German-born hotelier Klaus Ortlieb first came to New Orleans in his early teens, when his mother took him and his siblings on a trip to see the "real America." Though the trip also took the large family to Memphis and Texas, Ortlieb says he "quickly fell in love with this city." Almost 40 years later, after making his name managing and opening upscale, boutique hotels in Europe, Los Angeles, and New York, he's back, preparing to open the new Hotel Modern in what used to be the Hotel le Cirque.
When Eater sat down with Ortlieb to talk about his vision for the hotel, he explained why he chose this location for his first Southern opening, noting the recent rejuvenation of the Warehouse District and his general aversion to the Quarter. "If you offered me a building in the French Quarter for free, I would have said good, keep it. But the one who sold me the most [on this location] was the General Lee," referring to the statue at the center of the Lee Circle, visible from many of the hotel's rooms.
Ortlieb's boutique sensibility is apparent in the Hotel Modern; he repeatedly used the words "home-y" and "sophisticated" to describe his vision. In addition to the amenities he's become famous for at his previous openings like New York City's Cooper Square Hotel, the hotel will feature French-Vietnamese cuisine by Dominique Macquet and a cocktail bar by the team from Cure.
The restaurant, called Tamarind by Dominique, will feature Macquet's long-time chef de cuisine from the Maison Dupuy, Quan Tran. (Tran recently returned from a short trip to his native Vietnam and was profiled by Todd Price in yesterday's Times-Pic.) At Tamarind, located just off the remodeled lobby, Tran will be focusing on fresh ingredients and a Vietnamese-influenced French cuisine that is surprisingly absent in New Orleans. Ortlieb is optimistic that New Orleans will be receptive to the restaurant, noting that French-Vietnamese is a "proper cuisine, a real style of cooking" that is borne out of the legacy of French colonial rule in the Southeast Asian country. Because of our own French heritage and strong Vietnamese community, Ortlieb describes the cuisine as a natural fit for this city.
And the bar, Bellocq, will feature cocktails that will likely (or hopefully) be just as good as those at the ever-popular Cure, in a setting very different from the Freret Street location. A lush garden with tables will separate the hotel from the bar, which will have its own, large space complete with "two niches where you can make out or do whatever you want." In keeping with its namesake?E.J. Bellocq was a New Orleans photographer in the early 20th Century, famous for his photographs of the working women of Storyville?the bar will be heavily inspired by classic Burlesque, like that of the Moulin Rouge in Paris:
The lounge is not just a lounge. Like Moulin Rouge, I wanted to do an international music series. For that, for the big names that come through, people will have to pay [a cover] to come and see, but we also wanted to open it up to young people in the city, local musicians, who can come and play, and their friends can come and drink, and for that it will be free to come in.Renovation of the building, along with construction of the restaurant and bar, began this summer and is currently ongoing. If all goes according to plan, Ortlieb says they will open before Thanksgiving.
Photo courtesy of the Hotel Modern.