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New Hudson Square Restaurant Clarkson Opens with Retro Stylings

HUDSON SQUARE —The food may be American, but the decor comes from around the world at this new Varick Street restaurant. 

The "American seasonal" restaurant Clarkson opened at 225 Varick St. Wednesday night, and owner Georges Forgeois said he spent the better part of a year selecting antique furniture for its dining room.

Forgeois, who owns Cercle Rouge in TriBeCa and Bar Tabac in Cobble Hill, said 1940s hotels and once-elegant forms of transportation inspired the design of the 100-seat space.

"We tried to make the bar look like a boat coming to port," he explained on Wednesday.

A mahogany bar is the centerpiece of the restaurant, which includes tables made in Paris during the 1940s and a zebra-print room in the rear of the space that provides "a little bit of Africa."

Even the refrigerators at Clarkson, located near West Houston Street, were considered an important design element. Forgeois said models with wooden doors were selected, so they make the proper sound when they close.

The menu by executive chef Rebecca Weitzman, formerly of Thistle Hill Tavern in Park Slope, includes braised beef short ribs with caraway spaetzle, Brussels sprouts leaves and horseradish ($27), butter-poached half-lobster with tarragon and roasted butternut squash ($24), and steak tartare served with deviled eggs and a dijon aioli ($8).

A list of cocktails for $13 and $14 includes the Fraise Sauvage, made from gin, homemade strawberry puree, lemon juice, simple syrup and sparkling wine.

Forgeois acknowledged the so-called "curse" of high turnover of businesses at his new location, which was formerly home to Steak Frites and Village Lobster and Crabhouse. He blamed the trouble on the traffic outside, and said he and his staff designed the space to help diners forget about its proximity to the Holland Tunnel.

"We blocked the front windows [on Varick Street] so you don't feel like you're on the street," he said.

Personal experience with the location also helped Forgeois make up his mind about the address — he worked as a waiter there in 1979.

"It's a beautiful space," he said.