Hold The Spareribs
Annie Block -- Interior Design, 6/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Michelle Jean paid attention in high school—especially to her Chinese history class. The myriad dynasties fascinated her. So much so that she continued her education with a master's in hospitality management from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, before launching Orient, a New York pan-Asian restaurant, in 1999.
That first effort closed after a fire. Still, she says, "It was open long enough for me to see there was a market for quality, healthy Asian food that isn't expensive." She's now proving that theory with an organic Chinese restaurant, Ginger.
The new restaurant, some 100 blocks north of Chinatown, is in Harlem's first green mixed-use development. Named 1400 on 5th, the building was designed by Roberta Washington Architects for the developer Full Spectrum of NY. The top seven stories are residential, the ground level retail. Constructed with 60 percent recycled or renewable materials and heated and cooled entirely by geothermal energy, the building is going for a LEED-silver certification.
Jean jumped at the opportunity to stake a claim in a burgeoning area—eco Chinese-style. To help do it, she rallied Fu. Design, which had collaborated on Orient, and Andrew Phillips Architects, the firm behind überhip Butter, where she'd worked while earning her master's.
Heating up the 3,800-square-foot restaurant's envelope of slate and bamboo is a red-lacquered bar. A monumental driftwood base supports the restroom's stainless-steel sink. And overlooking the kitchen, which doles out grade-A fare that's rarely fried, is a gilded Chinese foo dog.