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Kitchen of the Week: A Clandestine Private Dining Loft in NYC’s Chinatown

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Kitchen of the Week: A Clandestine Private Dining Loft in NYC’s Chinatown

July 25, 2019

Lee’s has everything we’d want from an event space in New York City: an airy, bright feel; minimalist wood furniture; a legit Downtown address; the ability to be dressed up or down depending on the event; not to mention a back-to-basics kitchen that isn’t basic in the least.

The space is the brainchild of Nick Poe, an architectural designer and visual artist who was enamored with the idea of a dedicated private room, a place you could go to with friends and cook yourselves. He opened the joint on New Year’s Eve in 2016 in a former mahjong parlor on Canal Street. “It was sort of an underground Chinese casino, where people would come to smoke and gamble. It was left in shambles, with cigarette burns and rotting food throughout the many subdivided rooms,” he explains. “It was love at first site.” (The name of the front business for the casino, he thinks, was Lee’s Fashion.)

After knocking down the walls and letting the light in, what was left was raw, unfinished, and industrial—just how Poe liked it. “The look of this space, as with most of the other spaces I build, almost certainly comes from my experience growing up in and around, and loving, the old downtown lofts of New York,” he says.

Poe designed all the wood tables and kitchen built-ins for Lee’s, which has a hybridized style best described as “industrial, country/farm, and Japanese,” he says. He was also heavily inspired by the designs of mid-century minimalism master Donald Judd.

Let’s take a tour of this inspired private dining room and kitchen, borne of downtown grit and creativity.

Photography courtesy of Lee’s.

Lee’s takes up the second and third floors and can accommodate up to 200 people. The kitchen is open to the dining room.
Above: Lee’s takes up the second and third floors and can accommodate up to 200 people. The kitchen is open to the dining room.
The fully stocked chef’s kitchen. Clients can sign up for a complete family-style dinner, or they can bring their own chef and food. “The green sink is original to the building but not the space. When we were building Lee’s, the landlord was demolishing another space upstairs that had all kinds of beautiful original character. I rescued that sink out of their dumpster,” says Poe.
Above: The fully stocked chef’s kitchen. Clients can sign up for a complete family-style dinner, or they can bring their own chef and food. “The green sink is original to the building but not the space. When we were building Lee’s, the landlord was demolishing another space upstairs that had all kinds of beautiful original character. I rescued that sink out of their dumpster,” says Poe.
All the wood shelves and tables were designed by Poe. The built-ins in the kitchen are his homage to Donald Judd’s bookshelves.
Above: All the wood shelves and tables were designed by Poe. The built-ins in the kitchen are his homage to Donald Judd’s bookshelves.
“The glass-door fridge was bought at a used restaurant equipment dealer on the Bowery, run by a wonderfully gangster lady named Penny. I believe it is True brand, my favorite in commercial refrigeration,” says Poe. The pot filler is from a local Chinatown plumbing store called AJ. The industrial stove is from WebStaurantStore.com.
Above: “The glass-door fridge was bought at a used restaurant equipment dealer on the Bowery, run by a wonderfully gangster lady named Penny. I believe it is True brand, my favorite in commercial refrigeration,” says Poe. The pot filler is from a local Chinatown plumbing store called AJ. The industrial stove is from WebStaurantStore.com.
Poe looked to Balter Sales, on the Bowery, to provide the basic white plates and bowls. “They have a great selection of dinnerware and glassware. Ask for our girl Adriana.”
Above: Poe looked to Balter Sales, on the Bowery, to provide the basic white plates and bowls. “They have a great selection of dinnerware and glassware. Ask for our girl Adriana.”
The dining space. The green door is original to the building and was left untouched. The wood floors are also original. “Where the original wood had rotted, I filled it in with tile instead of wood, in whatever shaped was needed,” says Poe.
Above: The dining space. The green door is original to the building and was left untouched. The wood floors are also original. “Where the original wood had rotted, I filled it in with tile instead of wood, in whatever shaped was needed,” says Poe.
The wood daybed is another homage to Donald Judd. (See 7 Favorites: The Enduring Appeal of the Donald Judd Daybed.)
Above: The wood daybed is another homage to Donald Judd. (See 7 Favorites: The Enduring Appeal of the Donald Judd Daybed.)
Large windows and oversized mirrors provide plenty of light. “The tables are actually designed to fold down for storage, even though they don’t look like they fold,” says Poe. The vintage folding chairs were sourced online.
Above: Large windows and oversized mirrors provide plenty of light. “The tables are actually designed to fold down for storage, even though they don’t look like they fold,” says Poe. The vintage folding chairs were sourced online.
The third floor has no attached kitchen but does have a bar. “We connected the spaces with a dumbwaiter so we can send food upstairs from the kitchen,” he says.
Above: The third floor has no attached kitchen but does have a bar. “We connected the spaces with a dumbwaiter so we can send food upstairs from the kitchen,” he says.

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