Named after the architectural masterpiece in which it is located, 53 is a new Contemporary Asian restaurant opening in the 82-story, Jean Nouvel-designed residential tower at 53 West 53rd Street, adjoining the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Midtown Manhattan. 53 marks the fourth destination concept in New York City from restaurateur, Ahmass Fakahany, founder and CEO of the Altamarea Group, which includes the Michelin-Starred, Marea and Ai Fiori, and Morini branded restaurants. A passion project in mind for several years, with the opening of 53, Fakahany is artfully blending the varied taste profiles of Asian cuisine – from his almost 10 years living in Asia – with the ethos and artistic vibe of New York City, in a modern, three-level, lifestyle setting.
“For some time, I have wanted to open in New York City, an elevated Asian cuisine experience with different flavors and tastes in a comfortable and chic atmosphere, similar to many of the wonderful places I visited in grand hotels or standalone venues in key cities across Asia,” says Ahmass Fakahany. “Much like Marea’s core, 53 is a New York restaurant serving exceptional authentic cuisine to a global clientele. I have always been a strong believer in New York and its resiliency, and after all the stress of the past two years, I want our guests to relax and have fun at 53.”
Fakahany is collaborating with world-renowned Singaporean chef, Akmal Anuar, who led one of the Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants in Singapore (Asia No. 1), and created Asian restaurant sensation, 3 Fils, the 2022 inaugural winner for Best Restaurant in Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best for Middle East & Africa (MENA #1). Chef Akmal began his career cooking in his parents’ hawker stand in Singapore. Most recently, in addition to working all over the world with leading chefs in Spain, Australia, and Japan, Chef Akmal has been recognized for creating some of the top contemporary Asian restaurants in Dubai.
“Ahmass and I have known each other for many years, as we first met when he was still living in Asia. It is a dream for our connection to come full circle, and for me to be able to bring the dishes from my youth and history to an amazing, electric city like New York,” shares Chef Akmal.
An amalgamation of his upbringing and culinary experience, Chef Akmal’s menu for 53 will feature an exquisite array of Chinese and Japanese-influenced dishes, along with the flavors of Southeast Asia. In a departure from more typical Asian cuisine, the 53 menu will be categorized by temperature and preparation: Cold, Hot, Steamed, Grilled, Clay Pot and Wok. Colorful and exotic, with dishes ranging in size, every menu item will be prepared with only the freshest, seasonal and local ingredients. The intention for the menu is that it is best when enjoyed as a multi-dish experience, which can be layered for a more leisurely, free flowing meal for guests. Even a table of two has the opportunity to try anywhere from five to seven menu items during one dinner.
Joining Chef Akmal to helm the kitchen is Mark Yu, who also comes with a career full of culinary experience, including his most recent position as Executive Sous Chef at Pastis and senior chef positions at both Catch and Harlow in New York City. The culinary team will turn out dishes such as hand-sliced, dry-aged, Beef Carpaccio with an aji-panca, peppercorn vinaigrette, a sustainable caviar-topped Toro Tartare from the Cold section, and a decadent Truffle Egg Custard with foie gras and littleneck clams in the Hot section. Featured in the Grill section, guests are encouraged to enjoy Sambal Skate, which at 53, is wrapped in bamboo leaf and served with a house made cincalok sauce. From there, servers will guide guests on their journey through 53’s menu, from the Steam menu options to Clay Pot and Wok selections with items such as Steamed Turbot with ginger and garlic oil or Hainanese Chicken soaked in Shaoxing wine, each dish delivered with more delicate precision than the next, and every bite adding even more to the guest’s multi-sensory 53 experience.
To bring the entire guest experience to life, Susan Lee, Executive Director of Operations, will lead the restaurant supported by 53’s General Manager, Alex Magat, (previously General Manager of Bar Blondeau).
Given its iconic address at the base of the sculptural 1,050-foot-tall-tower, art is intrinsic to the DNA of dining at 53, with several MoMA gallery levels located directly above the restaurant. In the spirit of its location at 53 West 53, Fakahany entered into a unique curatorial partnership with globally renowned, Friedrich Petzel Gallery. This special art collaboration intriguingly blurs the lines between gallery and restaurant, creating an immersive dining experience that showcases avant-garde artists. Friedrich Petzel will curate the art on view throughout the space and will concept a rotating installation of works every 3-5 months. The first artist to be in residence will be Jorge Pardo, followed by Ross Bleckner. Some combination of artists will also be included periodically.
“We are delighted to join forces with the caliber of Fakahany and Altamarea in such an exciting new venture where together we can reimagine the dining experience further through a program that draws from the special and eclectic collection of artists represented by our gallery,” says Friedrich Petzel.
For the interior, Fakahany selected leading Miami and NYC-based innovative and design firm, ICRAVE, to bring his vision to life for the 11,000 square foot space which spans multiple levels. By reimagining Asian design elements, ICRAVE sought to create a bold, yet intimate ambience for the restaurant. Key to the aesthetic of 53 is its chic and modern artistic design that weaves the vertical structure into an integrated flowing cascade of sweeping blades – a representation of the ‘chi’ or energy that moves throughout the restaurant. Layers of light capture the various surfaces of the blades and the nine edge band colors of the blades are inspired by elements of Chinese palaces and gardens often seen in modern art pieces. Diners move through a series of ‘galleries,’ going from one scene to the next and seemingly inhabiting the artwork. The sunken double-height main dining room is a landscape diorama and will be visible from street level, showcasing an aerial view and revealing a beautiful modern room bustling by day, glowing by night.