Walking into Manon off of 14th Street in the heart of the Meatpacking harkens back to an earlier era when the Meatpacking was filled with late night eateries, lounges and reworked speakeasy’s that were exciting and played perfectly against the original intent of the neighborhood. Some argue
that the neighborhood has shed a few layers and now is home to a loud and obnoxious crowd, also known as bridge and tunnel. However, what has happily diminished is the velvet rope policy of handpicking people from the line, deemed ‘cool’ by a snooty doorman, or burly security guard. Manon, which opened earlier this year retains the chic aspects of that earlier era, but has developed a refreshingly welcome environment, ultra cool design, and a seasonally fresh, yet unfussy menu by Executive Chef, Tae Strain. After three visits to Manon, I am completely aware of a consistent eye to comfortable, yet knowledgeable service, which commences the moment you walk through the door, and are greeted by a team of lovely and friendly hostesses, all led by the very dapper, Maitre D’, Chris Session. Session was handpicked from Pastis and brings his astute sensibility and charm, as he helps orchestrate a flawless evening at Manon appear seamless.
The 3-story restaurant and lounge space could feel daunting, but is warmed up with exposed brick, retained wood flooring and a dining room, which is situated on the third floor, that is intimate due to the plush velvet tufted chairs, and modern lamps at each table, that perfectly illuminate the cuisine, but flatter the clientele. Don’t get me wrong, Manon will impress any new guest, and repeat guest, with it’s baroque dropped ceiling in the lounge to the equally impressive, and intricately dropped wire ceiling in the dining room. The Venetian mirror that cascades alongside the dining and mezzanine wall is nothing short of exquisite.
Cocktails at Manon are inspired and incorporate fresh ingredients alongside some of your favorite spirits. On a recent visit, my friend ordered the Pear Jam, which was comprised of Grey Goose, Brillet Poire, St. Germaine Elderflower and lemon. The hint of sweetness will keep you coming back for repeat sips. My other friend had the Spicy Mule which featured Belvedere Vodka, Canton Ginger, Ychilli Red and lime. This the perfect cocktail to kick start your evening. What I love about Manon, is that all of the mixologists are experts in their craft, and clearly take their job seriously. Just like any good speakeasy inspired bar today, I asked the mixologist if she could whip up something with my current favorite spirit, Mezcal, and the result was sublime. She transformed the Marguerita as we know it today, into the next generation.
Recommendation: Make an earlier reservation as the restaurant typically encourages a pre-cocktail prior to your dinner. You’ll be able to enjoy the bar and lounge, admire the space and even chat with your mixologist. As the night progresses, the bar and lounge benefit from an assortment of awesome deejays that recreate the room in to a major bar and lounge scene.
Chef Strain’s cuisine is all locally sourced and fresh American fare, but is benefitted by a free sampling of Asian accents. He hails from a strong pedigree coming from an old favorite spot, Public. Food is unfussy, yet ingredients are strategically chosen as to enrich the flavors into new heights. For starters we had the Hamachi which was ultra fresh and kept simple with citrus, radish and chili to create a little heat. We also had the special starter of fresh gnocchi, butternut squash puree and shaved black truffles atop. The seasonal flavors melded together and made a perfect dish to share and set the tone for an awesome meal.
For entrees I had the Red Snapper which was in a light, yet flavorful lobster broth, featuring Prince Edward Island Mussels and a Penang spice blend making it a very satisfying, Thai inspired dish. My one friend had the Berkshire Pork Chop, which was cooked to perfection and was quintessentially a satisfying Autumn dish, including braised savoy cabbage, red cabbage, green apple and the Korean spice with chili accents, known as gochujang. My other friend had the special of the night, which was the braised beef short rib. The generous portion simply fell off of the bone as it had been cooking for up to 10 hours.
Attention to detail is what sets Manon apart from others, and it really does become about the smallest offerings like the golden brown biscuits that
are piping hot and addictive and are served as soon as you order your dinner. The sides on the menu are a great option for sharing with your entrees. Try the Brussel Sprouts that are braised and incorporate honey and pecans. We were happy to enjoy a bottle of Antica Terra “Botanica” Pinot Noir, 2009 from Willamette Valley, Oregon. My knowledgeable friend who really does know a lot about wine enjoyed speaking with the sommelier who helped steer us in the wine we chose, which paired perfectly with all of our Autumn dishes. Oregon wines, particularly Pinot Noirs, are really making a name for themselves and are closer to French stylings, rather than California.
It’s refreshing to experience a restaurant that equally combines excellent and inspiring cuisine with an atmosphere that is sexy, chic and stimulating. All of these elements are present, but your experience at Manon will fuse together with the awareness that you are being taken care of by the best service. The hostesses who guide you up to the third floor dining room take you to a back elevator and could not be any friendlier. Our server was always available, offered great advice and most importantly was casual and fun. On my way to the restroom I ran into a male server, who served me on my last two visits that recognized me and gave me a warm welcome back. I can’t wait for my next visit back to Manon as the entire evening is an experience you won’t forget.