| 13 Aug 2014 | 01:35

    Perhaps more than anywhere in America, Manhattan has the skill and resources to make silk purses out of sows? ears when it comes to reimagining interior spaces. A few weeks ago, I reviewed a dapper upscale restaurant called Apiary, which resides in a former grungy Laundromat. In yet another complete transmogrification, the oddly named but utterly gorgeous Mr. Jones is set in a former Caribbean greasy spoon on East 14th Street, on a block that was ordinarily to be avoided until about 10 years ago, when a certain swankiness overtook the long tree-lined street. The month-old restaurant was designed by owner Lesly Bernard, who owns the southern/soul food emporium Tillman?s in Chelsea, and who is planning to open at least two more restaurants, Village Tart and the enticingly named Permanent Brunch, in the very near future. Mr. Jones is a restaurant filled with slants, angles, reds and oranges. Giant circular booths all around the space seat four very comfortably. An enormous bouquet centers the dining room, bathed in overhead light. The festive Danish modern restaurant is flecked with Asian touches, and it?s all an unabashed paean to the 1960s, right down to the Herb Alpert-esque music that is piped into the room. There?s an ineluctable rec-room-party feeling to the place. Mr. Jones features quite an extensive sake list, and mixologist Shin Ikeda has some pretty naughty drinks up his sleeve. His Pink Cadillac is a hat tip to the ever-popular Tequila Sunrise; better is his Jones Cooler, another tequila-driven blend of lime juice, Chambord, club soda and an uncarbonated, acidic Japanese soft drink called Calpico. Needless to say, a Jones Cooler can really sneak up on you. The staff is especially friendly and welcoming. Our server, Paola, resembles a slenderer and prettier Claudia Cardinale. She skillfully achieved an enviable rhythm; our dishes arrived in perfect sequence. Bernard came across his chef, Bryan Emperor, at a modern Japanese restaurant called Ten, in Charlottesville, N.C. Before that, Emperor passed through the venerated kitchens at Nobu and Megu in Manhattan, and opened a Japanese restaurant in Beijing. At Mr. Jones, he has fashioned a highly imaginative menu of all-the-rage small dishes, with some medium-sized interlopers, mostly priced under $10 so you can really afford to mix and match. The menu prominently features yakitori?skewered and grilled foods?but Emperor goes far beyond the traditional chicken, though chicken is well represented among the dishes. The meat on Japanese-style chicken wings is ?frenched? into a lollypop ball of meat at the end of a single slender bone. Daikon relish is parked on top of the toothsome juicy ball. Kobe meatballs are extravagantly stuffed with foie gras, which gets a little lost in the succulent beefy shuffle. Berkshire black pork belly is especially juicy, and the meat benefits enormously from an application of freshly grated wasabi?not your usual eye-dripping sinus-reorganizing green horseradish paste, but the real deal, which I?ve had only four times before. Obviously, chef Emperor has gone to a great deal of trouble to get the finest ingredients possible. Skewered chicken hearts in yakitori sauce have a nice peppery flavor. The hearts have an agreeable mushroomy texture. Skewered chicken-thigh meat is slicked with a spicy yuzu sauce and flecked with cilantro leaves. Chuka lamb chops are prepared Shinjiang style with enough cumin and dried chile to give the lamb a strong Indian accent. Ribbons of raw potato slices calm matters somewhat, but this is a fine, assertive approach to lamb. Juicy Wagyu ribeye negima features slices of beef tightly hugging scallions. The meat particularly enjoys the accompanying Mikado Teriyaki sauce. The beef rolls are larger than usual, and a bit chewy. Slightly crunchy calamari is served with cream reduction informed by a Korean hot pepper paste known as Gochujang. A strong sesame seed flavor comes through, abetted by softened nori. Dessert is a fruit plate, which is really not my speed, but certainly we were satiated enough by all that came before. Mr. Jones is most welcome in the neighborhood. It is our fervent hope that Lesly Bernard?s future ventures are every bit as imaginative and scrumptious as this one. -- Mr. Jones 243 E. 14th St. Between Second and Third aves. 212-254-7670 Small to medium plates: $4 to $25 -- [tom@hugeflavors.com](mailto: tom@hugeflavors.com)