The Paradise Club

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Dinner and a show in Times Square

A few years back there was this bacchanalia of a show in Times Square called Queen of the Night. If you didn’t know that it was in the basement of a hotel you would have never known it was there. Fast forward to now and you have the new Edition hotel in Times Square with a beautiful, yet minimalistic lobby on the 10th floor and one floor more, a cozy lounge serving as a entree’ to an upscale, multi-course dining room. “Hidden” on the 7th floor is a new nightclub/performance space; The Paradise Club. The Paradise Club takes some DNA from the aforementioned Queen of the Night as well as burlesque shows and Cirque Du Soleil. It is fun interactive dinner theatre on all the best levels and is brought to you by trendsetting hotelier Ian Schrager and The House of Yes.

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First let’s talk about the show. As previously mentioned you get a bit of burlesque, acrobatics, dancing and singing. It is led by a charismatic emcee and the troupe of performers give their all and leave nothing on the table. They are not afraid of interacting directly with the crowd; there is no 4th wall here so don’t be shy. The show is done in two 30 minutes-ish acts and culminates in a dance party of sorts. After the show there is a DJ and it turns into more of a typical NYC nightclub with different themed nights music-wise.

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CAVIAR NACHOS

CAVIAR NACHOS

Now let’s talk about the food. The dinner is a multi-course menu executed by the John Fraser team, and this is where they set themselves apart from other shows past and present for me. WOW! See you they could have easily put out standard “safe” food that would appease a crowd mostly just looking to be entertained and to get their buzz on. But they really put thought, creativity and feeling into this food. And there is something for everyone here. Yuzu oysters, Prosciutto with pineapple & tamarind, Strawberry sweet & sour cauliflower, Smoking spiced ribs and Duck breast with foie gras & apricot. These are just some of the dishes we were blessed to taste. Oh, I forgot to mention the Caviar nachos, just ridiculously good with crispy potato chips as a vessel for the sour cream and the salty caviar. This actually makes me excited to try out the other food outlets since the team is doing the food for the whole hotel.

So how would one do the Paradise Club? I would do it with a group of friends that are looking to have a great night without having to hope around venue to venue. Did I mention they have a Manhattan cart? A good looking gentleman (the whole staff is incredibly attractive) wheeled around a cart making specialty Manhattans table-side as another option to a complete bar menu. Back to my previous thought, yes make a whole night of it; dinner, show and then stick around for the nightclub afterwards. Just make sure you have the next day off....

 

Mister Paradise

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An approachable high end cocktail bar

Mister Paradise located in the East Village is on the scene to give all of us high end crafted cocktails without all the pomp and circumstance. You can literally walk into this pine filled bar and be greeted by a good looking and genial staff and be served some of the best cocktails I have ever had. The Holy Hangrenade mixes gin, egg whites, Riesling and more to give you notes of a Thai soup. It’s absolutely delicious and amazing. The Spaceman Spiff combines bourbon and calvados with hints of lemon and topped with matcha. These are just two of the inventive cocktails on thier list I tried.

Holy Handgrenade

Holy Handgrenade

They also offer small bites including a burger and hotpockets. I tried the fried chicken which was so crispy each bite crunched like the first. It is served with miniature squeeze bottles of truffle honey and habanero honey. The habanero honey was more to my liking with the perfect amount of heat and sweet.

If you are looking for a bar with small tasy bites, creative cocktails and a great yet chill vibe in the East Village you can't go wrong in Paradise.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

Spaceman Spiff

Spaceman Spiff


 

Vandal Restaurant

I didn't want to like this place...

Vandal is a behemoth space in what formerly housed The General restaurant and Finale nightclub.  It calls itself a marriage of "Street Art" and "Street Food" with acclaimed chef Chris Santos (Beauty & Essex, Stanton Social, judge on Food Network's Chopped) at the helm food-wise and the Tao Group doing everything else I assume.  Full disclosure, both Tao Group and Beauty & Essex have been fantastic supporters of hotel concierges, but I'll try not to be a shill.

Vandal is on the Bowery, which is has now become the new happening area of the city for dinner and hanging out.  Like Beauty & Essex, you have to walk through a store of sorts to get to the host, this time it is a flower shop run by the upscale and contemporary florist Ovando.   Beautiful arrangements, but weird place for a flower shop, yes.  Once past Seymour & Audrey you are face to face with the "Front Desk", to the right a gargantuan statue of a pink bunny doing some break-dance move and to the left coat check.  Large murals of additional art pervade throughout the various spaces.  These are curated by Hush, the renowned British street artist.

Steak Tartare on a Pretzel (left), Tuna Crudo (right)

Steak Tartare on a Pretzel (left), Tuna Crudo (right)

There is one large bar that was ridiculously packed with the normal types for a new, hot place; older well dressed and adorned men, younger well dressed and adorned girls.  There are numerous drink options (like I am glad I am not a bartender there so I don't have to memorize all these) and beer by the bottle.  There are two main dining rooms and beautiful "private" room called the Garden Room.  The servers all looked eerily alike, attractive, dark haired women and were very attentive and friendly.  My server happily made suggestions when I asked and I followed her lead.  

Just about everything I had was very good.  I really liked this spicy, vodka based drink I had.  Guess I had too many cause I can't remember the name.  Other highlights were New York Pretzel Steak Tartare; a creative new take on beef tartare with a nod to NYC.  "American?" Kobe beef spread over a large soft pretzel with a smoked aioli and pickled mustard seeds. I did wonder what it might be like if there was a hard pretzel rather than soft to introduce a new texture.  Just the same it was delicious. The Tuna Crudo seems standard, but was very good. The Octopus Hurache was fantastic.  I know it seems like everyone has octopus on the menu these days, but you have to try this one with a roasted green chile sauce.  The grilled Chilean Sea Bass Tacos featured huge chunks of bass, avocado, slaw and salsa.  You getting hungry yet? Save room for pizza.  The next table over ordered the Wild Mushroom Pizza and I totally fell for the power of suggestion as soon as I saw and smelled that pie. It was a perfect thin and crispy crust, topped with mushrooms, cheese and caramelized onions.  Heaven.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about were the Korean Rice Cakes with kim chee.  I really like the idea, but the rice cakes, which resembled gnocchi, were just too gummy for my liking.  I might actually try this dish at home with gnocchi instead. I wanted to have dessert but I was too full of all the delicious food I did have.  I will be back, there is a lot more on this menu that covers the whole world that I want to try.  

Wild Mushroom Pizza

Wild Mushroom Pizza

Once you are done with dinner Vandal wants you to continue the party downstairs in their lounge.  An undulating bar is the focal point of the room with chaise lounges built right into the bar so all one needs to do is reach behind them to receive a drink from a cocktail professional.

As I was leaving, it all came together for me: drinks, dinner, more drinks, hopefully a hookup and as you leave buy a flower for that lucky girl or guy.  Tao has thought of everything and covered all the bases.  Like I said I didn't want to like it it because of how popular it will be, but I did like it, a lot and I will be back for more.

VANDAL

 

Duane Park

So you want something different, something other than the meat and potatoes song and dance that calls Broadway home those days.  How about super hot Burlesque?  How about amazingly talented entertainers?  How about fantastic food and drink?  How about all of the above?  Crawl slowly and cautiously downtown to the last vestige of real art in New York City, the East Village. Formerly home to the Bowery Poetry Club, this is the current home of Duane Park, a crazy, bawdy and extremely entertaining venue for the lost art of burlesque and showmanship.

Your guide like mine may be high pitched and scratchy voiced Cunio, the demon spawn of Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin in a good way, no, an awesome way. He will guide you through the the many talented performers along with a band tighter than... well let's just let your imagination run wild. There are sword swallowers, hoop masters, fire eaters and good old fashioned burlesque performers giving their all for your entertainment and adulation.  Take this back to Des Moines with you Daisy Mae!  

This is not art for the faint of heart. This is for those that like to take the horse by the reigns and drag him through the mud, the ones that heed the call to arms and those that spit in the eye of danger, for those that want to live and be inspired.  Those that want a taste of Old New York!