Prepare to witness the unholy union of street art and a multimillion dollar restaurant brand. Tomorrow night Vandal, a concoction from The Tao Group, will make its debut at 199 Bowery with the help of street artists from around the world.
The almost 12,000 square foot, 487-seat behemoth feels slightly different than your usual sleek Tao venture– it’s still over the top and Vegas-y, but tries to brush a nice patina of grit over the shine to fit in with the neighborhood. This is still
Nolita the Bowery, after all.
A who’s-who roster of street art titans decorated the cavernous space under the curation of Hush, another well-known artist. Notably, there’s only one small piece that was commissioned from a woman– the female street artist even your parents are likely to know, Swoon. But you’ll have to check your copy of Lean In at the door to appreciate some of the top-shelf murals, as many of them are of beautiful, sexy women posing in beautiful, sexy ways for
males all patrons to gaze upon while we eat, thanks to the likes of Shepard Fairey, Eelus, Tristan Eaton, and many more.
The menu, directed by Chef Chris Santos of the Stanton Social and Beauty & Essex, tries to stay on theme, with street-food bites from around the world. Though some options seem sourced closer to home: a fancy pretzel with kobe tartare, a knish reuben, and a Hong-Kong take on chicken ‘n’ waffles, all sound like they could have been birthed on the Lower East Side.
Vandal is a bit unassuming from the outside– that is, if you consider Apexer’s tags to be non-eye-catching, they’re the only thing to mark the restaurant. It might look like just another spray-paint next to Congee Bowery’s eye-popping lime green signage. But the entrance invites you into a darkened flower shop, (similar to the pawn shop reception concept at Beauty & Essex) filled with terrariums and orchids.
Beyond it are a luxe maze of rooms, each with their own vibe. For example, a “secret garden” at the front opens onto the sidewalk when it’s warm. The ceiling is covered with ivy plants and lights are strung throughout the space– a romantic place to ponder the philosophy behind Shepard Fairey’s wheat paste mural declaring “OBEY: NEVER TRUST YOUR OWN EYES BELIEVE WHAT YOU ARE TOLD.” What could it mean?
The other dining rooms, separated by a “rickshaw coffee bar” each have their own eye candy, like haunting faces chiseled into the wall by the artist Vhils or Will Barras’ depiction of fingers that march along the bar. Downstairs, a cellar bar is the only place that eschews artwork on the walls. Here, it’s all about the twisty serpentine bar– and the beautiful, important people you’ll meet over drinks.
We’ve been asked to hold photos until after the Saturday, January 16 opening. Stay tuned for a barrage of baroque.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to “street-artists” as “graffiti-artists,” and the artist “Apexer” as “Apex.”