Friday, December 12, 2008

Sweet Celeb Encounters at Wakiya (CLOSED) and Rose Bar New York

By: Finance Foodie

So I try not to write about the past, but I felt compelled to write a post about my visit a few months back to Wakiya and the Rose Bar, both which are located in the insanely trendy Gramercy Park Hotel (GPH). I feel this past sojourn is notable because:
(1.) Wakiya is SHUTTING DOWN on Dec 21, 2008
(2.) Multiple celeb sightings / celeb chef

Rose Bar
I arrived at the GPH a bit earlier than the rest of my dinner companions (sketchy cabbie was quiet a speeder). Since I was afraid to be mistaken for a prostitute by "hanging out" in the lobby (remember that episode of SATC?), I decided to wait at the Rose Bar across the hall from Wakiya. I have been told this place has a notoriously tight door policy (selectivity to get into a HOTEL bar...welcome to NYC), but I figure I might as well try. Luckily, it wasn't super late, so I was able to "get in". I have to admit, the decor was exquisite, complete with a warming fireplace, comfy couches, art from Warhol and Hirst, and grand pool table. It wasn't crowded, but there was a fair amount of people lounging around (mostly beautiful young girls and "older" gentleman). At the risk of looking like a foolish tourist in a sea of Hermes, I decided not to take any pictures (sorry readers).

I was only there for about 20 minutes, during which a gauche man tried to chat me up but did not offer to buy a drink (call me old fashioned, but I feel a true gentleman should offer a lady a drink if he tries to talk to her for more than 10 minutes). Therefore, I didn't sample one of their $19 cocktails. All and all, it’s a gorgeous space with gorgeous patrons, but I felt a bit self-conscious (maybe because I went alone?), so I probably wouldn't go out of my way to go back there.

So thanks to my foodie friend, I was tipped off to a little known promotion at Wakiya that week where they comped your drinks, appetizers, and dessert. When I heard this, I automatically assumed it was because the restaurant desperately needed business (perhaps foreshadowing its eventual demise?) and was not expecting a great meal. wasn't a great meal, but it wasn't terrible either. What made the night memorable were our multiple celebrity sightings and our meeting with esteemed Chef Yuji Wakiya (a legend for Chinese cuisine in Japan).
I started off with a mango martini (pretty standard, although I did like the slice of star fruit used as a garnish) and a California roll as an appetizer (was confused as I thought this was a Chinese restaurant). The main courses are supposed to be eaten “family style”, family style defined at Wakiya as a family of two models. You see, readers, the main problem I have with eating high end Chinese food is the deeply ingrained knowledge that I can get cheap, delicious, authentic, and generously portioned dishes in Chinatown/St. Marks. Nevertheless, the three of us ordered three dishes: pan seared whitefish dusted with “golden sand”, the hosin beef lettuce wraps, and chin shan steamed lobster.
The whitefish was well seared and tender, although I still am unsure of what exactly was the “golden sand”. The beef wraps were tasty, but extremely Americanized. The best dish by far was the chin san steamed lobster with vegetables. I am biased because I love any type of cooked lobster (it’s hard to screw up a crustacean that is so innately delicious), but the presentation was way cool (steamed on the spot with boiling water poured from a tea kettle).
Beef Lettuce Wraps
Steamed Lobster 
For dessert, we got a shelf of mini truffles, which my dinner companions loved. I am not a huge fan of chocolates, but they were tasty enough to end the meal on a sweet note.
Mini Truffles
NOW, for the exciting part…celebs! The friendly manager (who stopped by our table at least 4-5 times) told us both Leo DiCaprio and Wilmer Valderrama (the guy from That 70s Show, LiLo's ex) were dining in the restaurant with us! I am terrible at celeb spotting, but sure enough, I recognized them as I walked by their table (more than a few times - how terribly indiscreet of me). BUT the best part of the night was meeting Chef Wakiya. He was extremely nice and we took a picture with him (he might have thought we were Asian tourists).
With the Chef
All and all, Wakiya’s ambiance (beautiful decor, celeb hotspot) offsets the banality of the dishes. I probably would not have gone to this place were it not for the comped items (I do not mind shelling out the Benjamins for gastronomical delights, but these dishes are significantly overpriced for the quality of the food). So my reader friends, if you are in search of edible but uninspired food in a “seen to be seen” setting and don’t mind shelling out the dough to be in the company of the beautiful people and celebs, then there are a few weeks left for you to try this place out

Wakiya / Rose Bar
2 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10010

Wakiya on Urbanspoon


Ken said...

Too bad you couldn't get a picture in with Leo. I actually like his as an actor, esp. his more recent movies (Body of Lies, Blood Diamond, etc.).

Was he up to par in person?

Unknown said...

I saw Rose McGowan at the Rose Bar last time I went.

Love the blog babe!

Anonymous said...

Love this posting. I used to live blocks from the GPH before moving to California and I miss it so much. Brings back very good memories, unless I remember how much I spent on drinks and then its not so great of a memory! Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Hello and thanks for sharing! Lovely blog! How did you find leo then?

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