Professional foodies or self-professed food-obsessed diners are familiar with Le Bernardin. It’s fancy, it’s French, it’s beautiful and it’s delicious. It was awarded three Michelin stars and four stars by The New York Times, so yes, it’s incredible. But there’s a new culinary star in town, and as any food connoisseur knows, being a dining enthusiast is as much about trying the new hot spots as it is about indulging in the classic dishes you know and love.
Enter Her Name Was Carmen
This two-floor Latin American hotspot in SoHo is a new “it” restaurant and rightfully so. It’s the brainchild of some extremely gifted culinary pros who seem to have hit the cultural nail on the head. They’ve created a restaurant that is equal parts fun and food-focused; an establishment that is full of energy and culturally immersive — a restaurant that will transport you to a warmer, more tropical, Latin destination…except New Yorkers don’t have to travel quite as far as South America, and no passport is required.
The All-Star Team Includes a Former Le Bernardin Chef
While we know that hot spots come and go, and trendy new restaurants are a dime a dozen, every once in a while a team comes together and does everything right, and it feels like the that spot just might stick. And we’re going to go out on a limb and say that if a former chef from Le Bernardin is involved, this place is gonna be extraordinary, and it’s gonna last.
Chef Omar Ben Hammou, formerly of Le Bernardin and Flora Bar, is originally from Peru, so he blends Latin American flavors with traditional and simple-yet-sophisticated preparations, especially where seafood is concerned. After all, he spent several years at the seafood mecca and top-rated restaurant, so you can expect big things from his modern take on innovative seafood and Latin fare. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu, and after years working everywhere from Brazil to Australia, Switzerland and ultimately New York, he’s mastered the art of eclectic cuisine.
But he’s only one piece of the masterful puzzle behind Her Name Was Carmen.
Hospitality masterminds Andres Diaz and Thatcher Shultz have partnered to make this restaurant more than just a restaurant — it’s a destination. It’s a journey to a warmer climate and a more laid back attitude. It’s a trip to another era, a nostalgic nod to Latin America. This restaurant-bar hybrid truly transports you, mind, body, taste buds and all, and it’s well worth the trip.
Colombian-born Diaz is largely known for his work at Felix, a popular French brasserie and brunch hotspot also located in SoHo on West Broadway, and Shultz is famous for several other famous watering holes that he has worked on including Kind Regards, Make Believe and The Garret.
Clearly these two have a track record of successful establishments that are as much about the food and drink as they are about the scene. And that’s exactly what they’re going for with Her Name Was Carmen, except this place is a bit more cultured, a little more nostalgic, a lot more lively and it’s all about bringing the flavors and energy of Latin America to New York City.
According to Diaz, in an article for L’Officiel, “the space is a haven for New Yorkers who appreciate a refined atmosphere perfectly integrated to the beat of a global soundtrack.”
The Restaurant’s Aesthetics Scream 1950s Latin America
This is no ordinary restaurant where you just walk in, sit down, order, eat, pay and leave. It’s an experiential environment with incredible attention to detail. The design and layout lend themselves to a unique kind of dining adventure, with the first floor set up as a dimly lit lounge.
Designed by Venezuelan-born Maurizio Bianchi Mattioli, the space looks like it was ripped out of a magazine showing images of fifties and sixties Latin American modern design. Picture ocean blue walls, black and white tiled floors, deep blue tables and lots of birds of paradise flowers. Downstairs, where the party kicks into high gear, you’ll see lots of tropical murals on the walls, think pineapples, flamingos and jaguars, giving the basement space more energy.
The restaurant’s website describes the decor as a mix of “laid-back yet spirited,” featuring “nostalgic design” that is not specific to any country, but that represents the best of all Latin culture.
It’s More Than Just a Restaurant — After Hours It Becomes a Dance Party
If the first floor is more of a traditional dining experience (though don’t you dare call it traditional), then the downstairs space is where the party gets interesting. Here you’ll hear a variety of Latin-inspired music programming while sipping on delicious cocktails. And speaking of the music, it’s pretty obviously why people come for the dinner and stay for the dancing; “the music director, Nacho Isa, is a DJ, producer, and music curator who’s responsible for epic Burning Man camps and the famed WARMTH day parties,” according to Guest of a Guest.
It’s no wonder this place has already become a late-night hot spot for après dinner drinks, dancing and schmoozing among the see-and-be-seen. And it seems that this is exactly what New York City, and all of us, have needed in the midst of these cold winter months. It’s a sexy spot that makes you feel like you’re in South America and that represents the heart and soul of Latin culture: great good, gorgeous people, sexy ambiance and dancing.
Her Name is Carmen is located at 527 Broome Street in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood.