Dining » Fat Mouth

Eye of the Beholder

Some eateries offer treats for the eye, and we love them for it.

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The enormous success of reality TV shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover are proof that most of us love to see ugly ducklings turned into cosmetically enhanced beauties. Ditto for the interior-design segments of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

It occurred to me that one of the many reasons that the local Tippin's restaurant chain went splat last month was that the interiors of the once-quaint cream-pie emporiums had gotten so dowdy and dingy.

A friend of mine, a true sensualist, once said that eating in an ugly restaurant was like having sex with a monstrously unattractive person: "I mean, it won't kill you," he said, "but it is hard to work up a lot of passion."

That's why I give credit to the owner of the new Korma Sutra restaurant (see review, page 39) for giving the cheerless Schlotzsky's Deli space a budget-conscious but stylish face-lift. Even more creative -- and expensive -- is the glamorama treatment that Chris Younger, Tai Nguyen and Al Ritchie, the three owners of the two-week-old Café Trio (3535 Broadway), have given the interior of the defunct Papagallo. To call what happened to the formerly shabby space merely a makeover would be an understatement; there's hardly a relic left from its previous tenants (Papagallo and the Athena).

The dining area and bar have been freshly painted, the banquettes reupholstered and the floors recarpeted. Silken sheers now hang at the windows, and the once-grimy "private" dining room has been totally refurbished to evoke something out of a 1922 opium den.

The spiffed-up dining room is no less theatrical, right down to a shiny grand piano and a swanky chandelier in the foyer. Chef Eric Argie's menu is dramatically improved, too. And in keeping with the "looks are everything" theme, the new waiter, Will, seems to have been selected for his resemblance to actor Skeet Ulrich.

Eating a splendid version of macaroni and cheese made with creamy Bel Paese, Fontina and Romano cheeses, I noted that even the clientele has more sex appeal. A young couple, both drop-dead beautiful, walked through the front door and barely noticed the quartet of Cosmopolitan-swilling queens staring at them from the bar side. Almost like a comedy sketch, four chins dropped in unison as the glamour couple were swept past them and escorted to a table.

Baby, that's what I call show business!

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