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From Palermo to New York. The new “most glamorous” restaurant in Manhattan is Argentine, has a Jujuy mural and even Vogue talks about it

NEW YORK.– The Upper East Side is the area gossip-girl Quintessential Manhattan. There are the more traditional schools for girls and boys (although the latter usually only go until the junior years of high school, since then the boys continue to be sent to New England). There are the solemn buildings on Park Avenue, with their white-gloved doormen and suits with epaulettes; the museums on Fifth Avenue; the store flagship by Ralph Lauren… Few would describe it as the natural setting for a “restaurant-slash-late night hotspot”, as the media titled it, an advanced establishment super cool –and Argentine-inspired food– to get lost until late at night.

But the new version of the Casa Cruz restaurant, born years ago in Palermo Viejo and later moved to London, where figures such as Elton John, Prince Harry, Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham, Mick Jagger or Madonna frequented itnot only has it just opened in a new location on hyper-bourgeois 61st Street, between the boutiques on Madison Avenue and the doormen on Park Av. Far from being a basement with an alternative setting –or a mere pop-upAs it was on a brief first foray into the Big Apple years ago in Tribeca, this brand-new Casa Cruz occupies an entire venerable six-story Beaux-Arts mansion.

Juan Santa Cruz is the great maker of the success that bears his last name.  He affirms that he does not lose hope of reopening in Buenos Aires
Juan Santa Cruz is the great maker of the success that bears his last name. He affirms that he does not lose hope of reopening in Buenos AiresWESTON WELLS

“It’s just that I’m a bit of a contrera,” he admits. Juan Santa Cruz, the former finance man who was forged as restaurateur in Buenos Aires–. On the other hand, all my New York friends who grew up here and who had moved en masse to the downtown or to Brooklyn were starting to come back, and when we started the project there wasn’t much to do in this neighborhood”. The bet seems to have been more than successful. A few days before its inauguration in the middle of New York Fashion Week – in a strict tuxedo for men, and where they attended from celebrities like Heidi Klum and Sienna Miller to the most stale and low profile of New York and Southampton society– Vogue magazine had already ruled: “Casa Cruz is about to be the most glamorous restaurant in New York”.

The minute he found out about the project’s existence, The Wall Street Journal did a great story titled: “The hippest slice of London nightlife hits the Upper East Side” (yes, it’s become commonplace in the media to highlight the location in disbelief).

The setting is, at first glance, very New York. After all, what hangs on the walls are works by such emblematic artists as Andy Warhol, David Hockney or Keith Haring. But there are surprises. If the bathroom door is opened, one finds oneself surrounded by a mural that represents the Hill of Seven Colors in Jujuy. “The idea was Charlotte’s,” Santa Cruz clarifies regarding her main partner, Charlotte Santo Domingo, and he added in another bathroom the Atacama Desert of her native Chile.

The mural with the Cerro de los Siete Colores, an Argentine touch for the restaurant that Vogue magazine described as "the most glamorous" from New York
The mural with the Cerro de los Siete Colores, an Argentine touch for the restaurant that Vogue magazine described as “the most glamorous” in New Yorkgentleness

The visit of the NATION magazine It’s a Monday mid-afternoon, but there are still plenty of people finishing a lunch in what would seem like deliciously Latin hours. Others tour the facilities with friends and enormous enthusiasm. Santa Cruz bought the building (“it was a check!”, he acknowledges), to have more independence and to be able to project into the future what he describes as his “legacy work”, or great legacy, although it is an unusual move, and very risky, in the commercial real estate market around here. But Santa Cruz did it with an ace up his sleeve, which was a business model that he had already tested in London. Although Casa Cruz is not a private club, got a large group of original investors who were given access to a couple of flats just for them and their guests, which can be accessed with a private elevator. “The result is that everyone feels involved in making the project a success. They are the main promoters we have, because they love to tell friends come I invite you to my restaurant”, he confesses.

Juan Santa Cruz conquered Manhattan after doing it with London and Buenos Aires
Juan Santa Cruz conquered Manhattan after doing it with London and Buenos AiresWESTON WELLS

more than grill

Casa Cruz’s menu was described as “Positano-meets-Pampas”, or a cross between our cuisine and that of the Amalfi Coast. “I had the idea of ​​taking Casa Cruz to London when I saw that the Argentine restaurants there were basically grills when we can offer something with more sophisticated twists,” he underlines. Even so, he clarifies that the most popular dishes are usually based on classics, especially meat, but extraordinarily well done, and that is the model that he is bringing to the New York branch. “It was incredibly popular when we introduced the humita in London -remember-. Later, all the luxury restaurants there were copied, but with versions that were too creamy, for example. Ours was spotless. Here in New York I trained everyone so that if a porteño comes and asks for, say, a reddishServe you the best you’ve ever tasted.” Or, at least, perfectly on par with what he would drink in his favorite bar in Buenos Aires, the city where Santa Cruz still maintains his apartment.

The original Casa Cruz in Palermo opened its doors for the first time in 2004, and was located on Calle Uriarte. In 2014 it had a remodeling and finally closed some time later. But the Santa Cruz projects then moved abroad.

Nature is part of the atmosphere of Casa Cruz.  The restaurant is located on the exclusive Upper East Side
Nature is part of the atmosphere of Casa Cruz. The restaurant is located on the exclusive Upper East Side WESTON WELLS

I do not lose hope of reopening Casa Cruz in Buenos Airesand now that I am going to be in New York I am going to spend much more time in Argentina, taking advantage of the fact that it is so much easier to fly there than from London”, he clarifies.

Meanwhile, how is the Fernet with Coca at Casa Cruz New York? “Well, they haven’t asked us yet and we don’t have that much practice,” smiles Santa Cruz. But, of course, they only just opened.

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