In a shopping center anchored by Big Lots! and known for shoe outlets, Sugar has found a sweet spot.
Beyond the velvet rope, under the vaulted ceiling, pulsating to dance-pop, adorned with a hologram forest and in-flagrante murals, changing colors at a touch, is restaurateur Brian Rosenberg's ambitious fun house.
Cocktails abound, wines flow, customers cavort. The whole scene isn't recommended for all ages and audiences. But before Sugar gives up tables to the dance floor and turns total social club, before the noise level rises from merely throbbing to absolutely deafening, it's a "dining den." And chef Hok Chin sends out some stirring food to the very '80s background sound of the Go-Gos announcing "We Got the Beat" and Bananarama igniting "Venus."
Hok Chin's starry resumé includes stints at departed Manhattan doyennes such as La Caravelle and Les Célébrités, where they doubtless poured more Dom Pérignon than Red Bull.
Here, his high-energy menu is devoted to "dishes that are designed for sharing amongst friends and are brought to the table steadily and continually . . . "
There are some traditional main courses, too. You'll enjoy the quartet of crisp cones, two each with tuna tartare sparked by kimchee and wasabi; and crabmeat with mango, seaweed salad and citrusy yuzu. And bite into those smoked, pulled-pork tacos, as well as the coconut shrimp, four crunchy pieces filled with coconut-milk-marinated shellfish and threads of the fruit, ready for a dab of pineapple, melon and Thai basil gazpacho. Standouts range from "Little Mac" beef sliders, a toasty Reuben slider and Mongolian beef with udon noodles to calamari salad with fennel and mango, sushi rolls with tuna, salmon and avocado, and four cuts of sea bass paired with Japanese pumpkin and purple eggplant, finished with a sweet-chile sauce.
Ultrasweet spareribs, bland crab cakes, pasty prosciutto-ricotta croquettes, showy but dull desserts.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"Yeah, baby, she's got it."