The former church at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 20th Street is probably best remembered as Limelight, Peter Gatien’s notorious party spot of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Since then, like much of New York City, the building has taken a turn for cleaner living — you can work out in the sunshine streaming through a massive stained glass window at David Barton Gym, and beginning today, you can eat at one of the first-ever Chinese raw bars at Jue Lan Club.
The massive 275-seat restaurant is spread over several dining rooms, a garden and an event space named for Gatien, and boasts former Buddakan sous chef Oscar Toro in the kitchen. But Toro’s former home won’t be much help in predicting your experience at Jue Lan; he’s going with a “lighter, cleaner” take on Chinese cuisine.
“I wanted to do my own variation of raw dishes using Chinese ingredients,” he says. “I would take what you would use in a Japanese or even Italian crudo dish and swap out a celery for a Chinese celery, mustard for a Chinese mustard, oranges for blood oranges.” Raw options will range from tuna over avocado puree and red pepper jam to Wagyu beef served with Asian pear and smoked oyster crema.
There will be some “staple dishes,” as Toro calls them, like hot and numbing crispy beef and his “Chinese sloppy Joe” made with braised oxtail and Taiwanese barbecue sauce stuffed in bao buns is already a hit at his dinner parties. But even there you’ll meet touches of China with sides like sprouted black beans and garnishes of native herbs. Next summer, expect to have your oysters with Chinese mignonettes from the expanded raw bar in the massive outdoor patio garden.
In what may be another first, Jue Lan Club has already been franchised overseas before it even opens, so check it out before the tourists arrive. Opens today, 49 W. 20th St.