Throngs of bright-eyed hopefuls endured a chilly drizzle outside Le Baron, a nightclub whose doors opened recently but not widely.
Those deemed worthy enough to enter found Andre Saraiva - who reigns over Le Baron and a Parisian kingdom dedicated to hedonistic appetites - welcoming friends with kisses on both cheeks. Olympia Le-Tan, a French handbag designer, slid through the shadows in a rubbery black ensemble with dominatrix leanings.
In what arrondissement was this?
Chinatown, New York City.
Parisians have infiltrated the highest reaches of New York night life. At places like Le Baron, rooftop clubs and pop-up parties in dim sum halls, a coterie of French impresarios have cultivated a glittering intersection of fashion, art and music that has come to epitomize downtown cool.
At Le Bain, a discotheque atop the Standard hotel, the Sunday-night party called Nouveau York introduces Paris scenemakers like Club Cheval to the meatpacking district. At Red Egg, also in Chinatown, French models flick cigarettes before climbing into taxis home.
In night life circles, "French" is not a euphemism for pretentious white tablecloth dining, but a buzzword for debauchery. "Night life in New York is so sanitized these days - we long for French things," said Mickey Boardman, the editorial director of Paper magazine. "When you think of French people in night life, you think of bad things: girls with no bras and guys with tight pants."
The mantle of cool currently belongs to Le Baron. When the club opened in late January, it ended a year of bureaucratic delays and quivering anticipation. On its first night, Scarlett Johansson huddled on a banquette beneath lamps shaped like octopi, Olivier Theyskens clung to a banister on the carpeted staircase, and a man in a bunny suit guarded the door.
The next day, a sardonic post on the blog Eater was titled "Le Baron Opens: Declared Greatest Place on Planet Earth."
Making it past Le Baron's door is difficult for those without connections. But for its regulars, the bordello lighting, dismissive bouncers and dilettante clientele are familiar comforts. The original Le Baron, which opened in the Eighth Arrondissement in 2004, brought together musicians, artists and fashion elites. "It was a revolutionary mix of cool people," said Charaf Tajer, an owner of Le Pompon, a bar in Paris.
The ringleader of this Parisian cabal is Mr. Saraiva, 40, who keeps a studio four stories above the chaos of Grand Street in Chinatown.
It's not that Parisians are better than New Yorkers, Mr. Saraiva said. "My way maybe has a little more nonchalance," he said. "We like to flirt and kiss. Let's smoke cigarettes and get naked."
The appeal is so powerful that American-style bars in Paris are doubling back and opening in New York. In 2007, three Frenchmen inspired by the New York mixology scene opened L'Experimental Cocktail Club in the Second Arrondissement. Now an outpost of L'Experimental Cocktail Club is opening on Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side, in a kind of lost-in-translation exchange.
When asked why the bar is coming to New York, Vincent Marino, the bar's French manager who recently moved to New York, looked surprised. "New York is the capital of the world," he said. "I've been going out every night since I got here."