The other night I went on a double date with my old college buddy, who is now a movie director out in Hollywood. He had met a beautiful blond Swede named "Barbie" last time he was in town and wanted to see her again. Can't blame him. This time Barbie was traveling with her compatriot, Sabina, hence the double date. When my friend comes to town, he generally takes me to the toughest "doors" in town. In other words, we go to places famous for turning people away -- one of the perks of being a Hollywood director, I guess.
The four of us eventually ended up at Bungalow 8, a trendy club in the Meatpacking District with a heli-pad on the roof for celebrity drop-ins and a very large bouncer out front. In a recent interview with the New York Times, my friend described Bungalow as "like my living room." The club has a neon sign out front declaring NO VACANCY. Kind of says it all, doesn't it? I guess GO AWAY, YOU PIECE OF BRIDGE-AND-TUNNEL TRASH didn't fit in their window.Before we hit Bungalow, we stopped in at the Rose Bar in the chic, redeveloped Gramercy Park Hotel. Our Swedish friends seemed to know half the people in the place. Obviously, this is their regular scene.
But before any of that craziness, we began the night at 10 pm in a new Cuban restaurant/bar called Socialista. According to the Zagat guide, Socialista is "the latest challenger for the 'it' restaurant crown," and there is a "secret reservations phone number." Since it's so hard to get into, I was eager to find out if the food was worth all that fuss.
Two Americans and two Swedes eating Cuban food had the makings of an interesting experience, if we could hear ourselves think over the din of the rambunctious "in" crowd. Sabina requested the warm autumn vegetable salad, and it turned out to be a good choice. The hen-of-the-woods mushrooms arrived marinated and moist, accompanied by roasted beets and cauliflower, with tomatillo salsa and crispy nettles. The salad was plated on a bed of creamy dressing and topped with sage leaves and minced chives.
Next we had grilled squid stuffed with chopped seafood, presented with picturesque grill marks, served over a savory coconut milk broth. A nice touch was the addition of what appeared to be cape gooseberries.My favorite dish of the night was the duck breast, cooked just right and accompanied by rich and comforting butter-cooked cabbage. On the side was what I took to be a dollop of duck fois gras on toast -- a nice perk, considering it did not appear on the menu.
Barbie's choice was the not-particularly-Cuban New York strip steak with carrots and parsley and an herbed marrow emulsion. It was perfectly medium rare, although I wondered what happened to the potato croquettes listed on the menu. As you can see, the steak is served sans croquettes. That's okay; neither Barbie nor Sabina actually took a bite anyway. They were too busy with the wine, and with being glamorous and giddy.
By the time we were finished with the Rose Bar and then Bungalow 8, it was 4 in the morning, and the bouncer was kicking everyone out of the joint. But the girls were just getting started. There were a couple of private parties they wanted to check out. Oy! I'm getting too old for this!
I took this photo in Socialista at the beginning of the night, before they really let down their hair.