The Astor Room
Once upon a time, in a land called Queens, movie stars of the silent and talking era of the early twentieth century called Astoria their home as they showed up for filming at Kaufman Astoria Studios. Actors including Rudolph Valentino, W.C. Fields and Gloria Swanson graced the studios in those days. Today, one may step into this era as you descend the original marble staircase lined with peacock wallpaper into "The Astor Room". Located on the lower level of Kaufman Astoria Studios, The Astor Room was originally built in 1920 as the commissary for staff and burgeoning stars such as the Marx Brothers and the Gish sisters. Today, The Astor Room is a "contemporary interpretation of the American Supper Club" where classic cocktails, fabulous food, hospitality and live music are served six days a week.
Owner Chris Vlacich lovingly restored The Astor Room to reflect its 1920's glory with original handpainted tile wall, tufted leather wall panels, gilded doors and cut glass. The "Beaver Bar" is made of rich wood and a beaver presides above, a nod to Jacob Astor who made his fortune in beaver pelts and for whom Astoria is named. Live piano music fills the air each night and Song Circles with jazz singers perform on Friday nights from 10pm to 1am. The kitchen stays open until 2am on the weekends and a special bar menu is available for late night rendezvous-ing.
We started with a couple of finely crafted, classic cocktails that made me want to start smoking. (just kidding!) The New Yorker mixes quality bourbon with lemon juice, simple syrup and a touch of claret, garnished with marinated cherries. We deemed this cocktail the perfect antidote to the 20th century. On the other hand, the Mary Pickford is a dainty cocktail that the ladies will love, made with silver rum and pineapple. The Astoria martini, the Fairbanks and the Valentino are others you'll want to try, each served in the perfect glass.
Our server, Cameron, was professional, very friendly and truly helpful as we tried to decide among all the tempting dishes served. To start, we agreed to her suggestion from the raw bar and devoured a dozen fresh oysters from Long Island, briny and sweet with the flavor of summer. The raw bar also offers a "King and Queen platter" with oysters, shrimp, stone crab claws and a half lobster, perfect for sharing. "Finnan Haddie" is a unique dish of flaky haddock in a garlic cream sauce topped with crispy pancetta ($8). The moist, flavorful crab cake is garnished with charred green onion, lemon zest and aioli. Classic beef tartare is one of my favorite dishes, topped with truffle oil, watercress and a poached egg ($12).
After much deliberation, we ordered one of The Astor Room's signature dishes: short rib Stroganoff. The meaty short ribs are braised and slow cooked for hours so that the meat surrenders easily to your fork with a sauce of woodsy mushrooms and truffle créme fraiche over perfectly cooked egg noodles. Recently, The Astor Room participated in a food-tasting event at Citi Field, and their short ribs had hundreds of people lined up for a taste. Their double cut pork chop is a Flintstonesized cut of tender, juicy pork, served with rapini greens and an absolutely delicious wild mushroom hash ($24). The complex flavors and textures of this homey hash were the perfect accompaniment. Herb roasted rack of Colorado lamb is another popular dish, served with mojito jelly and chickpea ragout.
Fresh fish dishes include crispy-skinned, wild striped bass, salt baked whole branzino with braised fennel and roasted organic salmon. How about a two-pound Maine lobster Thermidor, prepared with cognac béchamel and garlic spinach? You'll also find classic fish and chips, chicken pot pie and grilled steak for two, a 38-ounce, bone-in rib-eye with onion rings and creamed spinach.
The pastry chef captures the era with a classic baked Alaska with toasted almonds and a berry base. Her butterscotch icebox pudding was creamy and smooth, no wonder it's so popular. Harlequin soufflé is a work of art with dark chocolate and Grand Marnier and who can resist crepes Suzette?
The Astor Room offers a lovely brunch served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30am to 3:30pm. Choose among house made pastries and donut holes, classic eggs Benedict, bourbon French toast and fabulous brunch cocktails and freshly brewed coffee. Something called the "Astor Disaster" consists of French toast, eggs as you like, bacon, barbecued short ribs, cheddar cheese and onion rings.
The Astor Room serves reasonably priced lunch as well. BLT's get a unique twist from house-cured pancetta, avocado and spicy aioli on grilled sourdough bread ($10). I can't wait to try the juicy Astor Burger.
For an escape from the ordinary, try dressing up a little for dinner and step into a glamorous world of movies, music, cocktails and fine food at this thoroughly modern interpretation of a Supper Club from an era long gone by. Best of all, you don't have to travel far and prices are within reach. Feel free to stop in for a cocktail at the bar and an appetizer, or enjoy lunch, dinner, late night dining or weekend brunch at the newly opened Astor Room. Visit soon and enjoy live music and singers on Friday nights and Sunday
THE ASTOR ROOM
34-12 36th Street Astoria