people perceive it to be,” said Chris Johnson, a judge at the U.S. National Sake Appraisal and owner of Manhattan’s Bao Noodles. “My hope is for guests to leave with a new appreciation and a better understanding of what theypersonally like.”

From 6 to 9 PM, try sakes from Hakutsuru, Hiro, and TY KU, and though it comes with a steep $100 price tag to enter, 84 of the bottles offered won gold medals at the 2012 U.S. National Sake Appraisal, and 201 of the labels they feature can’t normally be found in the United States. To pair with these tipples, some of New York’s top restaurant will be serving up snacks, including sun-dried tomato marinated kurobuta pork belly from Brushstroke, beet and coconut soup by wd-50, and slow-roasted duck with sansho-miso sauce by Hibino, plus more. Even if you don’t know much about sake, the event aims to teach beginners about the honorable beverage as well as give experiences sake drinkers something to get excited about. Plus, after tasting all the joys of sake, you have every right to shout, “Sake to me!” Or not. 

Hakushu 12-Year-Old: Japanese Whisky Extraordinaire

An evening spent drinking fine sake is a pleasure, but if you want to end it on something with a kick, try Suntory’s exciting new Hakushu 12-year-old Single Malt Whisky ($60). Its smoky aroma belies its crisp, breezy taste, from the energizing bite at the front to the raisin and plum finish.  

Part of the attraction, of course, is sampling a single malt that’s not from Scotland. You can’t help but wonder if Japanese distillers are able to pull off that rare feat of balancing the flavors and aging it to the point of maximum smoothness. But the Hakushu distillery has a lot going for it. Located in the dense forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps, it’s one of the highest in the world, with access to abundant soft, pure water that starts off as rain and snow before being filtered through thousand-year-old granite rocks. 

But whatever the secret, this Japanese whisky is delicious, making it a perfect complement to the Scotches on your shelf. Suntory time indeed. 

A Suave Selection of Sippable Sakes

Sake is rarely spotted in the U.S. outside the gilded ghetto of sushi bars and Asian-themed nightclubs. That’s a shame, as the sakes I’ve tasted would brighten just about any occasion. At its best, cold sake (the warm stuff is generally less refined) boasts the versatility of liquor, the cerebral complexity of wine, and the visceral satisfaction of beer. There are hundreds of styles and brands out there, but here’s a selection of my favorites that you should be able to find at better wine and liquor stores anywhere. 

Hiro Blue Junmai Ginjo ($40) is a crisp sake with a fruity edge and notes of blueberry and watermelon. The pricey but delicious Murai Family Daiginjo ($69) has tart grape flavors and an aroma of spring flowers. Yoshinogawa Gokujo Ginjo ($33) is a super-smooth sake with enjoyably complex notes of fennel and herbs. Oregon-based Momokawa has several affordable offerings, including its Organic Creamy Nigori Junmai Ginjo ($13), a silky sake with a citrus bite, and the Organic Medium Rich Junmai Ginjo ($13), with coconut notes and a nice balance of tart and sweet. 

My favorite of the bunch come from TY KU, which offers a very impressive range of sakes and spirits. TY KU Black Super Premium Junmai Ginjo Sake ($28) is simply sublime. Brewed in Nara, Japan using 45% milled Akebono sake rice – putting it in the top 6% of the world’s sakes – it’s soft, smooth, and refreshing, with notes of vanilla and peach, the slightest hint of spice, and a mildly sweet finish. A grain of rice can come to no finer end. But as far as your evening is concerned, consider ending it with a fine Japanese whisky