Volume 76, Number 9 | July 19 - 25, 2006

In the Meat Market

A special Villager supplement.

Villager photos by Talisman Brolin

The main dining room at buddha-bar

Meditating on buddha-bar’s impact; So far, so good

By Lincoln Anderson

Hulk Hogan’s aspiring-singer daughter, Brooke, and the wrestling legend himself recently hung there.

Supermodel Heidi Klum threw a bash at the place just the other week; no doubt, all the beautiful people made the scene.

It was where Entertainment Weekly partied, with a performance by pop diva Christina Aguilera.

Yes, buddha-bar, the much anticipated — and, by some neighboring residents, intensely feared — Meat Market nightclub recently opened.

“Hey, baby,” doorman Patrick Wheat greeted a steady stream of people as they climbed the stairs early last Thursday evening to the club’s decidedly unflashy Little W. 12th St. entrance. They got in if they had dinner reservations — or, failing that, at Wheat and his partner’s discretion.

“Customer service starts at the door,” Wheat explained, adding the idea is to avoid a “sloppy crowd” by all means, since the V.I.P.’s hate that.

That sort of crowd was one of the concerns of residents, who worried the Meatpacking District buddha-bar, a spinoff of the original in Paris, would be a noisy nightmare, flooding the nightlife-heavy neighborhood with even more clubgoers. There was skepticism that the place itself would be what the operators were billing it as — a place to eat in a sophisticated setting while mellowing out to world music. There was too much space inside and too few tables; it would soon morph into a dance club, skeptics assured.

Wheat stressed the place is not a nightclub.

“Buddha-bar is kind of a moment, a step, to go to a club,” he explained, noting that Cielo across the street with its house music and sound system is the place to go for dancing.

True to his description, buddha-bar’s interior was filled with people either dining, lounging, drinking or some combination thereof last Thursday evening. The lavish interior was designed by Didi Pei, son of I.M. Pei, and Stephane Dupoux. It cost $10 million, and looks it.

Entering through a hall of golden Buddhas, one has three ways to go. Straight ahead is a dining room, topped by a geodesic glass ceiling, where people were eating while being overlooked by a gigantic, seated — of course — Buddha. To the right is a lounge area with a sushi bar with kabuki masks on the wall with red electric lights for eyes. To the left is a lounge area with sofas and a few Chinese-style beds for those for whom chairs are too constricting. In the middle is a glass-enclosed smoking chamber, which buddha-bar added to appease neighbors who feared noise from sidewalk smoking. Don’t plan on bringing any reading material. The lighting is quite dim.

Across the street from buddha-bar, a three-story building is being renovated for another new place, STK. Operated by the same people who brought the club One to the Meat Market, it will have a steakhouse on the ground floor, dining rooms on the second and third floors and a bar on the rooftop. A club in the basement will be run by a different operator. The opening is scheduled for September.

Deborah Foley, maitre d’ at One, who will do the same job at STK, described the new place as “organic meat with a sexy atmosphere.” There will be “amazing horns” on one side of the building, she said, but didn’t elaborate.

As for the residents’ perspective, Ivy Jeanne Brown, president of the Gansevoort Market Alliance residents group, said it’s a mixed bag. Buddha-bar has had less of an impact than was anticipated and seems to be making a good effort to keep people inside and keep a handle on sidewalk smoking, she said. Neighbors had feared it would be like Pastis restaurant, “wall to wall with taxis and limos.”

But the new concern is noise from STK’s rooftop wet bar.

“I think that is incredibly unfair,” Brown said. She said neighbors have been working themselves up about the rooftop garden at the new Theory office building on Gansevoort St. But, she said, the fashion company will probably only have a couple of rooftop parties during Fashion Week, while STK’s roof will be constantly in action. Although the Meat Market is not zoned for residential use, there are residents on both Little W. 12th and Gansevoort Sts., some of their apartments grandfathered under the zoning, who will be affected, Brown said.

Meanwhile, on Ninth Ave., Ara wine bar’s plans to expand into an old Civil War-era vault beneath the street seems to be on hold.

“It’s all up in the air,” said a bartender there, adding the roadblock involved something with “the community.” The bar’s owners — who own the Triangle Building in which the bar is located — didn’t return a call for comment.

In the case of a club becoming a restaurant, Hell, the ominously named former nightclub on Gansevoort St., has become Sascha, a restaurant complex and bakery by Sascha Lyon, Keith McNally’s former chef. The place is still building its customer base, and was pretty empty last Thursday evening.

Matt de Matt, a partner in Gaslight bar at 14th St. and Ninth Ave., the forerunner of the Meat Market’s nightlife explosion, said he likes how the area is shaping up. The Standard hotel will do well, he predicated. The Hotel Gansevoort rooftop bar is “killing” — as in doing huge business — he said. Speaking of killing, Comix, a 600-seat comedy club, is getting set to open in the former Strawberry Fields supermarket space on 14th St., with a new restaurant, Gin Lane, coming in next to it.

“I like anybody that’s different,” de Matt said. “It’s a good thing they didn’t let in a Starbucks or McDonald’s.”

Speaking of fast food, De Matt is hoping to add a pizzeria in his place, but he feels it’s needed, since all the area’s restaurants are so high priced, and bargoers need somewhere to get a bite.

In that vein, while the transgender hookers that used to stake out Gaslight’s corner are gone — “I heard they’ve moved a few blocks away, or have gone upscale,” de Matt said — the new nuisance is souvlaki carts steaming up the streets outside the nightspots.

“When my customers come in off 14th St., the smoke gets on them,” he said. “It’s horrendous. On the weekends, there are like 10 carts. It’s not a little smoke — it’s like a smokestack.”

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