IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang
"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"
With the fabulous Chloe 81, the oysterrific Chloe 81 Blue Room and the recently opened Farmhouse Restaurant, M Kouger has established an essential trifecta of entertainment in NYC’s Lower East Side. Here’s a blueprint for the perfect night out: head to the Blue Room for some fresh sea-fare, grab the finest Italian American at Farmhouse, and then mingle with celebs and it-people over expertly crafted cocktails at Chloe 81.
Running these top-notch Manhattan destinations requires a keen attention to detail and a superhuman work ethic. Luckily, however, M was able to set aside some time to answer a few questions for Twelv. Check out the exclusive interview below.
-----------------M Kouger's INTERVIEW-----------------
How did you get into club/restaurant ownership? Was it always something that you were interested in?
M: I’ve worked most of my life in the restaurant industry. It just made sense to build and own my own places to create the experiences that I could provide.
What establishments do you currently own/co-own?
M: We run Farmhouse, Chloe81 and the recently-opened Chloe81 Blue Room (cocktails/oysters). What’s nice at the moment is that everything is centralized which makes it easy from an operational standpoint.
Of course, we have new opportunities that we are working on at the moment as well.
Chloe 81 is known for its exclusivity, while Farmhouse offers a friendly, somewhat casual dining experience: two very different vibes. Was this a consideration when opening Farmhouse? To conquer both ends of the spectrum?
M: We pride ourselves on good User Experiences, and that goes for formal, exclusive, casual, volume or chill.
Sometimes people want to let loose, get wild and drink easy and fast. Other times they want to hide in a cozy corner and make out while sipping a classic cocktail and other times they are hanging with co-workers at a communal table at Farmhouse laughing over shared plates and bottles of wine. There is a need for all types of experiences and we provide all sorts of adventures and opportunities.
Why Italian-American for this latest project?
M: Honestly, I like to try different things and this is something we haven’t yet conquered. And I think it was missing from the neighborhood even though there are a lot of roots here.
It’s received great reviews. Do you pay attention to that sort of thing?
M: You can’t really afford to ignore social reviewing and tagging - it’s cemented into the fabric of restaurant and bar discovery nowadays. Everyone welcomes positive reviews and we can appreciate constructive criticism - but it’s usefulness is really yet to be shown for owners. It can get annoying from an owner’s point of view - and it’s also frustrating for our staff. Sometimes visitors need to put down the phone and talk to us.
Back in ’14, you told Twelv that with Chloe 81, you fulfilled a promise that you had made to yourself to bring variety to an overcrowded scene. Do you feel that you’re doing something similar with Farmhouse? What sets it apart from other restaurants of a similar culinary genre?
M: The combination of design, seating, ingredients, ambiance, the curated cocktail menu and staff that all come together to bring something different.
I’m getting a rustic, countryside kitchen vibe from the décor. What were your inspirations for the interior design?
M: Part of the inspiration came from the food as well as the location. One whole wall and part of another can be left completely open in good weather, so I wanted the place to be bright and approachable. Our food is accessible and I wanted the decor to match that accessibility. The back of the bar and other service stations have a rustic-industrial feel. I like working with different building materials the way my chef works with ingredients and the bar manager works with liquors and bases.
I’d imagine that decorating the restaurant that you’re about to open is a lot of fun. Would I be correct?
M: Not only is it fun - but it’s very satisfying to see the design that one creates in their head and on paper come to life.
Do you have a favorite dish and/or cocktail on the Farmhouse menu?
M: That depends on my mood - but the Butternut Squash and Black Angus Hanger Steak dishes are solid. Throw down one of our infamous Old-Fashioneds or a Blood & Sand cocktail and you have a night.
Have you ever eaten dinner at Farmhouse and then headed right over to Chloe 81 for some drinks? Sounds like the perfect one-two punch.
M: Ha - that’s where I envy others. It’s difficult to disengage oneself from work-mode at a place that you build. But, if my managers are on point, then yes, I get to enjoy a great dinner and then an amazing cocktail next door before dancing down below. I wish I could do that more often.
Why should people try Farmhouse if they haven’t yet?
M: I want everyone to enjoy themselves the way complete strangers have come up to us after dinner with an extremely satiated and happy face. It’s really been motivating us to stay strong.
INTERVIEWED & WRITTEN BY: JASON GREENSPAN
PHOTOGRAPH BY: FUZHONG YANG