Amatullah, a charmer with a playboy’s glint in his eye, has owned and managed some of Manhattan’s most notoriously fabulous night spots, including Halo, Wax and Veruka. His personal address book is the stuff of legend. He hangs out with guys like Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon and Ed Burns. Models love him. And last weekend he turned down an invitation to Mick Jagger’s birthday party in Prague. He had to. After all, the opening of his latest spot, Hue (pronounced whey), on Bleecker Street is only a few days away.
Though Amatullah, 34, started in the restaurant business helping out a friend who owned the Chicken Kitchen chain, he soon moved on to more highbrow ventures. From the night Halo opened in 1999 with J.Lo’s birthday bash, he provided three years’ worth of celebrity-fueled fun, with everyone from Prince to Reese Witherspoon; P. Diddy to Leonardo DiCaprio, and Denzel Washington to Britney Spears turning up at the Grove Street spot.
But Amatullah promises that his latest venture, a partnership with Frank Prisinzano of Frank and Supper, won’t be all bling and no bite.
“I can always do a lounge,” he says, making his way past the scores of workmen putting finishing touches on the two-level restaurant, which he also designed. “I can always have a party, but to get people to come out after work to eat dinner is a different story.”
Hue’s menu will offer French Vietnamese cuisine and sushi served casually on the first floor or on the more dramatic lower level, with its soaring skylight and fleet of plush banquettes. Amatullah hasn’t yet been to Vietnam, but the interiors at Hue, named for the one-time imperial city, invoke modern, Zen-luxe, with rough stone and plenty of polished wood. “It’s home for me,” he says.
For those who like to make themselves at home, there are plenty of places to lounge beyond the dining areas at Hue, including the sleek bar upstairs and the wraparound suede couches lining a labyrinth of dark rooms below. “I love lounges and I hate clubs,” says Amatullah. “They’re impersonal and passé. It’s more of a touchy-feely time now.”