This cocktail hotspot takes more than just its name from Frenchman Paul Verlaine, a 19th-century poet and notorious hedonist. The drink menu is carefully orchestrated to indulge almost any fancy—libations range from dozens of small-batch and single-barrel whiskeys to sake and cocktails that have a distinct South Asian flair. Lychee sweetens the popular Hanoi Martini and black raspberry sake adds subtle notes to the exotic Saigon Bellini. Vietnamese flavors also inspire the eclectic tapas menu, which features several vegetarian-friendly options. Lemongrass sauce sweetens a stack of pancakes, and chicken or shrimp bulks up coconut curry. At Verlaine, there’s no flashy décor to distract from the craft food and drink. Instead, the vibe is sophisticated and subdued, with dim candles set along the length of the bar and local artwork lining the walls. The artsy theme is alive and well at occasional poetry readings, which pay homage to the bar’s literary namesake.
As New York Times reporter Jeff Vandam explains, Murray Hill is a hard neighborhood to pin down. Quiet rows of brownstones and apartment buildings contrast with a lively pub scene geared toward the 20-somethings who have recently become more of a fixture in recent years. Like the neighborhood it calls home, The Hill has somewhat of a split personality. From afternoon through early evening, it is predominantly a sports bar. More than 25 HD televisions broadcast live games in the bar and upstairs lounge as post-collegiate fans cheer on their alma maters over plates of sliders and pots of fondue. As soon as the action wraps up though, things start to get interesting. Candlelight replaces the flickering glow of TV screens, as the bar transforms into a stylish lounge for Murray Hill’s sophisticated set. Polychromatic planks of wood line the walls on both floors, giving guests something interesting to admire when the bartenders take a break from stirring up lemon drop martinis or juggling bottles of Fiji water.
Just as a mosaic connects small pieces to form a sum greater than its parts, Mosaic Cafe and Lounge combines three core concepts to stand out in Astoria’s crowded bar scene. The first of these is an exceptional drink list that unites wines from around the world with more than 100 bottled beers. The second is a stylish setting, and in this regard Mosaic nearly outclasses the Belle Époque salons and Turkish palaces after which it was evidently modeled. Antique furnishings, handcrafted woodwork, and, yes, colorful mosaics create an ambiance worthy of the constantly evolving drink menu. Thankfully, Mosaic also places a high priority on service. Waiters bustle to and fro with small plates of cheeses and cured meats, pausing at tables to recommend wines that will leave the best impression on a date or the best stain on the suit jacket of the guy who convinced you snowpants were "in."
Patrons engage every sense at Twenty 20, savoring the scents and flavors of Spanish and Latin-American cuisine and following the upbeat sounds of salsa music to the dance floor. As the chefs spoon chimichurri sauce over grilled skirt steak and bake servings of saffron-scented paella, the bartenders deftly mix mojitos and pour sangria for thirsty crowds. Fueled with drinks and vibrant cuisine, guests quickstep past a kaleidoscopic wall mural and dance while DJs or live bands play pulse-quickening salsa hits and acoustic French lullabies. The restaurant encourages patrons to take the stage themselves on Thursdays when it hosts karaoke nights.
M1-5 boasts all the amenities of an upscale lounge, including a spacious, 5,000-foot main floor, private VIP areas, HD TVs and projection screens, a stage outfitted with a high-end sound system, and running water. But there is one thing noticeably missing: a cover charge. Despite the extravagant digs, revelers can party here without the added expense of admission (except for certain private events). This is due to the establishment's more laidback, customer-first approach to clubbing, and it is in that spirit that M1-5 also offers, but doesn't mandate, reserved seating and bottle service.
The menu is a perfect complement to the easygoing vibe. It was developed by Chef John Sierp, a New York City fireman who has cooked onscreen for Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray, served as a guest judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and was featured on Food Network’s Chopped. His gourmet take on comfort food includes barbecue-chicken sliders, personal pizzas topped with pulled pork, and the staff favorite, homemade cheese-rice balls with bits of Genoa salami. And in addition to to these classic American pub eats, the menu includes Asian influenced dishes as well, such as veggie spring rolls glazed with sweet chili sauce and steamed shrimp dumplings ignited with a hot chili sauce.