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NYC hotspots

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No one famous gets Saturday-night fever in New York anymore. Nowadays, the hottest spots aren’t dance-till-dawn nightclubs but velvet-roped restaurants with small, hideaway lounges. Plus, with tourists toddling through the town on weekends, the preferred party night is Thursday.

And with no more Seinfeld to keep us at home, why shouldn’t we join ’em? But where to go? It’s a haute haunt if (1) it attracts the fashion crowd; (2) Sean ”Puffy” Combs — when not hanging out at Justin’s, his own soul-food joint — sips Cristal there; or (3) Leonardo DiCaprio is a fixture. ”Nine months ago he was just a cute little actor,” says BONDST coowner Jean-Marc Houmard. ”Now he can make a place.” Below, a guide to where Leo, Puffy, et al. eat, drink, and act merry.

1 Balthazar
80 Spring Street

Claim to fame: This SoHo brasserie is a symbol of late-’90s excess. The $98 three-tier plateau de fruits de mer got a cameo on Martha Stewart.
On the menu: Roast chicken for two and dirty martinis with olive juice
Atmosphere: Parisian bistro
Fashion quotient: A favorite of Calvin Klein’s and Helmut Lang’s
Leo factor: Came in about two months ago looking for breakfast. ”It was 3 a.m.,” says a Balthazar spokeswoman.
Puffy factor: ”He’s been on the reservation list.”
Parting shot: Insiders call it last year’s restaurant, though it still takes three weeks to get a reservation. ”Whether it has staying power or not I can’t say. I don’t, but that’s another matter,” laughs owner Keith McNally, who’s hosted Sharon Stone and Courtney Love for dinner.

2 BONDST
6 Bond Street

Claim to fame: Open just a few weeks, it’s got buzz due to a slew of preopening fashion parties.
On the menu: Lobster tempura and dry sake-tinis (martinis made with sake)
Atmosphere: Minimal design. White walls. Waiters all in black. People-watching mirrors.
Fashion quotient: To kick off the fall shows in New York, Donatella Versace feted Minnie Driver, Anna Wintour, Gwen Stefani, and Mira Sorvino at this NoHo newcomer.
Leo factor: They’re holding a table.
Puffy factor: He came to Donatella’s Versus show but skipped her dinner. Was spotted later that night at Moomba.
Parting shot: So far, there’s only a week’s wait for a reservation. That’ll change once the third-floor private tatami rooms open and really bring in the VIPs.

3 Moomba
133 Seventh Avenue South

Claim to fame: A velvet rope more impassable than the Great Wall, with the likes of Oliver Stone (an investor) and Madonna on the other side
On the menu: Foie gras roasted chicken and Moomba-politans (with mango and peach juice)
Atmosphere: Dark, forgettable three-story joint
Fashion quotient: Vincent Gallo and Rupert Everett toasted designer Stella McCartney here.
Leo factor: Stopped by the Village hotspot four times in one week. ”People come and ask, ‘Is Leo in there?”’ says coowner Jeff Gossett. ”The doorman says no, whether he is or not.”
Puffy factor: A third-floor VIP lounge regular
Parting shot: Although the name is aboriginal for “Let’s get together and have fun,” getting a table is tough. “We don’t take reservations too far in advance,” says Gossett. “What if Lenny Kravitz wants to do a private party?” Imagine!

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