The newly opened West 55th Street restaurant Amalia recently unveiled its downstairs lounge, D'Or, a cavernous stab at downtown cool. Let's visit the upstairs first. Owned by Vikram Chakral of the OTT Dream Hotel and Greg Brier, Amalia is glorious midtown chic, an 8,000 square-foot hyperbolic dining "experience" complete with a portrait gallery (with framed paintings on the ceiling—CEILING!) and a black chandelier (black!).
The menu, by Ivy Stark, late of Rosa Mexicana and Dos Caminos, is billed as new American with a Mediterranean twist. The menu itself is tailored for the the mid-50's diner, a geographically as well as demographically apt description. The clientele, middle-aged business folk, a few young'uns and a couple of geriatrics, were out on the town and dammit, they wanted a show.
For $18, the hamachi crudo appetizer is accompanied by a entourage of tangerines, saffron, vanilla pickled onions and fussy droppings of sauce. The Muscovy Duck entre comes with a knife weighing at least as much as the dish itself (no small feat considering the sheer quantity of duck). Basically, things are good—especially the banana and kataifi with frozen lemon yogurt. Overwhelming, but good.
Which brings us to D'Or, the restaurant's self-proclaimed attempt to draw a downtown audience, reachable via a glowing "floating" mosaic staircase or its own separate entrance. There's rough-hewn wood la Peasant wine bar; there's a DJ with a sleeve la any East Village dive; and the ubiquitous gay waiter with black fingernail polish, a gray t-shirt, and tight black jeans.
And yet, it just doesn't pass. Could have been the striped and popped collars all around, or the in-ground lighting as smooth as a Jodeci slow jam, or the plush cream leather chairs—but despite the external reference points, you knew you were somewhere between 28th and 58th streets. Of course, as any high school kid knows, even the basement of the VFW can become the coolest place in your suburb. Perhaps in the days to come, droves of hipsters will crowd under the lowly vaulted ceilings of D'Or but right now the obviousness of the effort has the stink of self-consciousness.