Room 53 – LOST GEM
“I started this rather by mistake,” Steve Cosh reflected about Room 53, the restaurant and performance space that he opened late in the summer of 2014. When Steve’s landlord mentioned that the commercial space was available below his apartment, he immediately imagined it remodeled, brightened and full of restaurant patrons. So, when I asked him to explain the two pianos that flank the deep room, his instantaneous response was, “I kind of wanted a piano here, so I got one.” He does not play, but if ever there were an ideal setting to absorb a few insights, this is it. Initially, Steve envisioned Room 53 as a coffee shop by morning, becoming a bistro for dinner. But visitors kept asking about the grand piano. Cosh surmised that what customers wanted – or would love if they did not yet know they wanted it – was a lively music venue. An appetizing meal would be an additional attraction.
Spending an evening dining at Room 53 and then introducing myself to Steve made for a perfect night. He sat himself down at our table and began chatting. Although in New York for quite some time, Steve is originally from England. He confessed to me that he is the happiest he has ever been right now – loving every minute of running a restaurant and entertaining people each night. Veterans from Cafe Gitane, in Nolita, staff the kitchen, and the menu presents a blend of French and Moroccan cuisine. Dinner offers an array of Mediterranean salads and sandwiches; small plates feature various cheeses (gorgonzola with walnuts and honey; herbed goat cheese with chili flakes and pomegranate syrup), and larger entrees include vegetarian options (a pyramid of Moroccan couscous with vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and hummus; grilled eggplant with tapenade, cheese, and pesto), meat (spicy organic meatballs in turmeric tomato sauce), and fish (yellow fin tuna ceviche).
Entertainment begins at 8pm on weekdays, and 9pm on weekends. Different talent – most frequently on the piano, but with the occasional open mike – is on the program each night, but Room 53 hosts recurring entertainers who have proven popular with crowds. I witnessed a pleasant gentleman at the piano; however, it was when a young man from Ghana stood up from the table where he had been dining and took the mike that our night really began. There was an abrupt hush as the entire restaurant halted in their tracks. His rich baritone voice, and his renditions of Old Man River and If Ever I would Leave You, captured everyone’s attention and heart. Before I left, I made a point of stopping by his table to thank him for sharing his beautiful gift, and I learned that he is planning on auditioning for the television show, America’s Got Talent in the coming months. I can assure you that I will be tuned in, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. If this is what Steve Cosh is able to attract in his restaurant, I believe that he is onto something extraordinary.
Presently, there are no plans to use the two pianos concurrently, but Room 53 is ever adapting to accommodate the ideas of its guests. In addition, Steve has grabbed the space next door to Room 53 and is already in the expansion mode. It will include an outdoor space, a separate bar area and a room downstairs dedicated to jazz. The possibilities are endless. “We’re Hell’s Kitchen’s piano bar,” Steve reflected, “but we seem to do lots of other things as well.”