A roundup of international hot spots.
Dinner And Dancing
LONDON — A retro flavor has been added to the London bar and restaurant scene with the opening of The Pigalle club in Piccadilly this month.
British music mogul and owner Vince Powers has created a lavish, Forties-inspired supper club that books regular live bands and singers. Guests can take in the music over dinner or simply celebrate cocktail hour in the sumptuous booths that overlook the stage.
The Pigalle is named after the legendary London nightspot that helped launch the careers of many famous artists, including Shirley Bassey and Sammy Davis Jr., who performed live there in their early days. In its heyday, the club also presented The Beatles and Peggy Lee, before eventually closing in the late Seventies.
The new Pigalle boasts a sleek, modern look with vintage touches, and hosts a range of musicians, from contemporary singer-songwriters to full swing bands. Customers are waited on by staff dressed in Forties-style uniforms, and served from a classic menu by head chef Frankie Mordi, which ranges from braised pork belly to spinach and Roquefort tartlets, a rich homemade frangipane tart or caramelized vanilla bean custard brûlée with fresh berries. The average meal runs roughly $54 for two courses and $65 for three courses. Prices are à la carte.
The Pigalle, 215 Piccadilly, London; 44-0-207-734-6053; thepigalleclub.com. Open Monday-Saturday, 7 p.m.-4 a.m.
— Lucie Greene
MILAN — All cobbled streets framed with corner-to-corner quirky stores, Milan’s old artists’ quarter, Brera, buzzes with life at sunset. Nestled on a narrow vicolo off Brera’s main street, the bar En Passant — French for passerby — mixes seductive decor and food: ponyskin-covered booths, cocoa leather chairs and a steel-and-glass bar brimming with wild strawberry-topped custard cakes and handmade (in-house) chocolates.
En Passant specializes in a tempting trio of coffee, chocolate and whiskey, but also serves a French bistro-inspired lunch menu. For those who like to mix their pleasure, the bar has created its own delectable trademark coffee — the marocchino, a short cappuccino layered with a dollop of En Passant’s chocolate. For those who pass by after dinner, En Passant’s barman will pour from a selection of the bar’s 20 specialty whiskeys, including a rare 10-year-old Glenlivet Talisker, the only single malt distilled on the Isle of Skye.
En Passant, Via Formentini 5, Milan; 39-02-396-600-06. Open Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-11:30 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 9-12 a.m.
— Stephanie Epiro
PARIS — The Printemps department store in Paris just revamped its ninth-floor rooftop restaurant, giving the space an interior design to match the breathtaking views outside. Dubbed Deli-cieux — a play on the French words for sky and delicious — it spans 3,700 square feet, about half of which is a stunning terrace.
To design the space, Printemps tapped one of Paris’ hottest interior talents, 31-year-old Noé Duchaufour Lawrance. The young designer, whose credits include Sketch in London, the Senderens restaurant (formerly Lucas Carton) in Paris and Milan’s Tad concept store, has created an airy, contemporary eatery. Dark slate floors contrast with a white ceiling designed to look like wings ready to take off.
Like the decor, the menu favors lightness. Diners can sample the well-stocked salad bar or choose from a range of foods served buffet style, including fusion wok food and Mediterranean dishes. Meals average around $18 per person.
Deli-cieux, 64 Boulevard Haussmann, ninth floor, Paris; 331-42-82-5000. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:35 a.m.-7 p.m., and until 10 p.m. on Thursday.
— Chantal Goupil
Rooms With A View
BERLIN — Berlin’s high life keeps moving higher, as Solar joins the list of trendy panoramic club venues in the German capital. Located on the 16th and 17th floors of an otherwise unnoteworthy Seventies high-rise, Solar combines spectacular views of the city with chic and easy lounging, à la carte and three-course-menu dining (till the very wee hours on the weekend) and dancing to the house DJs, who spin behind an altar-like station. A glass elevator located behind the “Pit Stop” auto workshop out front takes you straight to Solar’s first floor, a ride that reportedly lasts 55 seconds.
That’s 15 seconds longer than it requires to reach 40 Seconds, another stylish dinner-and-then-some club, situated in an eighth-floor penthouse on Potsdamer Platz. The views of Berlin are stunning, as have been the reviews of 40 Seconds’ “40 Seatings” dinners.
If you have a weak spot for Sixties design, an invitation to the private Pan Am Lounge on Budapester Strasse is not to be turned down. The 10th-floor location sits atop an apartment house that used to shelter Pan Am pilots and stewardesses way back when.
And don’t forget Weekend, overlooking Alexanderplatz. The 11th-floor club is still on Berlin’s hip list.
Solar, Stresemannstrasse 74-76, Berlin; 49-163-765-2700; solar.de. 40 Seconds, Potsdamer Strasse 58, Berlin; 49-30-8906-4241; 40seconds.de. Pan Am Lounge, Haus Eden Budapester Strasse 43, Berlin; panamlounge-berlin.de. Weekend, Am Alexanderplatz 5, Berlin; week-end-berlin.de.
— Melissa Drier
SAO PAULO — The city has a wide array of restaurants, but none of them has hit on a winning recipe for high-class vegetarian cuisine — until now.
Since opening in mid-March, Restaurante Maní, located in the upscale Jardim Paulistano neighborhood near the chic Jardins shopping district, has attracted an eclectic mix of diners, including models, actors and impresarios. Its three owners, including well-known actress-model and vegetarian Fernanda Lima, hired an innovative Spanish chef to create a mostly vegetarian menu that appeals to herbivores and carnivores alike.
Vegetarian dishes, which use mostly organically grown vegetables, make up 70 percent of the menu and include ravioli stuffed with mango, goat cheese and black olives; saffron-seasoned couscous loaded with vegetables and topped with sunflower seeds; lasagna made with eggplant, tomato and buffalo ricotta, and a hearty salad made with 12 different varieties of greens. Meat dishes, which make up the remaining 30 percent of the menu, include orange-glazed duck, lightly grilled tuna, loin of lamb served with a chickpea purée and a foie gras appetizer.
“We are not a vegetarian restaurant, but are perhaps the first restaurant in São Paulo that offers sophisticated vegetarian fare, along with some classic meat, foul and fish dishes,” said co-owner Giovana Baggio. “So a party of four, some of whom prefer to eat meat and some who don’t, can all order something to their liking.”
The decor of the restaurant, which seats 70, is clean and contemporary: white walls, dark hardwood floors, rustic-looking wooden tables and chairs and stained-glass ceiling lamps. The long entrance wall features works by local artists, and an outdoor garden patio includes an organic herb garden and grape vines winding around trellises.
Restaurante Maní, Rua Joaquim Antunes 210, Jardim Paulistano, São Paulo; 55-11-3085-4148. Open Monday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. and 8 p.m.-midnight; Saturday, 1-5 p.m. and 8 p.m.-midnight, and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
— Michael Kepp
A Rare Find
HONG KONG — Finds is a definite find in a city where it’s hard to slow down.
This restaurant/bar/lounge, which serves Scandinavian fare, has built a reputation on relaxed lunches and a sexy scene in the evenings.
The space is light and breezy, with a white, turquoise and sparkling crystal interior. In addition to the relaxed air, Finds offers wireless broadband access and $1.30 refills on coffee and tea — a perfect draw for people wanting to catch up on business.
The average lunch will set you back about $14; dinner averages $51. For a starter, try the chilled white tomato soup with crayfish and dill toast ($11), then opt for a signature main dish, such as the house-smoked salmon with stewed wild morels, fingerling potatoes and dark dill sauce ($28). For dessert, offerings include the cherry soufflé ($14) and the champagne and berries mixed with a berry sorbet ($13).
To wind down after a long day, try the Bjork, a vodka drink with passion fruit, pineapple and coconut, or the Helena Christensen, vodka infused with lemongrass and coconut, with elder flower and fresh chili (both $10.26). Or you can go for something more traditional like a shot of Aquavit ($6.41 to $9.62). Tables for drinks can be reserved for up to 10 people in the evening at a minimum charge of about $32 a head.
There’s a terrace for alfresco dining — a rare treat, especially in the hip and trendy area of Lan Kwai Fong — and a DJ spinning “cool vibes” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Reservations are a good idea on the weekends, when Finds can be packed to the gills.
Finds, LKF Tower, Second Floor, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong (entrance at 55 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong); 852-2522-9318; finds.com.hk. Open Monday-Wednesday, noon-1 a.m.; Thursday, noon-2 a.m.; Friday, noon-3 a.m.; Saturday, 7 p.m.-3 a.m., and Sunday, 7 p.m.-1 a.m.
— Vicki Rothrock
MONTREAL — Though the Rialto Theater on Montreal’s Avenue du Parc hasn’t shown a movie in more than 20 years, it has been granted a new life, reborn as the Rialto Paradiso Restaurant. Built in 1924 and inspired by the famed Opéra de Paris, the majestic building has been fully restored to its former glory in an opulent 19th-century neo-Baroque design. The interior has been refurbished in the style of Louis XVI, with a profusion of decorative panels, inlays, fine marble and draperies.
The upscale restaurant has seating for up to 225 and prides itself on its prime Angus beef, cooked to perfection by chef Nicholas Kottos, whose extensive career has included stints at actor Michael Caine’s Langan’s Brasserie and the world-famous Savoy Hotel, both in London. In addition to beef, the Rialto offers a reasonable selection of veal, chicken, pasta and seafood, plus assorted cheeses from Quebec and a selection of desserts to round out the evening. For a downtown restaurant, prices are not out of sight, with the most expensive item on the menu — a filet mignon with grilled shrimp or scallops — just $29 after you’ve converted your greenbacks into Canadian dollars. Most items cost around $21. There’s also valet parking and live entertainment nightly.
Rialto Paradiso Restaurant, 5723 Avenue du Parc, Montreal; 514-272-3899; rialtoparadise.com. Open Wednesday-Saturday, 6-11 p.m.
— Brian Dunn
ISTANBUL — The owners of Zeytinli, a new restaurant in the boho-trendy Asmalimescit district here, were so fed up with the squashed, fetid, unhygienic, conveyor-belt atmosphere pervading the city’s traditional meyhane, or taverns, they decided to set up their own take on the concept for a new generation of Turks.
The three partners, Ali Oguz, Ali Susan and Sine Boran Art, did all the decoration themselves, and the result is a spacious, tile-floored venue, given an air of irony and fun with pseudo-nostalgic decor. French-style chandeliers and antique mirrors are juxtaposed with framed black-and-white satirical magazines and old album covers by artists ranging from Turkish classical singers to the Alan Parsons Project.
The food has been given a makeover as well. Meyhane cuisine is typically dominated by ethnic Greek dishes, but the food at Zeytinli is a fusion of Mediterranean and Eastern flavors. Haluj, for instance, is a Caucasian ravioli-like pasta dish made from a secret recipe by the mother of one of the three partners, and zahter is a cold dish of fresh thyme, pomegranate sauce and olive oil from Antioch, near Syria.
Italian pasta dishes and juicy Turkish home cooking are also offered — mostly at lunchtime, when Zeytinli throws off its meyhane guise and styles itself as a simple local restaurant.
“I like going to meyhanes, but I was really fed up with the classic, clichéd meyhanes and their commercial atmosphere. The new generation has different expectations, they want something more modern, cleaner, which can encompass both the old and the new, so we decided to set up our own,” said Oguz.
Zeytinli Restoran, Asmalimescit Sokak No 33, Tunel-Beyoglu/Istanbul; 0212-245-34-69-245-34-71; zeytinlirestaurant.com. Open Monday-Friday, 11-1 a.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-1:30 a.m.
— Suna Erdem
MADRID — Asiana is an antique shop with one-of-a-kind 18th- and 19th-century pieces from China and Southeast Asia during the day. But at night, it morphs into Madrid’s most seductive eatery — and one of its smallest, with only eight tables. “We don’t advertise, and we don’t reveal names [of clients],” said owner Ana Zalba, “so the restaurant is a well-kept secret.”
Nestled in the cellar of a former smokehouse, with distressed 19th-century brick walls, the restaurant showcases stunning Mongolian chests and Tibetan tables, Pekingese lamps, stone and papier-mâché Buddhas, rugs and Indian wall-hangings.
The kitchen is helmed by Ana’s son, 23-year-old chef Jaime Renedo. He shies away from labels. “I wouldn’t call my cooking fusion — and it’s not my favorite word. I try for as many contrasting flavors and textures as possible; it’s more a cultural integration of where I’ve lived.” He ticks off Japan, Italy and the U.S. Renedo trained at Picasso in Las Vegas’ Bellagio Hotel and at El Bulli with Ferran Adrià, Spain’s gastronomic alchemist.
A five-course tasting menu — there are no other options — features a wide variety of Lilliputian portions, from a mini “Oreo” starter, consisting of a black olive paste and whipped Parmesan filling, to skewered sardines in Japanese ponzu sauce or chunks of succulent tuna in a sweet onion marinade.
Desserts include cheesecake the size of a postage stamp and artful takes on chocolate or praline bonbons with a dusting of fried corn kernels.
The prix fixe menu is $96, without wine or coffee. Book well in advance: no reservation, no chance of a table.
Asiana, Travesia de San Mateo 4, Madrid; 34-91-310-0965; asianadeco.com. Open for dinner only, Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30 p.m.-late.
— Barbara Barker