liquid lunch, and then some

0U7G9103Remember when The Paramount was the slickest, chicest hotel in town? (I’ll forgive you if you don’t; it has been a while.) Along with Morgans it started the craze for the now ubiquitous design-forward, boutique hotel experience. The pioneer eventually became a victim of its own meteoric success as new hoteliers came on the scene and pushed the envelope even further. Good news to report, however: the theater district stalwart is in the middle of a 40-million dollar re-imagination. And while I can’t speak for the guest rooms – which were always disparaged for their lack of elbow room – or Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, which will reopen in fall 2013 after a 61-year hiatus, I can say that the Paramount Bar & Grill is a welcome return to stylish form. Dramatic lighting brings the restaurant to life and raised banquettes with a view of the restaurant set the stage for an intimate dinner. Or lunch. There’s an extensive wine list but it’s the craft cocktails that whet my whistle, most notably the Moscow Mule, a mix of Citron vodka, fresh lime and ginger, which – like a proper Mint Julep – comes in its own metal cup. The deceptively simple food from Executive Chef Jason Kallert – late of Le Cirque – is equally attentive to detail: classic American bar and grill cuisine with modern twists, like tuna tartare enlivened with curry, a perfectly dressed not-too-chopped chopped salad, and grilled whole branzino with old-style salsa verde atop roasted fennel. I was tempted to keep yesterday’s visit a secret; we wouldn’t want the crowd at the W Times Square up the block to spoil things for the rest of us. But sometimes a good thing is too good not to share.

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