Imagine an extraordinary waterfront restaurant, just steps from Boston’s Convention Center and contemporary art museum, featuring elegant, cosmopolitan design, cozy lounges and enclaves, plentiful seating, and an enticing, open kitchen where trained chefs demonstrating the most innovative Asian cooking techniques.
Enter Empire, the newest property by acclaimed restaurateurs Big Night Entertainment Group, brothers Ed and Joe Kane, Randy Greenstein, and Executive Chef Kevin Long. Slated to open this month, Big Night is making a big splash on Boston’s Fan Pier, bringing fresh, creative Asian cuisine to Boston’s new hip, urban frontier of luxury condos, high-tech workers and upscale businesses.
Empire will be the “Innovation District’s” first Asian locale, helping Boston Mayor Tom M. Menino and developer Joe Fallon further their vision of a diverse, eclectic, and exciting new center for commerce, shopping, dining and residences on Boston’s historic harbor.
“With increased development activity and an influx of corporations to the waterfront, this vibrant area is poised for continued growth, and Empire epitomizes the type of venture that will attract customers to the area, while serving the needs of the many individuals who now live, work and play along Boston’s historic harbor,” says Fallon, president and CEO of the Fallon Company. “Empire and Big Night Entertainment Group fit perfectly into our vision for Fan Pier and we anticipate a dynamic partnership that will contribute to a cohesive, upscale and luxurious identity for Fan Pier.”
Known for seamlessly integrating high-end cuisine with high style, BNEG worked with designer Peter Niemitz to create a stunning, Imperial Chinese-meets-contemporary Asian ambience. The atypically generous 14,000-square-foot space, seating approximately 350, is divided into nine esthetically distinct rooms: the Great Wall Gallery, Bar and Lounge, Salon, Imperial Dining Room, Persimmon Room, three private dining rooms served by a private bar, and an Asian awe-inspiring open kitchen at the heart. The sleek, modern space, bathed in bright turquoise, oranges, and gold and punctuated with intricate patterns, vibrant rugs, plush fabrics, and exotic Asian art, flows from one area to the next with classic Chinese peek-through screens and openings.
Empire’s extensive menu is equally as vibrant, and features an array of beloved Asian favorites and delicacies from sushi, noodles, and steak to lamb, wok dishes, and Rangoon.
Chef Long’s featured items include: Korean Rubbed Sirloin with chive mashed potatoes; Hawaiian Style Tuna Poke, with Vidalia onion, Hijiki, and lip stick chili; and a delectable curry Barbequed Sockeye Salmon.
Other specialties, such as the Lobster Scallion Pancakes (pan-fried local lobster with coconut-lime crema); the “Raw’ish” Spicy Salmon “Rice Bites” (seared and pressed sushi rice with a spicy salmon topping); and the Long Cooked Beef Pho (a playful nod to the chef, cooked for 24 hours in his “secret broth” and served in a clay pot with basil, mint, bean sprouts, and two preparations of beef), are sure to tempt local foodies.
Many dishes come in Large and Small portions, celebrating the communal shared dish, as well as lighter appetites. The dazzling offering demonstrates Long’s deep knowledge and love of Asian-inspired cuisine–an innovative, personalized interpretation of classic flavor profiles and techniques developed through years of world travel and collaboration with the world’s most talented chefs.
“Empire has its own distinct identity. It’s still serious, but we’re having a good time playing with flavors,” says Chef Long. “With new creations like our Lobster Scallion Pancakes, we’re enhancing a classic into a guilty pleasure complete with lobster chunks, and tropical coconut and lime, while also drawing from our New England heritage.”
The ambitious BNEG team also opened the luxury European supper club GEM in Boston’s Downtown Crossing this Spring, and the celebrated Red Lantern Restaurant & Lounge in Boston last year, adding to its roster of award-winning dining and entertainment venues.
Big Night’s properties also include Shrine Asian Kitchen Lounge & Nightclub, High Rollers Luxury Lanes & Lounge, The Estate in Boston, and The Scorpion Bar at Foxwoods Resort Casino. In addition, Big Night principal Ed Kane is an owner of Tosca, Caffe Tosca, and Stars in Hingham.
Guests of Empire will enter through the Great Wall Gallery, graced with beautiful carved “library” millwork ceilings, exotic art and contemporary photography. To the left, the Salon features seating for 14 plush couches and an amazing infinity wall art installation, a back-lit silver mirrored box that lends a surreal depth to the room and sculptural objects within, appearing to go on forever.
Straight ahead lays the deluxe 30-stool bar and 32-seat lounge, where oversized backlit wooden moongates filled with colorful, glowing spirits set the scene. A custom, high-top marble “dog bone” bar seats 16 at the lounge’s center, allowing patrons to mingle and soak up the atmosphere.
From the bar, guests descend into the dramatic Asian kitchen, with its glowing turquoise baked-enamel stove hood and sleek, stainless steel appliances, this contemporary space has an elegant, yet utilitarian feel: an almost workman-like, communal eating vibe, with chunky, combinable wooden tables and a colorful mosaic-tiled floor.
The open room, which includes an expo kitchen and noodle station, eight-seat Wok bar and eight-seat sushi bar, undoubtedly has the best views in the house. Nearby, large glass doors open onto outdoor seating, where diners can take in the city view and fresh sea air on private Marina Park Drive.
In the raised 64-seat Imperial Room, guests will enjoy the luxury of a more formal dining, with Chinese Imperial-style furniture, chandeliers and plush, woven carpets. The adjoining Persimmon Room offers seating for 26. Nearby, three private dining rooms seat 40 each or can combine to accommodate 120 seated and 150 standing for a cocktail party.
The rooms are separated by opaque glass walls, swirled with sepia-colored Asian-inspired mountain designs. Detailed ceilings and geometric-patterned grates and screens – coupled with dramatic, fiery “Foo” dog carpets (custom-made in China) – create an eclectic, elegant ambience. A private bar at the rear serves the three private rooms.
“I believe Empire is our best design yet,” says Kane. “It pays tribute to traditional Chinese culture and design as well as a commitment to the new bold vision of Fan Pier on Boston’s new waterfront. We designed everything in the space, creating a sophisticated, contemporary interpretation of the classic Chinese Imperial esthetic – an old world feel with a touch of Hong Kong mystery. Each room flows gracefully into the next and has a wonderful, unique energy. We want this to be a relaxing space, where our guests eat and don’t leave – where they linger and enjoy each other’s company, the ambience and food.”
Empire is located at One Marina Park Drive in Boston.