A Sweep on East 60th Street

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

When Bruno Mars celebrated his runaway Grammy wins on Sunday night, he of course headed out for some stylin’, whilen, livin’ it up in the city.

AVENUE readers won’t be surprised that the Uptown Funk artist chose East 60th Street over a downtown nightclub. The one-time sleepy, residential enclave is now restaurant row, home to Le Bilboquet and Philippe; and one block away from the highly anticipated new iteration of La Goulue. But Mars didn’t break dance through their thresholds. He spent the evening at newly opened Asian-infused steakhouse JADE Sixty.

Just welcomed to the area in January, JADE Sixty’s heritage is no stranger to the area. It’s the latest venture by restaurateur Stratis Morfogen, the former owner of Philippe Chow. The concept, however, is all-new, as the restaurant brings diners a traditional American steakhouse, surrounded by Asian dishes, including sushi.

“I wanted to do a great porterhouse with great dumplings, Peking duck and salt and pepper lobster,” said Morfogen of his inspiration. The steaks would be prepared as customers would expect at a classic American steakhouse, but instead of offering creamed spinach and mashed potatoes as side dish, he’d offer pork soup dumplings and baked clams. Morfogen brought the idea to fellow restaurateur and friend Frank Moscato. They were both looking for a new space and together opened the 175-seat restaurant at 116 East 60th Street.

“Our next challenge was balance,” said Morfogen. He didn’t want the diverse menu, which features Asian entrees in addition to the steaks, to confuse the customer.

Morfogen is familiar with the area’s clientele, as he helped to shape the Upper East Side’s restaurant scene. “When I opened Philippe, none of my investors wanted to get involved because they believed that 60th Street was hexed,” he said. “I took a huge risk on a space that was closed for two years. The rest is history.”

However, after dealing with separate legal disputes with his co-owners, as well as rival upscale Chinese eatery Mr. Chow, Morfogen left the Upper East Side, bringing his affinity for Asian-inspired menus elsewhere in New York. He is a former owner of Jue Lan Club in the Flatiron District, and most recently established the fast-casual Skinny’s Satay.

Now, Jade SIXTY is roughly 100 yards away from Philippe Chow, but “[the restaurant] is so far in my rearview mirror, I don’t even pay attention to what they’re doing. I wish everyone the best, and I’m just focused on the future,” he says. “Jade SIXTY has its own separate identity.”

Morfogen was able to move back to the Upper East Side after a non-compete clause expired over the summer. “[My career has] come full circle, to be back on 60th Street,” he says. “I really enjoy doing restaurants with a purpose. I love the Jade SIXTY menu, which went through about 500 tweaks before we got it right.” Under Executive Chef Skinny Mei, the former chef at Jue Lan Club and Philippe, and Chef Albert Diaz, the menu will continue to change based on what’s available. “I don’t mind running out of things,” says Morfogen, as it exemplifies his commitment to keeping everything fresh. In addition, Jade SIXTY will continue to feature a three-course lunch special for $20.18, a concept that Morfogen came up with in 2006, when he created a $20.06 menu. “It’s good luck for me to continue with the year,” he says, noting that other restaurants have abandoned the concept to charge upwards of $30.

In addition to the unique marriage of Asian and American cuisines, the restaurant features a combination of culture and dining. First, the music selection heavily favors classic artists, including the Grateful Dead, the Bee Gees, Bob Marley, James Taylor and Neil Young. Secondly, the HG Gallery private dining room features rotating art curated by Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim. The current exhibit is of original John Lennon works and Basquiat prints.

As far as his goals going forward, Morfogen says that he simply wants to create the best guest experience. With so many menu options, he notes that the funniest comment he’s received thus far has been from a customer whose wife is a pescatarian, his kids love Chinese, and he’s into steakhouses—“You’re saving my marriage one less argument.”


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