Senses come alive when sitting on the plush red couches at Kasbah Hookah Lounge. The sounds of DJs spinning tracks sync with the rhythmic movements of exotically clad belly dancers roaming from table to table, weaving through clouds of aromatic hookah smoke. Customers can puff on more than 85 flavor combinations of the house’s 24 Starbuzz shishas, including classic options such as mango, or pairings such as honey, vanilla, and mint. The house also crafts their own signature blends for the five VIP flavors, including cinnamon toast crunch, which pairs apple, cinnamon, and banana. Bottles of wine and pints of beer accompany hookahs on the table, providing all of the fillers for a comfortable night out without having to lug around childhood teddy bears.
From the expertly mixed drinks to the forward-looking entrees inspired by classic American eats, Bleu Violin has hipness at the top of its agenda. There, bartenders shake, muddle, and stir together martinis as club-bound guests split upscale appetizers such as nachos topped with lump crab and shrimp or southern-fried chicken wings tossed in a choice of four sauces. Live music adds a sleek soundtrack most nights of the week, laying down a lively beat best suited for mingling or muttering all the curse words you’ve been storing up all day.
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.
Over the tops of neatly groomed conifers, the muted drizzle of a fountain loops over a still pond. Glancing out from the dining room of Seasons American Bistro & Lounge, away from the lofted beams and white tablecloths, the eye drifts out across the water and to the verdant rolling hills crowded with ancient trees. Inspired by the bistros and tapas bars of Europe, the menu at Seasons highlights shareable plates, which circulate during long chats measured in glasses of wine. From the ranks of bottles spring the floral bouquet of the Italian Alverdi pinot grigio and the earthy plum notes and Napa Valley sunshine of the 2005 Markham merlot. The sound of toasting glasses drifts through a bar and lounge with small tables and a wrap-around banquette decorated with cut flowers and candles that set the mood and keep somebody from setting down a cornucopia there.
The bouncer at Toshi’s Living Room is Ponzu. Ponzu is a morkie—half maltese, half yorkie—lapdog who has a keen radar for detecting meanies. At Toshi's, there are no meanies or bacon smugglers, thanks to Ponzu, but instead an atmosphere that celebrates good food, good cheer, and "moments of rapture … where you're happy to be alive and wanting to live forever," as stated on Toshi's website. Opened in the late summer of 2011 at the Flatiron Hotel, Toshi's space is designed to embrace both its guests and its artists, who appear on stage for a fusion of song, dance, playwriting, and other live performances.
The man behind Toshi is Robert "Toshi" Chan, a former Wall Street trader turned party promoter, turned actor, turned real-estate mogul. He and Ponzu have attracted considerable press throughout his tenure, including a feature on Fox 5 News for his outlandish Super Bowl party with a $1,500 ticket price and a gold-bullion bean dip, and more recently in the Epoch Times, which chronicled his rise since his undergraduate days at Columbia through this latest venture at the Flatiron Hotel.