Watching what was happening in one of the many restaurants that are springing up in New York City’s Meatpacking District was like peering into a public medical lab.
The walls of Howl at the Moon were lined with images from the previous night’s performances and makeshift cocktail bars. On Monday, a white-haired man named Martin Masroor ran one of the tables, greeting customers and lecturing them on the structure of fine dining. On a Saturday, a similar table housed a woman studying the instruction manual of one of the restaurants.
“This is a place where the customers decide what to eat,” she said, looking at the financial ledger page that ran across the middle of the table. “I get paid and am very happy. The chef, on the other hand, would prefer that no one puts their pants on right here.”
This woman, who requested that I not use her name, moved to New York City from London a few years ago. During that time, she worked in various restaurants and often went to home chefs or on-call cooks, but said she usually preferred to cook on her own.
These days, she does cooking for a living, and she said that her experience as a chef had made her more selective in where she went for work. But, she said, she saw potential in the area’s new restaurant scene, whether it was diners like the one at Howl at the Moon who wanted to sample dishes before deciding whether to order them or chefs, like the one who runs this table, who could look out over the future of the restaurant’s various concepts.
“If it’s right, it will change your life,” she said.
The tables in this particular portion of Howl at the Moon were empty, but their patrons were snapping photos and chitchatting with one another. Martin Masroor talked about what he thought about the last day’s performance on the overhead screens and Karen Roza of Elain Fine Dining and Cocktails described her favorite drink to that point, a mix of tequila, white pepper, orange juice and grapefruit bitters.
“What are you doing in between cocktails?” one woman asked her.
“See you in a while,” said Roza, just then sitting down at the next table.
“I can’t wait to watch you,” said the woman, and after a few more minutes of interplay, the woman burst into a large smile.
She proceeded to a table where a waiter seated herself with his eyes on an iPhone. A waitress busied herself with a tray of tiny crostini, as people dropped by.
“We’re eating like animals,” said the woman at the next table, pointing to her teeth. “You know the rules for that, right?”
Soon after, the woman and another guest were busy consuming candy on the go, and someone walked in and started talking to the hostess.
When the woman and the hostess resumed, she nodded at the woman sitting at the table in front of them and said, “That seems horrible.”
“Yes, I know,” said the hostess, though she added that she hoped it would get better.
“But then,” the woman said, “I would feel like they were doing the service to me.”
The woman then pointed to a man across the room.
“Somebody at 2 Stone’s,” she said.