You’ve probably heard of Kurve, the futuristic Thai-fusion spot in the East Village so odd that it’s prompted speculation that it’s actually an art installation, not a restaurant. Well, Brooklyn has its own Kurve now, a place so strange that it’s almost worth a visit just to see it.
Imagine a wanna-be boutique hotel goes up on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, on the west side of the street, which is technically Gowanus, not Park Slope. This hotel is wedged between a taxi garage and a dialysis center, on a fairly industrial stretch of the avenue. Although the designers have tried to make this place look like some approximation of a hip, modern hotel, with liberal use of glass and lots of stuff that glows blue, it’s actually a clunker of a building, with metal balconies that look about as safe as Soviet-era airliners.
That’s Hotel Le Bleu, an inexplicable place where rooms that look out on the Gowanus (and some with partial skyline views) go for $250 to $350–although the Boston Globe was inordinately impressed with the flat-screen TVs.
Recently, a restaurant called Vue opened on the top floor of the hotel. Although the name refers to a view, all you can see from a window perch is Fourth Avenue–a Pep Boys, a Staples, and an ambulatory infusion center. The room looks very much like Kurve–bubbly white plastic chairs, white plastic tables, walls painted in gaudy patterns, space-age lighting fixtures, the works. Think the Encounter Restaurant at LAX. Techno music is on the sound system, synced to two large flat-screens, which display psychedelic screen-saver images. It feels weirdly foreign–like you’ve stumbled into a Czech club or something. Take a look at the room here, on their website.
Chef Chris Cheung is in the kitchen, a Chinatown native and veteran of Nobu and Ruby Foo’s, most recently bumped from Monkey Bar when it was bought by Graydon Carter. You’ve got to imagine that Cheung won’t stay long; he’s a better chef than this. The food turns out to be not terrible, but deeply dated, hotel-ish food, with squeeze bottle squiggles galore. A tiny crab cake atop mixed greens tastes fine, but may contain some fake crab. Broiled chicken with barbecue sauce and Asian pear slaw (below) gets marred by cottony chicken with limp skin, but the slaw is spicy and delicious. A take on surf-and-turf, the hotel classic, is acceptable. Mains range from $17-$28, not cheap.
It’s almost worth stopping by for a Greenwood Zombie cocktail just to see the place. Or, do as a table of five Russian twenty-somethings were doing last night, and order a bottle of Cognac.
370 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2009