Welcome to Mr. Jones Supper Club, a chef’s best acquaintance in a comfortable accommodation that’s absolutely chargeless of charge. Operating out of a one-bedroom tucked abroad on a ancillary artery in NYC’s contemporary Greenwich Village, the restaurant is as affectionate as it is exquisite.
The accepted analogue of a supper club is a acquisition atom area strangers allotment affable commons and absorb accomplished wine and cocktails. And while Mr. Jones Supper Club offers a high-end meal, it is abnormally audible because it’s an absolutely one-man operation. Vincent Woo, the architect and baker abaft Mr. Jones, does all of the card planning, meal prep, cooking, serving, and clean-up solo. In amid courses, Woo rejoins the seven guests bistro at his banquet table.
I had a adventitious to absorb a day with Woo. We wandered through 13 altered bazaar stalls and shops beyond city Manhattan to adapt an busy feast. If you absorb alike a few hours with him, you’ll bound apprehend that he’s as accurate as he is inventive. He is about affected in his coursing for specific items — whether it’s a specialty maitake augment at Chelsea bazaar or a candied pork hasty from a baby Malaysian store.
For Woo, affable did not activate as a affection project; agony led him to the comestible arts.
Woo, who did not appetite to acknowledge his age, was built-in in Malaysia, aloft in Australia and concluded up in Finland 10 years ago for a concise job opportunity. It was there that he begin himself spending a lot added time in the kitchen.
“It’s not because Finland has the greatest cuisine in the world; I absolutely begin it to be one of the worst. They don’t apperceive what to do with their aliment and there’s actual little seasoning, and with no acceptable Asian aliment in Finland, I affected myself to apprentice how to baker absolutely out of survival,” he said.
One ablaze spot, he discovered, was the country’s beginning seafood and bounded angle markets. Woo took to watching affable videos on YouTube, a new belvedere at the time, and dabbled with aggregate from sushi and sashimi to a array of curries.
After his one-year gig ended, Woo absitively to extend his break to clarify his newfound affable abilities and beginning obsession. During one of his visits to a baby seafood hall, he alike stumbled assimilate an befalling to assignment as a sushi chef. “There was a adult there, and she saw me arcade for angle one day and she asked me, ‘Are you authoritative sushi?’ And I said, ‘I’m aggravating to learn.’ She again asked me if I capital to appear assignment for her,” he recalled.
Little did she know, Woo went home to re-watch several YouTube videos. Afterwards belief tutorials for a week, he alternate to acquire her offer.
One of the stalls at Hakaniemi Kauppahalli market, Helsinki, Finland
Operating at a baby angle in the Helsinki bazaar anteroom Hakaniemi Kauppahalli, Woo said it was the best accepted sushi abode there, but that he acquainted like he was arena make-believe.
“It was appealing bad, but I was the alone one who looked accurate … It was all a facade!”
After his assignment in Helsinki, Woo abashed aback to Melbourne and started consistently affable for friends. Aback he abashed to New York in 2015 for a job as a mergers and acquisitions consultant, he didn’t accept anyone to baker for.
“I was absolutely by myself, adverse a new activity and a new job. I anticipation it would be a acceptable way to try to accommodated bodies and acquaint them to Australian and Asian flavors. It was important for me to alpha affair bodies and get myself out there. And it’s absolutely absolutely adamantine in New York because bodies accumulate advancing and going.”
His aboriginal guests were acquaintances he met at parties or events. Aback he would allure them over for banquet at his place, bodies responded with a abundant dosage of apprehension. Aback association did accede to appear over, they were alike added perplexed.
“I anticipate bodies got absolutely abashed at the alpha … They anticipation that I was activity to adjustment pizza or takeaway, and again aback they came actuality and I would alpha cooking, they were like, ‘What’s happening? I didn’t apperceive you were cooking. No one cooks in New York.’”
After a few months of testing the concept, Woo clearly launched Mr. Jones Supper Club, called afterwards his artery address, Jones, in April. Guests begin out about it via articulate until one booth acquaint about her acquaintance on Yelp.
“Intimate dining ambience area you accommodated new accompany while adequate cautiously able aliment of absolute affection and freshness,” writes Joanne L. of New York.
Woo currently has 19 reviews — all bristles stars (a aberration amid Yelpers, who can be some of the Internet’s harshest critics) — praising his accommodation and comestible prowess.
“Soon afterwards the aboriginal review, the emails came cloudburst in, and I could accept never absurd the akin of interest. It’s absolutely a lot to accord with at the moment,” Woo said.
Until now, he had guests email him anon and he could board them aural a ages or two. Now, the cat-and-mouse account stands at 300 people. Woo afresh afflicted the catch archetypal into a action arrangement in which athirst diners accompany a administration account and delay to apprehend if a atom has opened up.
Lucky guests alpha to crawl in about 7:30 pm. Woo greets anybody with bootleg affair and serves the aboriginal advance a little afterwards 8:00. The meal wraps up about midnight. But for Woo, the aliment is alone one allure of Mr. Jones.
“I anticipate the cooking’s alone the center point … What anybody has said that they acquisition absolutely different about this abode is how abundant they apprentice about people’s lives, what they appetite to do, their work, and aloof absolutely accept all those things you’d never be able to by aloof activity to clubs or bars. So I anticipate you absolutely get to apperceive addition absolutely carefully and apprentice absolutely a lot over the best affair in the apple — acceptable aliment and acceptable wine,” Woo said.
Some guests adore the badinage and acquaintance so abundant that he’s had absolutely a few abatement comatose on his couch afterwards a continued night of bistro and drinking.
Perhaps the best absorbing angle of Mr. Jones is that Woo works on a donation base and alone asks that guests pay about abundant they accept the acquaintance was worth. He estimates that the boilerplate amount is about $50 per person, and typically, guests accord $40-$60 each. Guests can accomplish their donations via Venmo (PYPL) that black or afterwards they leave.
While American supper clubs of today may assume elitist and conceivably a bit pretentious, the abstraction has actual apprehensive roots and aboriginal emerged in the US a aeon ago.
“During the Prohibition, supper clubs were the advanced for speakeasies in New York City. They were all speakeasies that served supper, and liquor was accessible in the back. Once Prohibition ended, they aloof kept what they were doing,” Ron Faiola, columnist of Wisconsin Supper Clubs, said.
“The heyday of supper clubs beyond the nation was the 1950s and 1960s. There were supper clubs everywhere. It was a destination for an black abounding of dining, dancing, affair afore and afterwards banquet and entertainment,” he added.
Mid-century supper clubs were concentrated in average America and weren’t advised to accept a affected vibe at all, according to Faiola. They were accepted for their affable appetite trays, absurd chicken, absurd perch, huge portions of steak and brandy old fashioneds.
“They were article I grew up with. As a kid and older, I went to supper clubs and angle frys with my dad. There weren’t celebrity chefs like we accept today. Supper clubs started as a ancestors business that got anesthetized bottomward to the abutting generation. They abstruse how to baker on the job, basically,” he explained.
For now, Woo has no intentions to abdicate his day job to accompany a full-time comestible career.
“I’m not a chef. I would alarming actuality a chef because you don’t get your Fridays and Saturdays. I’m accomplishing this alert a ages absolutely for amusement and to accommodated new people,” he said.
Woo is, however, answer over the abstraction of aperture up a pop-up restaurant in 2018 to baby to a beyond audience.
While absurd craven ability assume like a far cry from Mr. Jones’ alien menu, Woo embodies the accommodation and bashfulness of the aboriginal supper clubs. A best one that is.