Good laughs and fine dining were in short supply while the French established colonies in the Caribbean centuries prior. The tragedy became a lifestyle and culture for descendants now celebrating centuries later. Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine owner Jasmine Gerald opened a new French restaurant and lounge named S’Aimer––which translates to “love each other” in French––during Juneteenth weekend. This upscale eatery is the second Black-owned business on Restaurant Row, with Jasmine’s Caribbean restaurant being the first. The new venture is an upscale lounge without hookahs for smoking, and floral decor.
The lounge plays R&B music and non-invasive 2000s-era hip hop music. There is a special spot behind curtains where lovers can have a private moment. The lounge’s outside space, referred to as “the Garden,” is covered by tents, providing a relaxing experience for clientele. “We’re creating more of a Caribbean French space, along with the American vibes,” said Danno Luke. The head manager of the new business is from Dominica, an island between two French Caribbean Islands––Guadeloupe and Martinique.
According to Luke, this lounge is for people who enjoy sophisticated vibes with their partner and friends. The newly designed interior contains green and pink chairs as well as complementary multi-colored banquettes seating. S’Aimer is enforcing a formal dress code which doesn’t allow anyone to enter in jeans, hoodies or any other casual attire. “We are making sure you’re comfortable and feel like you’re in a safe space,” said Luke. “We want everyone to feel safe.”
S’Amier aims to give customers nicely proportional sides instead of full meals. Appetizers include crispy squid, and roasted baby beets salad with goat cheese and apple. The kitchen offers side dishes such as sauteed spinach and black truffle fries. Curry chicken and pulled oxtail are offered as dishes to share from the menu. Cocktails include Martinique’s national drink named Ginger Ti’ Punch and Creole Punch.
Executive Chef Chris Brookins runs the kitchen where he brings menu items to life. Brookins culinary specialty is preparing traditional French dishes. He previously worked at acclaimed Soho restaurant Mercer Kitchen with famous French Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. After completing culinary school in 2018, Brookins was trained at one of Daniel Boulud’s NYC restaurants under Boulud and Chef Jean Francois Burel. “French has a heavy influence on the Caribbean because of how they colonized back in the day,” said Brookins. He recognizes the direct link between French and Caribbean food, especially Haitian-inspired creole dishes. “I feel that with French food, you can’t talk about it and not talk about Caribbean [food],” said Brookins. “It all ties in together.”
Luke happily started this new journey with S’Amier NYC following his promotion from Jasmine’s Restaurant. “Jasmine [Gerald] definitely prepared me for this role, and I must say she’s one of the best bosses I’ve ever had,” said Luke. He expressed the ability to communicate well with Gerald and handle any of their differences respectfully. Luke shared his gratitude to Gerald for upgrading him from server and making reservations to manager. He credits Gerald for guiding and molding him into the most experienced person to lead the lounge.
Brookins foresees the new evening spot as an elite addition to Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square areas. “We’re just working hard with simple ingredients to make delicious plates,” said Brookins. He emphasized S’Amier being a different vibe from Jasmine’s, which has a stronger island aurora, matched with loud Caribbean music. “Here is more of an upscale and fine dining vibe,” Brookins said.
Aside from perfecting the menu, Luke believes respect and honesty are the recipe for climbing up the ladder to succeed in one’s desired industry. “I’m encouraging people to come and enjoy our ambience and our great signature Caribbean French vibes and food.” This is S’Aimer’s introduction to Caribbean French luxury on Restaurant Row. To make reservations and for more information, visit https://saimernyc.com/.