High Dudgeon in the Dungeon: New S/M Theme Restaurant Forgets Its Own Safeword

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High Dudgeon in the Dungeon: New S/M Theme Restaurant Forgets Its Own Safeword by Amy Keyishian

There’s food. There’s sex. There’s food and sex, and then there’s food, sex and a side of kink. The
latter dish seems like it would be the spiciest — but it’s not, at least not as served at La
Nouvelle Justine in New York City.

The idea began with Lucky Cheng’s, a restaurant that opened in New York’s East Village
several years ago with a brand-new gimmick: luscious Pan-Asian cuisine served by a cheerful staff of beautiful drag queens. It worked wonderfully — so wonderfully that there
are now branches in Miami and in New Orleans.

So when loyal denizens heard the Lucky Cheng owners were engaged in a new venture, there was
rapture in the air. The new idea: a restaurant with an S/M theme called La Nouvelle Justine, complete with dominatrices, a dungeon and a chef
who whips more than just cream. What could be better?

A lot could be better. Here’s the problem: Drag is fun, sexy, boisterous and accessible.
Everyone who has the requisite chutzpah looks good. With S/M, the rules are a lot more complicated.
And when you don’t know the rules, you feel at sea with no Dramamine.

The early buzz on Justine seemed all right. Michael Musto, New York’s downtown darling and
Village Voice gossip columnist, reported having a good time there, and described a tableful of
giggling secretaries and beefy guys taking pictures of each other getting spanked. So of course
gaggles of well-meaning customers showed up with cameras, ready to down a few fetish-christened
cocktails and whoop it up.

And there’s the rub. The staff of Justine, from Dawn (the manager, dubbed Mistress
Pre-Menstra by our group) to the dominatrix waitresses to the submissives that serve as bus-staff
(and even the floor-show participants) are so intent on proving that they work in a
restaurant, not a grody sex club, that they are missing several crucial elements, like a
sense of humor or genuine interest in S/M.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe some of the staff members are genuine fetishists. But the
spark, the passion that gives a good dominatrix the gleam in her eye as she gives a businesslike

snap to her rubber garter belt is conspicuously absent. The waitress gives a pinched, barely-patient
smile to anyone calling her “mistress,” as in, “Mistress, may I have the mahi-mahi?”

The night we went, the floor show consisted of a bored-looking dom whipping her unnamed
slave from a Jackie Chan-style crouch. She produced rippling waves with a long,

wide cat o’ nine tails
that reminded me of the big flaps at the car wash. Her patter was amusing (“Are you allowed to be
naked in a restaurant in New York? I didn’t think so. Go tape your nipples up.” And later, “Does
that hurt? It’s because of the tape. Write your congressmen, people!”) Although we asked our

waitress for permission before snapping pictures, our first snap was met with a hostile
tongue-lashing. Cheering and whooping was quickly squelched, so we had to sit on our hands and pick
at our food as the mistress morbidly whipped clothespins off her submissive’s nips.

The whole experience left us in the unenviable but familiar position of being in a place
where we were supposed to be titillated, but weren’t. You know, like in suite 206 after the prom. I
wanted to find the owners and shake them, shouting, “It’s a fucking theme restaurant. Where’s the
fun?” It is a fucking theme restaurant, which means newbies, tourists and goofy suburbanites
are on their way. What La Nouvelle Justine needs to do is reassure its customers with maybe a box on
the menu explaining etiquette and a warmer, more wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Justine once the media hype wears off. We
recently spotted the cold-hearted Dawn on The Charles Grodin Show, where she had the nerve to
bare her teeth and assure the viewing public, “It’s all in good fun.” She was lying like a rug. It’s
neither sexy nor fun; in fact, it’s about as sadomasochistic as the seventh grade cafeteria. Now,
there’s an idea for a theme restaurant . . .

Amy Keyishian
and Nerve.com