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John McDonald Splits Chinatown Brasserie into Two Restaurants, Partners with Serge Becker

Chinatown Brasserie, the big-box Noho Chinese restaurant helmed by John McDonald and chef Joe Ng, will undergo a major renovation and split into two restaurants. On the heels of The Feedbag's early report this morning, we reached McDonald and his new partner, ambiance genius Serge Becker, for some additional information on this major move. According to McDonald, Chinatown Brasserie will become a 130 seat restaurant in the downstairs space currently inhabited by the brasserie's lounge. Designed by Becker, who McDonald has worked with at his Soho spots Lure and Mercbar, it'll open in 4-5 weeks. Upstairs, currently the Chinatown Brasserie main floor, an as-yet unnamed casual American concept will open in early 2010. Josh Capon will be the chef at this entirely new 150-175-seat restaurant. It'll be desgined by Becker, along with design house Roman & Williams, whose two most recent entries on its CV are The Standard and the Ace Hotel.

Of the new Chinatown Brasserie, McDonald promises a tighter, more fun, more sexy space with lots of booths, a few communal tables and a downsized bar. And of the upstairs restaurant, Becker describes the still-developing new concept as "an homage to America as a manufacturing place," with an industrial chic and focus on " the craftsmanship that was prominent in the 60s and 70s." The bar area of the upstairs will grow and get booth seating as well.

Now, to dispatch with some color on all this, Chinatown Brasserie opened during a moment of obsession with oversized restaurants, its contemporaries being behemoths like Buddakan, Craftsteak and Del Posto. The very good food notwithstanding, you'll pardon us, then, if we glance over the naked fact that a major change of some kind was inevitable. Not changing would indicate the onset of some early dementia on McDonald's part, or some twisted state of denial or both. That he was able to partner with Becker on these spaces is a massive win for the Chinatown Brasserie team. Not only does Becker have a history with the space—recall that he designed Time Cafe and Fez, the duo of venues to live at 380 Lafayette Street several iterations before Chinatown Brasserie moved in—but he's a man with an undeniable golden touch, such as at places ranging from Joe's Pub to an obscure taqueria on the edge of Nolita called, maybe you've heard of it, La Esquina. It isn't an easy thing, trying to ressurect this space, which certainly had taken on an odor of death in recent months. But if there is a team to do it, they're in place.

Meahwhile, in bonus McDonald news, rumors have been circulating that Lure Fishbar's lease will come up this year and that the restaurant will close. Rejoice: they've secured a five year extension, which has the good ship Lure sailing in Soho until at least 2014.
· Chinatown Brasserie to Retreat Downstairs, Lure Guys to Take over Space [The Feedbag]

Chinatown Brasserie

380 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003 (212) 533-7000 Visit Website