***UPDATE: Swimclub 32 is now CLOSED.***

Choosing Swimclub 32 over Thëorie in episode 1 of Pimp My Meal!, Slim explained that the menu seemed to have “more dishes beyond the range of my kitchen skills” than did the latter. As dining criteria go, that one’s about as solid as they come; I don’t care to frequent any eatery whose kitchen would have me as a chef either—unless it’d let me make my famous grapefruit, pistachio, water chestnut & canned salmon salad, otherwise known as broke-ass delight. Sometimes I add gherkins. Actually, the Director has an old joke book in which the author advocates saving all the pistachios that won’t open until you have a serving bowl’s worth, then sitting back to watch hilarity ensue as your guests sweat to budge the shells. I always thought Hilarity Ensues would be a great porn name. Until the Oscars the other night, I’d never heard the thing Jon Stewart said about how you’re supposed to add your first pet’s name to the first street you lived on to get your porn name. Thing is, the first street I lived on was named for a locally beloved football coach, making my porn name Starshine “Bud” Wilkinson. Which would go over just fine, I guess, in the right clubs.

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hot hot hot!!!

Speaking of being hot in the right club, if you are or just want to feel like you are or just want the people you’ll be spending the evening looking at to be, & you or they intend on staying that way or at least feeling like you’re or they’re staying that way by drinking lots & eating little, Swimclub’s your place. The huge mirror hanging over the bar is itself gorgeous, providing a literal framework for its beautiful subjects.

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But if, as for Slim (& myself in this post, for that matter), you describe “your place” as one that offers dishes you don’t have the talent or inclination to make yourself, you’d best beware the implied corollary to your definition: that the offerers themselves do have the ability & motivation to follow through.

Let’s just say one or the other trait didn’t characterize Swimclub’s kitchen the night we were there.

If that’s putting it more delicately than I usually have the talent or inclination to put anything, it’s out of deference to the bar staff, whose ability & motivation very nearly compensated. Though the wine list is small, its heart is in the right place, devoted to smaller producers & more obscure blends & listing plenty of bottles in the $30 range; our Verget du Sud was absolutely lovely, light & bright. & though it wasn’t on the cocktail list, our bartender/waitress—so bubbly I wish her name were Pippi, though the Director said it was Angelica when I asked later if we remembered to ask, but I think he was making that up because then he added, “Huston,” whom I’m almost positive she wasn’t—wasn’t only obliging but downright eager to make me an espresso martini, which she did with a full shot of coffee to counterbalance sundry liqueurs (IIRC, Kahlua, Irish cream & Frangelico). It was fine & dandy.

Not so this scene-of-an-accident-looking scallop ceviche.

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I’m not sure it contained anything besides scallop & bell pepper. I’m not sure the scallop & bell pepper it contained contained scallop & bell pepper—those little bits just seemed like placeholders for where their flavors were supposed to go. If chiles & lime juice were supposed to be there too, they must have gotten stuck in the tomato jam, arriving only after all the other ingredients gave up on them & left.

Yes indeed, just like post-accident traffic, the cloying mess of that jam brought everything else to a standstill. The Director said it reminded him of something you’d put on a playschool afternoon snack, like maybe saltines & peanut butter—which, come to think of it, all mashed up together, would have made for a much more successful kind of ceviche.

Likewise, if it looks like a duck quesadilla & acts like a duck quesadilla, it may well be a duck quesadilla—but that still doesn’t mean it tastes like one (so maybe the below photo belongs here).

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As the Director notes, duck has a fairly low “gaminess threshold,” one it was bound to pass as soon as it came into contact with those spiced mashed black beans (themselves admittedly delicious, moist yet sturdy & punchy), never mind 3 different dressings (mole, herb cream & annatto oil). Really, I’m all for paying triple for once-humble ethnic snacks tarted up beyond recognition, but in this particular case, workhorses like pork & chicken might simply have been better equipped to pull their own weight than was that languishing anatine diva.

Next up: the signature beef,

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served raw for searing not on these rocks, which formed the base of the bar,

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nor this one, which held the check,

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but this one, heated to 650 degrees—

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which begins to beg the question, why not call it Rockclub? The music’s loud & pounding enough.

Anyway, what can I say about this dish the photo itself isn’t tearfully confessing? Or, okay, maybe it’s me who’s cryingly ashamed of having paid over $20 for some dip, plus maybe 3 bites of beef—& not from the kind of cow that gets daily massages & sees a Jungian therapist in its field of 4-leaf clover, either, just your average New York strip—as well as less than 1 layer of red onion & less than 1/2 of a new potato, all of which I had to cook myself. On a rock. With sticks. To see me, you’d think I also wore dirt & spoke in a series of grunts. (Oh, wait.)

As for these mussels,

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they were, sitting fat in their bath of coconut milk & Pernod, quite good. You know, just like everybody else’s mussels.

Slim, I fear this particular ride is beyond pimping. It’s no bombed-out jalopy, mind you—more like the kind of flashy European sports car whose erratic performance is irrelevant to those who can afford it; they just like to see themselves, & have others see them, sitting in it, whether or not it’s going anywhere.