By George Wayne
The only succor getting GW through this most harsh and daunting of early New York City winters I have ever experienced in my more than 24 years here as the Resident Alien -- my only succor has been fine food. And so this month I have decided to devote all my thoughts on some of GW’s favorite of his very favorite restaurants and salons, some new, some not so new.
One of my favorite new haunts even though it is all the way at 403 W. 43rd Street, is Bea. I had a piscine of fine cuvee - though everyone raves about the bourbon concoction, The Boulevardier, or sample the small plates of the delicious grilled shrimp toast and the house signature spinach tagliatelle pasta, and most of all say hello to the cute, charismatic proprietor, Sotir Zonea. I first met the adorable Sotir years ago when he was a bartender at the Boom Boom Room, so I was especially happy and proud to see the Washington Heights boy of Romanian heritage save his pennies after years of hard work and open his own little bistro in the Theater District.
Now how more fantastic an-only-in-New-York moment is that?! So yes-- GW is insisting to his devoted- make the trek to Bea at 403 W 43rd Street (212 602-1910) before say a late night out at the fabulous OUT hotel just down the street, which is now under the creative direction of social impresario extraordinaire Sue J Buckley. The 37 year old hunk Sotir will be the first to tell you. I worked in nightclubs for 14 years, and I finally have this little place for you to come and hang out, a little place I can call my own. I want this place to be my own little neighborhood artist colony. And I have no doubt it will.
In the weeks since it has been opened it has already become the after hang out spot for many a Broadway star and legend. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked up the Monday night I happened to stop by only to see the fabulous icon Chita Rivera strolling through the door for a nightcap with her coven of theater queens. “You know my Grandmother was the one who raised me and I just look at this little bar/restaurant as my homage to her. I have wanted to open a
restaurant since I was seventeen.” We could not be more proud. And by the way, are you looking for a husband? Call me!
Yet another fabulous and worth the trek discovery for GW is my dear long-time many years and counting buddies Stratis Morfogen and I am sure you have by now heard about the tasty comfort food of his new restaurant Cucina Ciano at 181 East 78th Street. The sexy Greek whom GW has long referred to as “The Original Mr. Big” is known of course for creating Phillipe, his hugely successful Mr. Chow knock-off which he took to global success and now of late shifted his focus to doing the same for his Cucina Ciano brand. This particular effort way up there in the nosebleed district of East 78th Street, but he has wooed the savvy of the noted impresario Unik Earnest as business partner here and they have been feeding the A-list types like Patti Labelle, Ron Perleman and Tyson Chandler.
Ron Perleman must spend his nights at a different Upper East Side restaurant every night of the week, for there he was again the last time yours truly settled in to his favorite of favorites, Nello Balans legendary restaurant, Nellos. I must have a thing for Romanians, because Nello like Sortir is of course of famous Romanian heritage -- but Nello is King -- as far as GW is concerned. Nothing can match the magical New York City dining experience of a late Saturday lunch on a picture perfect autumn evening a-la-carte at Nello’s.
Between eyeballing not only Perleman, but also Rupert Murdoch and Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Scwarzenegger -- all at separate tables that evening I was there. That is almost as dizzying as eyeballing the extraordinarily vast menu, which famously features more than 27 First Course choices alone. At this time of year, a visit to Nello’s always starts with its soothingly delightful lobster bisque to warm the rotgut of this ink-stained wretch. And if the $44 sticker for a sliver of delicious Ahi Tonno Tartare doesn›t shock you, then by all means go ahead and scarf down that appetizer too. Arnold, of course, was sure to order The Arnold for his main course, which as you would expect is the Tagliolini With Truffles named after him. But GW, as he is wont, went with his usual Nello›s favorite - the Nero Di Seppia of delicious black ink taglioni with shrimp and squid.
Knowing that two of my favorite new restaurants of the season are a five minute walk from my door step makes GW feel blessed, especially in this freezing weather. Omar Hernandez and his already eponymous boite, Omar’s at 21 West 9th Street will undoubtedly be one of the hot spots during Fashion Week this season. Omar’s, for sure, will be a nexus to the bon chic and the mega fabulous faces for the Feb 2014 New York Fashion Week, and so too will the iconic impresario Andre Balazs and his fabulous new restaurant Narcissa on the ground level of his now fully re-imagined Standard East Village hotel at 25 Copper Square. It’s definitely going to be a face-off between Omar’s and Narcissa as the place to dine to see and be seen during the upcoming fashion week.
Both enjoy and regale the sort of man who can afford a pair of $12,000 Cartier diamond cuff links and doesn›t mind showing them off from a prime table at either place. At Omar’s, a dapper man about town such as Lappo Elkan would have his date no doubt swooning over the Omar specialty White Truffle Potatoes Mousseline and The Hen Of The Woods, which is the most exquisite morsel George Wayne has ever had anywhere in the world.
Being the earnest gadabout, you should not at all be surprised to learn that GW was there on opening night, the very first tasting of Andre Balazs’ take on the farm to table concept a restaurant he named after one the cows on his vast estate in the Hudson Valley called Locust On The Hudson, which in fact is where 89 percent of the produce to create the delightful menu of Chef John Fraser is grown and reared. I don›t know if Andre Balazs used that notion to stoke some irony, because the most delicious and humungous piece of Bone-In Prime Ribeye that I have slobbered over with delight, in seasons, is the must-order on the menu at Narcissa. And just think the $44 that you pay for a bowl of lobster bisque at Nello, you can pay two dollars more and get the biggest hunk of mouth-watering prime rib steak down in the East Village at Narcissa. The first Friends And Family Dinner at Narcissa drew the likes of David Bryne, Juliane Margulies, Richard & Cessa Johnson, Helen & Tim Schifter, Anh Duong and Jack Pierson and the fabulous heiress Pippa Cohen. The following night as GW settled in by the bar, Brooke Shields was holding court with Andrew Saffir and his husband Daniel Benedict while across the room sat Jon Bon Jovi and his crew and over there the fabulous stylist June Ambrose and decorator to the stars Jeffrey Bilhuber oh and certainly not to forget the divine Fern Mallis and the legendary fashion designer Jeffrey Banks. Yes my dear, it is that kind of crowd.
And I will be in touch. •