Dining By Design: The Well-Dressed Restaurant
by Victoria C. Rowan
Physical surroundings also create that other key element to a transporting dining experience: intimacy. Columns and mezzanines can divide space into privacy zones. At the Moroccan-inflected Chez Es Saada, one descends a long flight of rose-petal-strewn stairs to arrive at a warren of dramatically lit rooms, separated by brick arches, which simultaneously generate the atmosphere of a decadent speakeasy and lavish harem quarters. At Blue Water Grill, the majestic columns of this converted 1902 bank punctuate clusters of tables, and the high ceilings allow for the customers seated in the mezzanine to spy on the scene below from their box seats. And Casa La Femme upholds its middle-eastern theme with colorful pavilions, demurely draped with skirts that reach the floor.
The best way to distract New Yorkers from New York is to provide an enticing, alternate vista. Though the average mural in a neighborhood pizzeria may contribute to indigestion, the great ones make one want to return, offering a pleasure similar to replaying a beloved album. Grange Hall just wouldn't feel as farm-fresh without the vividly-hued harvest mural hovering over its dining room. Remi's undulating painted walls successfully evoke a dreamy, amphibian Venice. I believe that environments determine behavior: just as children tend to behave when dressed in their Sunday best for a visit to Grandma's, eating in a beautiful place tends to temporarily civilize the often savage New Yorker. Would nearly as many men propose at Café des Artistes if the nymphs didn't dare them to?
Considering my current socio-economic status, dining out so frequently is a bit ludicrous. Instead of dwelling on the obscene extravagance, however, I rationalize it by reminding myself of that escapist thrill that comes with running away from home for a couple of hours; of the fact that food bought at the supermarket usually spoils before I can finish it; and (of course) of all the therapy bills I'm avoiding by pursuing this epicurean-style design therapy.
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