Industry Insiders: Lulzim Rexhepi, Craftsmanship at Kittichai

Lulzim Rexhepi spent time in some of the world’s top kitchens before taking over for Executive Chef Ian Chalmerkittichai at 60 Thompson’s Kittichai . From the Mandarin Oriental in Switzerland and the Blue Water Grill to the Four Seasons Hotel and Icon at the W Hotel and Xing, Chef “Lou” has endured every type of culinary experience to help him keep Kittichai’s flavor booming.

Typical day: I come in, I check my email, I go over manager’s log, and go through Grub Street to see what’s happening in the restaurant world. I walk through the kitchen. First I stop by the butcher station to make sure everything came in properly. I’ll walk through where the cooks are cooking and make sure everyone is using the right product at the right time, make sure everything is fresh. Then I get ready for service.

Favorite kitchen: Working at Icon with Chef Paul Sale. I was on the cusp of being a sous-chef and he really showed me how to take it to the next level. He taught me so many important lessons about cooking. The people I worked with before that were really mean, non-stop-yelling chefs, and he was very laid back, very cool, and we still got the same amount of production. He just taught me a whole different style in the kitchen. It doesn’t need to be that old-school mentality. It can still be an amazing kitchen.

On getting along with the old boss: Chef Ian and I have a great relationship. We still email. He’s mostly in Thailand. He pretty much lets me do the menu the way I want. The only difference is that I have to take a step back and tweak my own mistakes. Whereas before I had him to ask, “What do you think of this?” That’s really the only difference. Of the ten ideas I get in a day, maybe three of them are like “wow” if I’m lucky. So I definitely need the back and forth with him.

Go-to menu items: My favorite drink is the Muddled Grape with coconut water and grapes. It’s really refreshing, really nice. I absolutely love the Whole Fish. We dust it in rice flour, lightly fry it and we serve it with a lesser-ginger curry. It has an earthy flavor and a nice spice. It takes curry to a slightly higher level. I also just put a lobster dish on the menu that I love. It’s cooked three different ways and we serve it just like that with a little suki-yaki sauce, which is a Thai fondue sauce.

On being in a Thai kitchen: Kittichai is the first Thai restaurant I ever worked in. When the Tsunami thing happened, I went to Thailand with Ian to do a fundraiser at the Four Seasons, and I wound up staying for a long time, trying street food and exploring. I get along well with my peers, though. I come from a modest background. When they come in the room I’m no longer the chef, I look at them eye to eye, call them “chef.” My parents did a really good job of teaching me, and I’ll be a culinary student until the day I die.

On getting a tough table: Give a hundred bucks to the manager. I’m joking. Because I’m never sure when I’m going to be off, I hardly ever make reservations and I don’t go to places and say, “Oh I’m the chef at Kittichai, give me a table.” I’m very polite, and if I have to wait a half hour at a place I want to eat, I do it. When a host has 80 people waiting for tables, if you walk in and you’re demanding, you’re not getting a table. It never hurts to compliment what the host is wearing.

Go-to joints: I like Macao. I like the bar chef there as far as drinks go. I go up to Thom Bar and have a cocktail with my buddies. I just had a great dinner at The Breslin and I think April Bloomfield is doing some cool stuff.

Guilty pleasure: I sneak behind pastry counter and eat these mekong whiskey chocolate truffles that we make. I can’t get enough. They’re ridiculous. I’ve got a lot of bad habits—I get worked up easy. When I’m in the kitchen, I’ll explode for a second, and then I’ll take a deep breath and get better.

New York: Top 10 New School Hotel Bars

Boom Boom Room (Meatpacking District) – Eighteen floors above the Thigh Line, Eyeful Tower’s Boom Boom Room layers on even more sexual innuendo. Sex, too: nothing like floor to ceiling windows revealing the glittering city at your feet for getting you in the mood. Most now spot in town. (For now.) ● Jane Hotel and Ballroom (West Village) Latest smash from Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode gets all Edwardian on the WVill. Nights can run a little wild out this way, but that’s copacetic with the kinds of guests that the Jane Hotel attracts. ● Above Allen (Lower East Side) – Lush Life, indeed. Lofty Thompson LES rooftop heated up fast. Stephen Sprouse prints harken to downtown ghosts, while shmancy $15 cocktails shout out to hood’s posher present.

subMercer (Soho) – The Mercer’s stealth subterranean hang. Elusive and exclusive. Red banquettes with matching stripper pole, lovely for shrooming socialites. ● The Pool Deck (Upper West Side) – Get a neon tan 12 stories above Broadway. Empire Hotel guests mix with savvy UWSiders, everyone chows down on mini-cheeseburgers and foie-gras PB&J’s. Old-timey signage completes the mood-setting skyline. ● Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel (Midtown West) – Incredible Hudson Hotel space taken straight from that ending scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Only missing the fetus-like organism enclosed in the light orb thingy. ● Rose Bar & Jade Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel (Gramercy) – Ian Schrager turns to ‘80s art star Julian Schnabel as resident designer at Gramercy Park Hotel. Bars feature bohemian vibe, walls crammed with big art (Basquiat, Twombly, and…Schnabel). Tight ship lets famous faces get comfortable. ● The Whiskey (Midtown West) – Rande Gerber takes his Whiskey neat, with a splash of psychedelic floor, some top-40, and a dash of expensive tourist from the W Hotel upstairs. ● Thom Bar (Soho) – Class act inside the 60 Thompson, not as exclusive as the members-only rooftop, but on point in all other respects. Perfect acoustics let you hear both the music and what that L.A. import in town for one night only is yapping about. ● The Lobby Bar (East Village) – The Bowery Hotel hammers in final nail coffin of old-school wino playground. Wood paneling, stuffed animal trophies, twin oils of hunting hounds give off English manor library vibe. Half expect Kat Von D to come strolling in with breeches and a riding crop and order a Pimm’s.

Hotels as the New Nightlife: 60 Thompson vs. the Standard

Not long ago (just a few days ago actually), the place to be in the city was a speakeasy, a dark and dank basement bar. The kids stayed far away from “the man” — in nightlife’s case, bottle-servicing mega clubs, huge corporate-type hangs, slick bistros, or slick anything. With the recent opening of the now beloved Standard Hotel, we seem to be getting back to the well-rounded Manhattanites we once were. These days you’ll find us venturing out from the West Village; some are even crossing over from the Lower East Side to experience the multifaceted Standard properties: the Boom Boom Room, The Standard Grill, and The Standard Beer Garden. Like a family caravan-ing to a Six Flags, we make the pilgrimage and usually end up staying all day at this adult playground. It works to our benefit, since we get the advantage of changing scenery without paying cab fare. As Steve Lewis asked, will most or all new nightlife construction be in the hotels? With that question in mind, it was time to revisit another of the city’s package deals: the all-inclusive 60 Thompson, the understated, elegant, and trendy Soho hotel which houses the undeniably chic Kittichai, Thom Bar, and A60. Can other hotels stand up to the new Standard?

Kittichai Thai stunner brings luck with goldfish, gold coins, and, at these prices, hopefully your date as well. Very slick but I wouldn’t want a Thai resto any other way. Despite the glamour of the place, the food is richly authentic. Once we checked in with the host, we took our time lingering at the shimmering front bar, built a little too close to the waiting area, but great for a first look at the design aesthetic. Dark wood is complimented by rich jewel colors and fireside lighting. While the restaurant has recently received mixed reviews on service and presentation (disposable chopsticks, slow waitstaff), my guests and I had an above-average experience that finished perfectly with the most beautiful desert fondue presentation. Atmosphere: Atmosphere is everything, with a focus . A reflecting pool explodes with orchids, which are also contained in illuminated, water-filled bottles. The fire burns hot — at least, that’s what the lighting suggests. You feel very grown-up in this sensual atmosphere. Perfect for: A corporate dinner, entertaining a wide-eyed out-of-towner, or the girls for ladies’ night; the cosmopolitan feel sets the tone. Menu Picks: ● Kittichai fish cake with cucumber and red onion chutney, $11. ● Northern Thai beef salad Chinese long beans and roasted sticky rice powder, $14. ● Crispy whole fish in lesser ginger curry, $29. ● Steamed jasmine rice, $3. ●”Sankaya” Pandan-Valrhona white chocolate sauce with seasonal fruit, $8.


Thom Bar Follow the staircase one floor up and find another welcoming nook to start off the night. Comfy club chairs and all manner of throw pillows for lounging louchely about. Class act in the hotel; not as exclusive as the members-only rooftop, but on point in all other respects. Fireplace makes for cozy winter nights, though on the particular night I went, it was a great end-of-summer spot to grab drinks with a date. Later on it turned into hipster madness of the Thursday-night party on the reg. It was a nice sight amid the lush backdrop. Atmosphere: Cozy lounge with a hint of debauchery. Beautiful decor and warm lighting. Perfect for: Visiting friends who aren’t so wide-eyed but more in the know. First date drinks; your complexion will glow in the good lighting. Early on: Cougar central, which is not a bad deal at all. Drink Menu Picks: ● Lychee martini. ● Pineapple caipirinha. ● Classic mojito.

A60 You need a VIP card or a room at the hotel in order to access one of the most beautiful views in the city. Trendy without being too obnoxious. Moneyed and attractive guests sip champagne on ice and muddled fruit concoctions. You tab will be big, but it’s worth it just to feel the breeze up here. Atmosphere: Relaxed and elegant; wooden benches and luxe outdoor furniture adorn the deck. Tea lights compliment the glittery skyline. You automatically feel like you’re on vacation. Perfect for: Absolutely everything. I’m hard pressed to find a more impressive view, more attentive bartenders, and a more mixed crowd. Drink Menu Picks: ● Champagne. ● House mojitos with Pyrat rum.

The Party Moves: GBH’s Tom Dunkley & Alejandro Torio

Tom Dunkley and Alejandro Torio of GBH have established their brand over a dozen years by consistently producing a party which pushes the envelope of music to a hip, interesting, and interested crowd. They aren’t promoters supporting a night at a club but directors who create a weekly event. Their Saturdays at the Tribeca Grand sink the great lie that there is nothing to do in this town. Nightlife is as vibrant and relevant as ever — it just doesn’t live in one space every night. There may not be a true great club at this time, but there are great parties every single night of the week. For instance, tonight I am visiting Emma Cleary at her “Don’t Feed the Models Party” at Katra, James Coppola’s “Cool Jerk” soiree at Sin Sin, Mey Bun’s birthday bash, “Monarch Mondays” at Above Allen, and then to the Jane for Greg Lucas’ birthday gathering. I may even stop at the still fabulous Butter to say hey to the fast-lane crowd.

GBH has events all over town and forgoes the trouble of owning anything. They don’t need to pay rent, kiss community board ass, or go through a licensing process. They can leave a sinking ship and move to a new venue anytime they feel like it. The owners have done all the heavy lifting but are more than happy to host their events because GBH is the rarest of promotional entities: They bring people. Most promo groups are good for 50 people, sometimes 51, while the GBH crew delivers a thousand. Their crowd is hip, forward, attractive, and not easily impressed. Plus, Tom and Alejandro and company do another thing so rarely found in club types … they work.

Tell me about the GBH name. What does it stand for? Where does it come from? Tom Dunkley: We started 11 years ago. And the first party we did, we called GBH — which stood for “Great British House.” Our first parties were all house music. We don’t really do house music so much anymore, but we still keep the name GBH. But now, it doesn’t really stand for anything. It’s just who we are.

It stands for excellence. Dunkley: Yes, thanks.

It is a brand. It’s a brand that means a few things to me — it means that the music will be good, and that the crowd will be a mixed crowd, and not stodgy. You’re not necessarily found in nightclubs. You’re in places like the Tribeca Grand, which is where we’re sitting now. What other kind of places do you do? Dunkley: Well, right now we do a big night at Webster Hall, with a lot of big name DJs. And we do Sundays at Highbar. And the big thing for us is Tribeca Grand, on Saturday. Sundays at Highbar we do something that’s more world music, which is a new direction for us. Thursdays we’re doing Thom Bar. Wednesday is Kiss & Fly.

Alejandro, I’ve known you forever. Alejandro Torio: Yeah, we worked together in other venues. I think Marquee was the last place.

What was the first place? Torio: Maybe Spa.

Was it Spa? It wasn’t Life? Torio: No, no. I think I first met you at Life, back in the day. That was when GBH was really getting going. When Tom and I met about 12 years ago, Tom had a great idea for a party — he wanted to call it GBH. I’m like, “Well, what the hell does that mean?” “Well, it’s GBH — Great British House.” Then I’m like “Okay? How do we like British house music?” In the beginning, it was more like a novelty, where we were trying to invite a lot of British people, who were more like expatriates. Dunkley: Well, it was more like, when I came here, I was fresh off the boat 12 years ago. Torio: He’s still off the boat (laughs). Dunkley: And Alejandro used to do some promotions back in the day before I met him. And when I came here, I kind of knew him. And I wanted to do something that was house … I wanted to do bring some of that clubbing experience that I had over in London to New York. I came here expecting to find it, and it just wasn’t here.

With notable exceptions, New York has not embraced the purity of music, like London. Take David Morales — he goes to London, and they line up around the block. Dunkley: They go crazy for electronic music over there.

When I used to hire DJs, and I got up to like $700, I was like, “Wow, that’s a lot of money for a DJ.” Now DJs get $50k or $60k. There’s been a revolution in that. Of course, the crowd has wanted it. In a place like Webster Hall, you book the big talent, you get the big results. Is that the same case? Is the party standing on its own? Or is it very DJ-oriented? Dunkley: I think sometimes you can do an event that’s DJ-oriented, and it can stand alone just on the talent. But I think in general, if you’re doing a weekly party, it’s gotta be a combination of the different ingredients — the promoters you work with, just the base crowd that comes every week who comes for the kind of music that you’re doing, rather than just the individual DJ. Plus the crowd that comes for the individual DJ or band. Torio: It’s also the kind of artists you try to find out there that no one really knows about, and that you get ‘em here first. Three or four years ago, Tom was like, “There’s this group from …” what was it, France? The name was Justice. And I was like, “Never hear of ‘em.” Tom says, “They’re getting a lot of buzz. I think it would be good.” I said, “Oh really? How much do they cost?” And Tom was like, “Don’t worry. It’s not a lot of money.” Dunkley: We ended up paying them $500.

It’s amazing, right? Dunkley: Yeah, it was crazy. Torio: And it was for a room that fit maybe 100-150 people. And it was mad packed. I couldn’t believe it. Now they’re going out for like enormous amounts of money. They sold out Madison Square Garden their last show. Dunkley: A lot of people come to us to break new talent. We got the Ting Tings for like $500. We were the first ones to do them here. It was literally like a room of 200 people at Le Royale.

Is it easier if an owner knows his shit and gets involved or is clueless and leaves you alone? Torio: It depends on some venues. Obviously the Tribeca Grand here, the creative director is Tommy Saleh. He’s a music guy. He’s a fashionista.

Tommy’s been here forever. Dunkley: Which is great — with someone like Tom, he has connections up the wazoo. I mean, you want to be working with someone like that. In this business, when you’re trying to birth the best talent that you can, and every week you’ve got to be coming up with someone new, you want as many people on the team as possible. So it’s all about working with other people. Like another person we work with a lot, who’s great, is Alex English. And he’s very very knowledgeable. He’s our resident DJ.

I know Alex really well. Alex DJed for me at that NPC event, and he literally blew it out. He was just amazing. Dunkley: Yeah, he’s a great DJ and an experienced booker. And he’s a really big part of the team.

I don’t know anyone in the scene that doesn’t like him. Dunkley: Yeah, he’s out all the time. He knows a good bit of people. He’s friends with everybody.

You guys don’t own a club. Most of the people we talk to are managers or owners of clubs. You move. And therefore, the party can be the same party week after week, over many years, even though the venue changes. Do you think of a club in the future? Torio: I don’t think Tom and I would ever think about ever owning a club. Dunkley: No, I don’t see us as club owners. Torio: We see ourselves as more of just always trying to find great music, the great talent, to be ahead of the game. Dunkley: I think what you’re saying about being able to move around is key. You can only stay at a certain venue for a certain amount of time Torio: We were at Central Fly nightclub for three years. We were at Lotus for like four years. Most of our history, once we started a party, we stayed a pretty long time. Because our clientele, our following is definitely the kind of people who enjoy the party. It doesn’t matter where the party is or what the venue is.

How long have you been going to nightclubs, Alejandro? Torio: I’ve been going out since I was 15, 16.

So that’s 10 years? Torio: I can’t tell you my real age…

Well, if you went to my clubs, then you went to the old school clubs. Torio: I was going to your clubs, but I was underage probably. Dunkley: Alejandro’s age is one of the best-kept secrets in nightlife.

There’s a change in the way clubs are run now. And that’s one of the reasons you move around. Because in order to have that bottom line, you have to sell more bottles, you have to let people in you don’t necessarily want. You’re picking your spots. You’re filling in blanks that you might have. Torio: A great example — when we were at Central Fly, everyone there was in the young 21-, 22-year-old demographic, and when we left there, and we were doing that Friday party, and we went to Lotus, saying maybe that older crowd might enjoy booking the house DJs, but still might buy a bottle or two. And back then, it worked. Dunkley: People grew up with us through Central Fly, and then we moved to Lotus.

Is there a record label involved here? Dunkley: We once had a compilation CD, which actually the release date of that was September 11th, 2001.

That’s brilliant. Dunkley: Yeah, solid mark for that one. Sales were terrible that day. Sales just dipped for everything around that time. We’re talking to a new label called “The Hours” right now about doing some kind of deal, which I think is going to happen. We work with so much new talent, we want to be able to work with talent not only just booking them, but actually being able to give them some kind of record deal as well.

Do you get tired of the party? Dunkley: Sometimes I get tired, and I want to go home,

So it’s work. Dunkley: Obviously it can be. But we don’t both go to all the parties that we do. The parties that I really enjoy, I’ll stay there all night, and I really don’t mind. I have fun. You know, when something’s your “job,” you know when to leave.

Do you travel? Do you go to parties in other cities? Or is the last thing you want to do is go to a party? Dunkley: I go to just my own parties. Alejandro, he’s more the guy that will go to every single party he can possibly go to. Me? I’ll take a night off. Torio: I do go out more than Tom. I’ll go to every genre, every kind of different scene — from the New Jersey nightclubs. to the Long Island nightclubs, to the different promoter clubs.

I’m the same way.

New York: Top 10 Bars with the Hottest Staff

Casa la Femme (West Village) – The French Kiss cocktail and Mediterranean fare seem to put you in the mood, but it’s really belly-dancing beauties and equally glamorous staff that produces the allure of the place. Their simple-sweet service and svelte, mannequin-like aura makes the entire experience romantic and outlandish. ● Rose Bar (Gramercy) – Whenever I see Nur Khan, he’s usually with top models like Lily Donaldson. Needless to say, with the one-two punch of Ian Schrager and Julian Schnabel top design, one of the most beautiful bars in the city is staffed by the most beautiful people as well. Bartenders are the pouty, brooding type. Cocktail waitresses are classy in a dangerously sexy way — all seem like James Bond babes, and we always leave shaken and stirred. Wins for a likewise beautiful clientele. ● Baddies (West Village) – The Kingswood Aussies bring their Aussie-ness to the downstairs party. In case you don’t speak Australian, Aussie means sexy, mate. Strapping men with accents and their friends who are just as Aussie, even if they are American. Close quarters in the murky-chic basement means a lot of flirting, trust us.

The Empire Hotel (Upper West Side) – Like finding beauty in far off locations; you’ll have to travel all the way to the UWS to take a gander at the exotic animals inside the Empire Hotel. Literally, Halle Berry works weekend evenings in the main bar. At the Empire Hotel Rooftop, Brazilian beauties makeup for the middle-aged crowd. Boyfriends will stare, with good reason. ● Bond St. (NoHo) – Well, there’s Nick Atkinson. And some wouldn’t need to go farther than that. But roam the sexy lounge and behold a bevy of friendly, neighborhood beauties who can hold a conversation while pouring your hot sake. The girls look sultry in little black dresses, the men are exactly the way a girl could want them; handsome, attentive, with an air of intelligence. ● The Bowery Hotel (East Village) – Sure, some people go to spot celebs in their natural habitat, but some go sit on the benches outside simply to gawk at the beautiful, baby-faced doormen. Inside, the hosting staff and servers have polish, and an artistic flair — which is all the hotter. The bartenders seem like strictly reformed fraternity brothers who know their spirits. No wonder Cameron Diaz has been spotted here, tipsy and flirting with the staff. ● Thom Bar (Soho) – It’s been said that the Thompson Group curates their staff in order to provide the most aesthetically appealing service — and I wouldn’t argue. Former models, ballerinas, and generally sexy people make up the downtown-meets-out-of-town vibe. ● Coffee Shop (Union Square) – Long holding a title for consistently beautiful staff, sometimes you aren’t sure if you’ve stumbled into a taping of The Real World or America’s Next Top Model. Makes sense: actors between jobs and part-time models staff the hot Brazilian diner, offering up their views of NYC to tourists and locals alike. Whether they’re an out-of-work actor or a wide-eyed newbie, they’re still sexy enough to stare at. ● GoldBar (Nolita) – Skulls and chains do something for everyone’s sex appeal, and the whole gold thing does wonders for everyone’s skin. Cocktail servers get close to whisper over the music. Behind the bar, tenders glow and really know what they’re doing with those cocktails, which makes us think they probably know what they’re doing in the … kitchen. Owner Rob McKinley is gorgeous in that disheveled downtown way, which happens to be the way we like it. ● Avenue (Chelsea) – Tough door means beautiful people on the inside, and I’m not talking about their kind hearts. Simple math … if you curate a pretty, interesting crowd, you should probably have an attractive, interesting staff. Luckily the lounge staffs some of New York’s finest. Yoga instructors, bilingual beauties, and Motorcycle and Espresso aficionados are fun to look at and talk to.

Industry Insiders: Robert d’Arcangelo, Managing A60’s A-List

From his perch in the Rooftop Bar high above Kittichai, Robert d’Arcangelo — general manager of the Thom Bar and A60 — calls the shots at 60 Thompson (and sometimes pours them).

What are your favorite places? My favorite restaurant is La Siesta in Sperlonga, in a small beach town at the beginning of the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Not cheap, but the food and style of service is basically perfect. Stresa in Paris is another. In the city, really, there’s a small Argentinian restaurant on the Lower East side called Azul Bistro. The food is always consistent, the service is very casual, but if it’s any type of date or business meeting, I can always count on things going the right way there. If you pay attention to the ceiling, it’s plastered in old Argentinian pin-up centerfolds, but a lot of people don’t notice.

The A60 rooftop is finally open for summer. Yes. The week we decided to open the A60 roof garden, it seemed to rain forever. I’ve had the opportunity to go up there at sunset, and the view of the water towers on the rooftops is still my favorite sight in New York. Miles and miles of water towers. It’s just very much a New York experience that you can see all the way uptown to the Empire State Building. This view with a mojito makes you feel as if you’re on the private terrace of a penthouse.

Isn’t it a private terrace? It is. It’s just for members and people in the hotel. Regardless of when you go up there, you never have to worry about being shoulder-to-shoulder with the teeming masses. I hope that doesn’t change for the future.

The view is really spectacular. I really need to make more of an effort to spend a few more nights of the summer up there. One of the great things is seeing the 4th of July fireworks from the rooftop. Last year I had my mom up there, and she started tearing up and having a New York moment. We employ a lot of kids, college kids who work for us who have moved away from home, and whenever their parents come in, they want to take them to the roof to see their adopted city. It makes the parents feel good about where their kids are. In New York, waiting tables could mean anything. When they come and they see their kids working in a hotel like this one, in this environment, they feel good about the situation.

What’s the Thom Bar famous for? It was one of the first lounge bars in a boutique hotel. That’s where all the cocktails in the building became famous. The DJs we have there work seven nights a week. I’ve always had a strict rule: they could only bring in vinyl, no CDs. That makes a big difference. We’re always able to shift the type of music for the crowd and the vibe in the room. For a period after 9/11 there was no restaurant in the hotel, and Thom Bar became the heart of the hotel. We spent a lot of time perfecting the cocktails. I think the lychee martini is the top seller; although other places have their version, people keep coming back for more. My personal favorite is the strawberry Limoncello, a muddled drink that’s an unusual taste combination.

How was the concept for Kittichai conceived? After 9/11 the restaurant Thom closed, and for a year there was nothing. One of the investors, Robin Lee, had been in Thailand and had heard of Chef Ian who was doing a television show that was seen in 45 countries. Robin went to the Four Seasons to meet him there and after he did a personal tasting for the owners, Kittichai was born in New York. I call him Chef Ian, but his name is really Charlerm Kittichai. Rockwell designed the restaurant; they did an amazing job transforming the space into a memorable experience in Thai food. It was tough to bring the orchids in over the pool. Until Kittichai, a lot of people weren’t familiar with anything but fast Thai food, so Ian put his culinary skills to work in a sophisticated taste test, with more of a western approach. When we opened, we were amazed at how well it was received: for the first two years it was packed every night. People really needed a high-end Thai restaurant, and they keep on coming. After dinner, the procession moves to the sky.

Who do you admire in your industry? Jean-Marc Houmard, for sure. Even though the circles he travels in are high-flying, the humbleness he displays is admirable. The staff in all of his restaurants really love him. Mario Batali is another one. He’s been able to do a lot with the restaurant industry. He’s a customer here, so I’ve had to chance to talk with him. A very humble guy.

Current trend in restaurants that you like? There’s a lot of negative talk about “fusion,” but going to Whole Foods and watching the Food Network lets you know what we can do. Customers are a lot more adventurous than they used to be. They’re well educated, and it really excites chef and staff. The possibilities are endless. Before, French restaurants dominated, and people wanted to stay in the old-fashioned concepts of what restaurants should do and be. Now cuisines available from all over the world. When you travel, sometimes you see Chinese-Italian restaurants, which would have once been scary. Now there’s a fascination.

Trend you despise? A lot of restaurant owners have become businessmen instead of restaurateurs. Maybe this recession will teach some respect in an industry that has brought them so much. There’s a place for that — if you’re going to franchise and go the corporate route, that’s fine. I believe in the old-fashioned dictum that every restaurant has a soul.

Something that no one knows about you? I appreciate meditation. I studied Taoism in Los Angeles. It’s not one particular form, but I start my day meditating for 10 minutes before the chaos begins. Now, when things really get nuts, I go to a Burmese temple in New Jersey.

Any non-industry projects in the works? I have a plot of land in Italy in a small section about half an hour from Sperlonga, Lenola, with about 60 olive trees. It’s a little-by-little project I’m getting together.

What are you doing tonight? After work I’m going swimming, and then I’ll cook for myself — I got into work at 7am this morning, and will be here until closing …

Election Night Shenanigans @ Thom Bar

Election night is upon us, and whether you like it or not, George Bush is about to replaced as POTUSA. Tomorrow night, fair-minded Americans will be toasting Dubya’s eight years in office, while welcoming the man who will shepherd this country through a whole lotta shit. That means parties, and the Thom Bar at 60 Thompson in New York’s SoHo is hosting a party that welcomes “all Joe Six-Packs, hockey moms, mavericks, and Joe The Plumbers.” That’s a hurting crowd if I’ve ever seen one. There will be cocktail specials all night, including the $5 “Blue Barack” vs. the $10 “Red Maverick,” with hostess Sherry Vine DJing. Results will be displayed on a 60-inch screen, and if the race is too close to call, then too bad: The party ends at 2 a.m.