How to Build a Quiet Restaurant

© Stephen Johnson

By Kate Krader Posted June 02, 2016

Months after James Truman opened Nix to widespread acclaim, the restaurateur found himself facing an uncomfortable truth: It was a bit loud.

If you're one of the many people who are concerned about the noise levels in dining rooms around New York City, James Truman hears you (ha ha). The engaging restaurateur, whose newest place is the vegetable-oriented Nix in Greenwich Village, has been thinking a lot about the subject. "One of the complexities of opening a restaurant is that, unless you have 100 close friends available at short notice and a few spare cases of tequila, you can't know in advance what your room will feel like at 9.30 on a busy night," says Truman. "Will the conversation sparkle, like the food and Champagne, at a level of pleasant conviviality? Will the playlists you spent months compiling reveal all of their groove?" As Nix got more and more popular, some guests let Truman know that their tables weren't achieving maximum conviviality and groove; they were too noisy.

Truman knows a little about noisy rooms. When he was the editorial director at Conde Nast, he oversaw Frank Gehry's design of the company's cafeteria. "Gehry was brilliant. With all that glass and titanium, he put pin pricks in the walls and sound absorbing material behind it," Truman recalls. "Eavesdropping was a serious concern. You couldn't have someone listening to Anna talk about the Vogue cover; that wouldn't do at all."

Enter a team of acousticians from SoundSense, who arrived with decibel meters, headphones and "balloons the size of dinosaur condoms," according to Truman. They proceeded to pop said balloons around the dining room. The measurements they took were then fed into this elementary formula:

Food & Wine: Nix Restaurant

The result of SoundSense's experiments and higher math equations? Nix was a bit loud.

Truman came to a decision. "Though boisterous vegetarians are our idea of a very good time, we want no one to leave Nix feeling other than delighted and rejuvenated. The bullet has been bitten: on June 6, we start installing a new, sound-absorbant ceiling. We'll be open for dinner as usual during the installation. On June 12 we'll add Sunday dinner to our opening hours, boasting newly smooth acoustics."

Expect an exuberant, but not-too-loud, welcome when Nix officially starts its Sunday dinner service on June 12th, complete with Cauliflower Tempura and Yukon Potato Fry Bread, and brand-new sound-proofing fully in effect.

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