JUE LAN CLUB
268 Elm St., Southampton
AMBIENCE: Breezy, stylish dinner spot rounds out each night as a clubby destination.
ESSENTIALS: Dinner, 5 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5 p.m. to midnight with bar menu until 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday; weekend brunch 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; reservations, wheelchair accessible, major credit cards, bottle service, private rooms
Sometimes, New York City trends pass right over Nassau and western Suffolk, only to land east of the Shinnecock Canal. Consider the dressed-up Chinese restaurant, which seems to be having a moment, both to the west and now the east.
Jue Lan Club (pronounced “You Lan”), a design-y redo of what had last been Circo, opened in Southampton over Memorial Day. It’s the newest project from Long Island native Stratis Morfogen, the restaurateur behind the now-closed Philippe Chow in Jericho. Here, artful plating meets special-occasion pricing, especially when it comes to cocktails.
Named for a secret Chinese art society in 1930s Paris, Jue Lan’s sophisticated setting unfolds like a labyrinth, starting with a breezy dining room with whitewashed ceilings and a bank of windows. The dining room gives way to a lounge, where antler chandeliers contrast with orchids on a side table. Here and there, street art from the likes of Keith Haring commandeers diners’ attention. Then it’s on to the outdoor brick patio, where white tablecloths reflect the light of stringed lanterns.
Whether it’s dinner or dim sum brunch, chef Oscar Toro’s cooking will satiate the going-out crowd looking for sophisticated-yet-accessible fare. The menu treads among Cantonese dishes accented by Western techniques, refined takes on Sichuan dishes and a few Japanese-Chinese hybrids. But food is only part of the equation at a place where, on weekends, Wall Streeters meet scenesters after midnight until 4 a.m.
Cocktails are key — note they’re pricier than half the food menu. They range from a reliable sidecar or planter’s punch to drinks such as the watermelon daiquiri or margarita, a super fresh boozy slushie.
For eats, pay attention to nightly specials, such as on Mondays, when two lobsters just over a pound each are on offer, served crispy, with salt and pepper or with ginger and garlic for around $30. Wednesdays deliver the shellacked skin of Peking chicken for two, a whole bird served with vegetable fried rice and bok choy for the same price.
Otherwise, start with the raw section of the menu for medallions of salmon that share the plate with Chinese celery and salmon roe, or slices of yellowtail drizzled with the rolling heat of ghost pepper chili oil. A duck salad is satisfying if not seductive, a generous serving of braised shredded meat with a medley of mesclun, cabbage, scallions and red peppers.
On the dim sum section of the menu, turn attention to the chicken dumpling charcoal wrapper or the pork-and-chive dumplings. Chicken, beef or shrimp satay and spring rolls, also featured on a bar menu available after midnight, are safe bets.
Order the black sea bass as a main course, steamed fish seasoned with fermented black bean and garlic with a dash of Shaoxing wine. The char sui pork and prawn fried rice dazzles as a savory share plate. Imperial chicken — a dish of fried chicken breast tossed with mushrooms, sprouts and chilies dressed in sesame and soy — stands as one of several imports among the greatest hits of Philippe Chow.
If you’re into simply prepared fish with Asian accents or refined takes on Chinese-American classics, this is a fine spot. For those occasions when you’re still wearing your party gear way past midnight and you find yourself in search of eye candy and snacks, consider Jue Lan Club a destination.