Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Trip to Brazil

J Sisters. Spa. 57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

I finally visited J. Sisters to experience their infamous Brazilian. With references from the likes of Vogue, New York Magazine and Bergdorf Blondes – how could I resist? Unfortunately my first attempt was foiled last month by the mass transit strike. Don’t people realize that a girl needs to get waxed?

When I finally arrived, I was a bit frazzled. The taxi cab took about a half hour through gridlock traffic from Union Square (no distance is too far in the name of beauty) and I entered the building on 57th street to find a dinky little elevator, or rather a door with an unidentifiable doorbell. Unsure I pressed it and waited as a slight screeching sound ensued, what I took to be an elevator descending. I wondered – do clients like Naomi Campbell and Gisele Bundchen really ascend the same death trap? I felt honored.

The two-story spa took me by surprise. Instead of an antiseptic white haven, I found an deteriorating luxurios interior that looked as if someone robbed the Versailles and replaced Louis XIV’s gorgeous furniture with paper covered medical tables and vats of wax. As I waited on a plush but eroding chaise, I gazed at the myriads of celebrity photos scribbled with doting words from the A-list clients.

“Beloved J. Sisters – you’ve changed my life!!!”
Signed Gwenyth. Wow. Life-changing? Really?

My woman, Joyce, was no-nonsense, quick and to the point – exactly what you want in your Brazilian practicioner. Not to say it wasn’t painful. It was. Thank god for Sarah MacLachlan’s soothing voice on the stereo; she’s probably the only person that could’ve soothed me at that point.

Then Joyce asked, “Lower?”

Lower? What does she mean, lower? My mind raced as to what she could possibly be asking. We were already at a point of extreme proximity, I couldn't possibly think of how much lower this woman could go!

As it were, she was asking my preference of Brazilian. An aesthetic choice if you will. I won’t bother you with the details.

Final Word: J. Sisters are truly the best. And dare I say, life-changing?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Mr. Chow Revistited

Philippe. Restaurant. 60th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.

Philippe boasts being the new, hipper Mr. Chow. Well it’s definitely new. The space has been renovated into a stark black and white subterranean spot that is surprisingly welcoming and intimate at first glance.

The bar in the front was packed with a plethora of chic twenty-something’s and the men who love them, art industry types and the flippant fashionistas. Ray Charles crooned in the background giving it a contemporary character (read: Jaime Foxx) compared to the oppressive “eighties” vibe of its predecessor (read: Jean-Michel Basquiat). Advertising tycoon Donny Deutsch with appropriate arm candy stormed in and was led straight to his assigned table. Our group of chic twenty-something’s waited for our table like the rest of the fashionable plebeians.

Once seated, we waited. We waited for the wine list. We waited for the water. We waited for the wine. We waited for the appetizers. We waited for the entrees. We waited for the bill.

We spent this free time people-watching – in fact, I think this was the chosen activity of the evening. I definitely had my awkward moments of staring into another’s eyes and then looking away to another interesting table as I wondered where our wine could possibly be. Other than the horrendous service (the waiters seemed to think the whole ordeal was amusing), the meal was excellent.

Bottom line. Come here for the food and the people watching. The squab with lettuce wraps were flaweless. The famous chicken skewers lived up to their reputation with a tangy peanut sauce that wasn’t at all to “creamy” like the menu described. The crispy beef was a little more on the “crispy” side but delicious. Our only criticism was the Drunken Sea Bass that came overcooked and drowned in a sugary sauce that rivaled Aunt Jemima. Tip: Try the Gavi wine – goes perfectly with all of the above.

Final word: Once this place works out the kinks, I’ll definitely come back. Til then…

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Employees Only

Employees Only. Restaurant. Hudson Avenue and Christopher Street.

I went to Employees Only on Saturday night with 3 of my girlfriends. Our reservation was at 10pm and we got there at 10:30 only to find it as packed as Becketts on a Thursday night. As we tried to make our way through the thick bar crowd, my friend Marisa quipped, "I feel like I'm at rush." Hysterical. I did feel like it was some sort of cheesy sorority event considering the number of jappy girls shrieking over the tunes of the Gorillaz.

But even with the ear-piercing crowd I couldn't help but be enamoured by the restaurant's humble decor. A slice of 1940, the bartenders wore traditional crisp white shirts complete with handlebar moustaches that recalled Barnum Bailey more than a greasy trucker. The waitresses wore loose grey flannel minidresses that resembled burlap bags with disheveled hair as if they were barmaids in some Russian tavern. This place had character. The whole setting was just so refreshing compared to the sleek minimalism that so many trendy restaurants love these days. With a comprehensive cocktail list and a menu of gourmet comfort food, the place could be really laid back if it wasn't for those annoying sorority girls and frat boys.

I had the smoked trout, squid and white bean salad in a saffron broth which was absolutely delicious. Sarah and Marisa shared the roasted chicken with truffled mashed potatoes and Marisa, who does not eat, could not get enough. Impressive. The maitre d kept giving us every drink on the menu (didn't get his name unfortunately) so we got to try everything. Tip: the only cocktail worth ordering is the strawberry one which is not too sweet or syrupy, really fresh and just looks really pretty. Otherwise I'd suggest wine or a vodka soda. Avoid at all costs the dark burgundy cocktail that literally tastes like junior high school (think parents' liquor cabinet in a glass) and the yellow tropical looking one that they definitely ripped from Sandales beach resort.

Final word: A great choice for dinner with a good group of friends before a night out.