Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dish of the week

Bret Thorn once told me that Ambience is the 2nd most important part of a dining experience. The first is whom you are with.

I think the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Standards & Pours' Sonya Moore and I just had an over-the-cubicle high-five over #9 on Jezebel's "10 sexiest everyday men of 2008," famed barman Sasha Petraske.

Jezebel's 10 Sexiest Everyday Men

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eye Candy: KOKO



The International Hotel & Restaurant Awards are in, and KOKO Restaurant + Bar has received the 2008 Best Conceptual Design Restaurant Award. The restaurant opened this year in the Opus Montreal, a new boutique hotel in Montreal, and serves high-end, Asian-fusion small plates.


The big-box, deco-style atmosphere is the work of Opus Hotel designer Robert Bailey


“Koko adds an exciting new element to the dining scene in Montreal,” says John deC. Evans, President of Opus Hotels. “Much as its setting integrates the classic aspects of Joseph-Arthur Godin’s 1914 art nouveau structure with its adjoining contemporary concrete and glass structure, Koko blends an array of Far Eastern flavours and textures with Western culinary techniques to bring an international dining and socializing experience..."



Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eye Candy: Sea Pearl

Hey everyone, I hope you enjoyed the break. Today we're back with a look at Sea Pearl in Falls Creek, Va.


STUDIOS Architecture is behind the design of the contemporary, casual-dining restaurant that's clearly inspired by its own name. The curtains here are made of lit Capiz shells and are handmade in the Phillipines.

Sea Pearl was opened by Ly Lai, one of the Lai sisters behind Four Sisters, a Vietnamese Restaurant also in Falls Creek.


The scattered light effects visible in the following picture are intended to evoke the image of light filtering down under the sea.

When the sardine begin the beguine, it's music to me...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Eye Candy: Vapiano


Vapiano is a German chain of Italian restaurants that's planning on expanding into the United States. This restaurant, located in Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown, is expected to open in December of this year.



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Everything is better with monkeys and video

From the BBC: Two macaque monkeys named Yatchan and Fukuchan are waiting tables at this restaurant in Japan. They bring hot towels and drinks, and they get soy beans as tips.

Maybe this belongs on the HR page?

Monday, October 6, 2008

We've got dumps in the truck, truck, truck

Last week Bret alerted his Twitter followers to the news that Rickshaw Dumpling House had sent out a truck to sell dumplings to officeworkers all over New York. The next day it stopped by near the NRN offices, so I ran out to investigate.


I like the red paint job and retro-cute signage.

Here is the dumpling truck menu:

How do chalkboard menu-writers get the right mix of casual and legible? If I wrote a chalkboard menu, no one would be able to read it.

You could get chicken, pork or veggie dumplings. I was hoping for a pan-fried pork dumpling, but they only had steamed dumplings available. I got the pork ones. I would have been up for trying two of each to compare them, but you had to get 6 of a kind, and I was pretty sure I couldn't eat 18 dumplings for lunch. They were tasty, but my heart belongs to Rickshaw's chocolate soup dumplings. They're fantastic, chewy rice-dough balls with black sesame seeds and a molten chocolate center. That chocolate invariably squirts all over the place, so you have to be very cautious while eating them. Or you could throw caution to the wind and just wear a bib like any right-thinking grown-up.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where there's smoke there's booze

liquid nitrogen cocktails

At the BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis event, Rums of Puerto Rico had a guy making frozen mojitos and mango daiquiris with liquid nitrogen. It was pretty awesome to watch, because it looked like something from Macbeth, except he was just getting me drunk instead of foretelling my doom or something.

When he was done, he handed me a sinister-looking smoking martini glass. I gotta say, anyone would look awesome holding something like that.

Twitter: I must only use this power to annoy

We've got Twitter. Sign up to follow me around New York if you want to learn about restaurant decor without all those pesky visual aids.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eye Candy: Catch-22



Catch-22 is a WWII-inspired tapas bar, which means it has a menu of small plates from apas menu from the U.S.A., Germany, Italy, Japan, Finland, Spain, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia.

The restaurant promises a foosball table and female wait staff dressed like film noir femmes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Adventures in terrifying decor

This weekend I went to Trader Vic's in the basement of the Hilton Atlanta. I was hanging out at the bar with my friend India (whose hair was totally not perfect, and we totally did not make that joke seventeen thousand times that night).

India joked that the classic Breck-girl, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" over-the-shoulder hair flip best demonstrates the awesomeness of perfect hair. For me, I maintained the master is Rita Hayworth with her front-to-back, full-body hair flip from Gilda. While demonstrating the move, I flipped my head back and and found myself face-to-face with this:

This is the most evil objet d'art in the history of the world

It might be worth mentioning that I have a completely bizarre and irrational phobia of fish. Really, it borders on the pathological. Maybe I was a plankton in an earlier life? Who knows. Anyway, fish scare the pants off me, and this one looks like a cross between a WWII floating mine and the thing that ate Nemo's mom in Finding Nemo.

Did I mention there were 15-20 of them hanging all over the ceiling?

But it was OK. After 3 or 4 Mai Tais the horrifying dessicated zombie monsterfish stopped bothering me.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New web page design and contest

Elephants Deli just launched a new website, and they are having a feedback-giving contest. The first 50 people to send their comments about the website to will get a prize and be entered to win a picnic basket for two.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Smell like you have the phone # to Milk & Honey

It’s good to have friends with connections, like Sonya Moore of Standards and Pours, who can get into any bar in the city. Over the weekend we went to Milk & Honey, where I was forbidden from breaking out the camera in the bar or publishing the ultra-exclusive secret phone number. (Sorry, but if I don’t keep Sonya happy she won’t hook me up with sazerac cupcakes.)

The dark bar was off-limits to the Ambience Chaser camera, but no one was there to stop me from snapping pictures in the ladies’ room. Honestly, it wasn’t so different from the bathroom in my apartment, except I don’t have a list of rules like “no starf*cking” posted in mine. At least, not since college.

Note the posh soap and lotion:
This soap picture will self-destruct in 30 seconds

It’s Kiehl’s Deluxe Hand & Body Lotion with Aloe Vera & Oatmeal and Bath and Shower Liquid Body Cleanser in Grapefruit, available on Kiehl’s website in 16.9 oz. bottles for $30.50 and $25.00, respectively.

Do with that information what you will. Maybe you could wash your hands with it, then go to Milk and Honey and wave them at the hostess as proof that you’ve really been in the bar all night and just stepped out to hit the ATM so she’ll let you “back” in.

Weekend wrap-up

The Miracle Fruit bungle seems to have wound itself down after the weekend. I guess they have jobs too.

It was pretty lukewarm as these things go. I got about five or six messages bitching out Miracle Connect, seventeen thousand requests for people to stop hitting “Reply to all” when bitching out Miracle Connect, and a couple people who decided the recipient list made a delightfully captive blog audience or support group.
“sorry, [name redacted], but I think it's important that everyone knows that many of us are experiencing the same frustration,” reasoned one fan of the Reply All button. (One might think the 224 names on the recipient list accomplished that on their own, but who am I to judge? Oh yeah, a blogger: J’accuse!)

I did get a chance to commiserate with Miracle Fruit-hunting restaurateur Carlos Suarez, owner of Bobo, who says he is still waiting for his berries or tablets. As to whether he was investigating berries for the restaurant, he says, “Indeed, I was just curious...initially I thought to share them at a friend's birthday party, but you never know!”

I hope he does get some. Then I hope I get some. (I kinda hope a couple people who spent the weekend spamming me about their crushed berry dreams don't get any at all.)

my kingdom for this berry

Friday, August 8, 2008

Publicity stunt go "boom"?

The whole "Ruby Tuesday blows itself up" thing went down earlier this week.

In summary: The restaurant didn't explode. In the video, a similar-looking restaurant next door blew up instead. The crowd looked understandably aghast. I mean, a casual-dining restaurant that didn't know it was going to be blown up is probably going to have people in it.

As I'm sure you've guessed, it wasn't a real accident. (That news is good, if unsurprising). It wasn't even a real restaurant. It was just a model blown up in a studio. There's behind-the-scenes footage at Ruby Tuesday if you are still interested.

Strange Fruit

Oh dear. I just received the email addresses of 224 disappointed Miracle Fruit buyers.

Awhile ago those Miracle Berries that rewire your tastebuds were in the Times and They sounded pretty awesome, and everyone went crazy trying to get some. Including me.

But too many people wanted them and there weren't enough berries to go around. That brings us to today, when I got an email from Miracle Connect saying that there were no berries to be had, but they'd send a refund or miracle fruit tablets, which work the same way as the berries but are infinitely less exciting.

That's a little disappointing, but c'est la vie. The problem is that the mailing list was not BCC'ed (Blind Carbon Copied, in case my grandpa is reading) so every recipient can see every other recipient. Ugh. Last time this happened my mail box was stuffed for 4 days with people shouting, "Everyone just stop replying!" to each other.

(Also, there's at least one restaurateur on that list.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Do restaurants get sad?

Back in college we had a friend who came back from the infirmary one day and said, “I have SAD.”
“OMG, j00 can has teh sad?” I replied.

But he wasn’t speaking in l337 or some kind of proto-LOLspeak. He was telling us he’d been diagnosed with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. To treat the condition, which pretty much made him really sad in the winter – he was prescribed a giant sun lamp to trick his body into believing it wasn’t under 14 feet of New England snow.

Now that I’m out of school and all gainfully employed, I don’t see the sun at all during the week unless I’m running late for work (which, er, totally never happens all the time). Lately I’ve been thinking I need one of those giant pretend suns for myself.

Then I got an email from a place called The Sky Factory, which makes programmable virtual skylights and windows for restaurants. The screens simulate the rising and setting sun and changing seasons. Their primary source light apparently incorporates the same faux sun my friend used to treat his SAD during the winter.


That picture is really, really blue.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Click Click Boom

Coworker Molly just sent over the news that Ruby Tuesday is upgrading to a more sleek, modern-style decor. And it's promoting the change by exploding the last remaining "old-style" restaurant this Thursday at 3PM.

I try so hard to be really hip and jaded with regards to publicity stunts, but ... explosion!

Seriously, Ambience Chaser would like to go on the record as officially approving of all explosion-related promotions. If anyone else would like to explode something, I am very good at pushing big, red, candylike buttons and would be more than happy to help out.

Furniture porn

Check out this cool video of an expanding table. It’s called the Capstan, which is hard to say, and it doubles in size from perfect circle to slightly bigger perfect circle using self-contained leaves. We are way too entranced by that expanding star in the middle. And bonus points to the craftsman who made sure the grain lines match up when the table is big as well as when it’s small.

Chewing the Scenery

NRN Food editor Bret Thorn of Food Writer’s Diary said ambience is the second most important part of a dining experience, the first being whom you are dining with. So with that validation ringing in our ears, we’re ready to start covering restaurant design. Yay!

Here at Ambience Chaser we’re going to look at the nonfood aspects of the dining experience. And, for the record, we have every intention of being as shallow and superficial as humanly possible. Why are we qualified to write this blog? Because we’ve got a cell-phone camera and a wireless card, and we are not afraid to use them. (OK, we’re a little afraid to use them. It’s really embarrassing to take a picture in the middle of a crowded restaurant.)

In closing, a photographic record of the last place we dined:


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fun with websites

I adore the this website for French fashion designer Isabel Marant. I haven't even gotten in to see the clothes yet. I've been too busy swirling the mouse arrow around and pretending to be a fairy princess.