NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, December 17, 2015, 1:44 PM
Jue Lan Club chef Oscar Toro formerly of Buddakan dishes on his nouveau Chinese menu.
This Chelsea landmark has gone from handing out communion wafers to serving fortune cookies.
The former 19th century Episcopal church at West 20th St. and Sixth Ave. is reborn again as Jue Lan Club, a 225-seat bi-level nouveau Chinese restaurant from former Buddakan chef Oscar Toro.
“It’s been baptized,” Toro jokes of the expansive eatery that opened Thursday.
Perhaps it’ll be enough to wash away sins leftover from one of its predecessors — the legendary Limelight club, a drug den which started out as a disco and rock spot in the ‘80s, played techno and industrial music in the ‘90s, and was frequented by celebs like Andy Warhol, Madonna, and Michael Jackson before it shuttered in 2003. It reopened briefly under the name “Avalon,” but closed for good in 2007. After that, the space evolved into an upscale shopping market and a David Barton gym.
“It all makes a lot of sense, quite frankly; the time might actually be right,” says Clark Wolf, a New York restaurant consultant. “Now it’s a true mixed-use building.”
Tuna, avocado puree, red pepper jam, cilantro served over crispy rice.
“The chef himself knows how to cook for a big place that makes shockingly great food,” adds Wolf, giving credit to Toro’s past at Buddakan, the Vatican-sized Asian restaurant in the Meatpacking District.
The menu at Jue Lan Club is broken down into sections including a raw bar, appetizers, dim sum, noodles and rice and meaty mains. It culminates with a rotating peking-style section which is currently duck.
Tuna with avocado puree, sea bass and salmon in a blood orange vinaigrette.
Toro, who’s 37, created inventive dishes like the “sloppy” Bao Buns ($ 16), which are steamed and stuffed with braised oxtail; and the Fetti “Chino” Wide Egg Noodle ($ 18) with roast duck.
“I went to Chinatown twice a day eating dumplings and noodles,” says Toro, of finding inspiration for his dim sum menu that includes Shrimp Crystal Dumplings and his thin-skinned soup dumplings.
More simple plates include salmon with celery, mustard and toasted sesame in a blood orange vinaigrette; and a tuna covered in avocado puree with red pepper jam cilantro on a bed of crispy rice.
Like Buddakan, the space is designed to be a scene. Patrons are greeted with a chandelier upon entering, and walk into a dimly-lit dining room adorned with eye-catching emerald banquette seating.
“People didn’t go to Buddakan for the food, but they had good food when they were there,” Wolf says. “This is going to be a place that has the mystique of Buddakan, but it’s more about the food.”