Wise Men Opens, Nodding to a ’70s Chinatown Meat and Martini Bar

ovDaniel Maurer

The Bowery’s latest nightspot is a nod to a steakhouse that used to be in Chinatown.

When Christina Chin discovered that the Orange Valve was closing and the storefront underneath her apartment of 12 years was becoming available, she approached her landlord about the space.

Her idea, hit upon while she was leafing through a family photo album, was to open a bar that nodded to the Original Wise Men, the “meat and martini bar” that her parents opened on the corner of Mulberry and Bayard Streets after they emigrated from China in 1969. The bar, said Ms. Chin, got a “mix of fashionable Chinese people in the ’70s and whiteys.”

Yesterday she opened Wise Men, a quirky cocktail bar that nods to its Chinatown predecessor via a “Kobe-beef meat mural” (an image of beef manipulated to resemble flock wallpaper), a marbled bar, and, of course, steak on the menu of small plates, served till 3 a.m. on weekends. The bar’s façade is a blown-up photo of Ms. Chin’s parents celebrating the Original Wise Men’s opening.

The longtime friends behind the project (the other partners are photographer Danielle Levitt and Caroleyn Ng) perceive it not just as a nod to family heritage, but also a throwback to the East Village of yore. “During the time that I moved here and also up until five years ago, the Bowery was a particularly chaotic place,” said Ms. Levitt. “I sometimes long for the East Village where I felt threatened. I miss it a little bit.”

Wise Men, she said, is intended to be a refuge. “You come here and you don’t leave,” she said as LCD Soundsystem played on the house speakers. “It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s sexy.”

Stuffed mushrooms (cremini mushrooms, sauteed onions, pecorino) – $6
Apple rumaki (roasted apple, bacon, walnut cream) – $6
Cabbage salad (radish, avocado, balsamic vinegar) – $9
Peas and carrots (winter vegetables, grated horseradish) – $9
Broccoli (charred broccoli, olive oil, lemon, chili flakes) – $8
Poached shrimp (clementines, candied almonds, butter lettuce) – $11
Crab toast (Crab Louie sauce, shaved lettuce) – $10
Fried clam strips (Cherry stone clams, remoulade sauce) – $10
Bucatini (lemon, pancetta, black pepper) – $14
Halibut (carrot puree) – $18
Pork Chop (mustard, onions, peppercorn) – $18
Lamb chops (mint pesto) – $19
Bavette steak (Wise Men steak sauce) – $19
Patty melt (caramelized onion, cheddar cheese, pickles) – $14
French fries (horseradish creme) – $5
Dark chocolate mousse (salt crackle) – $8
Roasted pear crumble – $8

Cocktails – $12
Vesper (Bulldog gin, vodka, Lillet, orange zest)
The 355 (1079 Tequila, Fernet, vermouth, orange bitters)
Perfect Rob Roy (Dewars, vermouth, Peychaud bitters)
Classic French 75 (cognac, lemon, topped with prosecco)
Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda)

Wise Men, 355 Bowery (between East Third and Fourth Streets); (646) 590-4244