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Buzz Du Jour

New York City

Two new Manhattan bistros do the quiet opening thing; two other culinary classics near-biting the dust.

We have high hopes for Matt Abramcyk and Serge Becker’s MaisonO, a new Japanese-style restaurant and downstairs karaoke bar in the old Kenmare space in NoHo, just off Lafayette Street.

Once co-owned by Abramcyk’s old Beatrice Inn partner Paul Sevigny, M. and S. (both highly-creative pros in distinct restaurant design) have re-done the vacuous space entirely, using pressed wood walls and found objects. It has the feeling of a rec room in Singapore. The basement lounge has been broken up to various “themed” karaoke rooms–super cool. Un-fussy, it looks like late-night fun of the wholesome kind.

We attended a boisterous friends-and-family meal at the sushi bar–with hot stuff too–and dove into nearly every dish. Strangely efficient given its kitchen has barely gotten going. The crowd was a mix of art-world types and a drag-queen-ie entourage that could have walked off the stage of The Box. Bohemia seemed to be alive and thriving. Friends who weren’t invited, but were welcomed in, sat at the bar and raved about the Alaskan King Crab legs and killer cocktails. We stuck to ice-cold sake, late.

Meanwhile over in west SoHo, on King Street and Sixth Avenue, Charlie Bird is similarly testing the waters, not quite open. We like that they’ve opened up the Sixth Avenue-fronting wall to open air, but wonder if the bar will actually have stools or just be for service.

The menu is a tad “adventurous,” as in warm lamb tongue, tripe (“lovely style,” go figure), a “knife and fork salad,” and Tuscan chicken livers. The “large plates” appeal to a bit more down-to-earth tastes (suckling piglet, skate on the wing,” whole-roasted chicken).

It’s a bit minimalist, the seating, a bit of a Cali-vibe. Not sure about this one–as its prior inhabitants lasted at the trafficked location about three months. Oh, they forgot to invite in the locals–a strategic move that played exceedingly well for the neighboring Dutch.

(By the way, do try the newish burger being offered only at the bar at Raoul’s; it’s infused with its famous peppercorn au-poive sauce.)

Nearby, in the heart of SoHo, John McDonald’s wonderful Lure Fish Bar, across from the Mercer Hotel and, tellingly, below the Prada flagship, is likely going to close in a few months, due to a non-doable rent increase. Shameful. In a neighborhood that once was the art world mecca, now known mostly for luxury brand chains, Lure has become an institution. And one would think that Brant, long the owner of art-loving Interview magazine, would take this into serious consideration. Consistently fresh fish, great happy hour drinks, a place of calm in the storm of crapola.

As it happens, Serge Becker designed the yacht-y interior, which feels like you’re aboard a gorgeous luxury liner serving A-list cuisine, not soggy buffet shrimps. There’s an e-mail movement attempting to save the space. McDonald’s opening a Lure in Miami in the fall–lucky them.

Alas, no one came to the rescue of Joe’s Dairy, the tiny mozzarella and butcher shop with a back-yard smoker on Sullivan Street, which closed a week ago after years of being an old-world staple of the original Little Italy. More shame, more hiked-up rents.

If the landlords continue pushing out the true character spots in downtown Manhattan, there’s going to be little reason to even go there anymore, other than to go to one of the ten Marc Jacobs outposts selling every sort of non-essential. And it will make all that much more sense that Abramcyk is planning a Gowanus Inn & Yards, with restaurants–that’s how far you have to go, it seems, to realize your dreams in the refigured Manhattan landscape.