It's called "Restaurant Madness."
To play, you eat out every night. In a different, new restaurant.
You willingly spend up to $100 each round. To be where it's at. Where the artists are.
It goes like this:
A few weeks ago Brian MacNally opened a restaurant called Indochine. MacNally is the English-born bon vivant who opened the Odeon in 1980. To celebrate his second venture, he invited the same artists and art groupies who made his first a hit. After all, many of them became famous in the Odeon as the Odeon became famous.
Julian Schnabel, the broken-plate artist, brought his favorite record. As Anthony Haden-Guest, the journalist who got "Mayflower Madam" Sydney Biddle Barrows to pose in a Pilgrim-style outfit for a recent cover of New York magazine, talked to graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Schnabel hulked by the bar holding a glass of champagne.
"Is there something wrong with your hearing?" he asked the bartender manning the stereo.
Nearly every note of Schnabel's favorite record was drowned out by the roar of 200 voices. Being an enfant terrible, he demanded that the volume be turned up.
So until 4 in the morning, against maxi-decibels of Schnabel's choice, Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas," the chosen drank $75 bottles of Perrier Joet champagne and sampled the Vietnamese specialties of Indochine, which include a whole fish wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed in coconut milk. It's called amok cambodgien.
Across the long and narrow room, decorated with banana-palm-print wallpaper and artists in minks, leopards and leather, art maven Simone Swann talked to a friend from France about the good old days.
"You would never have had this many bourgeois-looking people at Max's," sniffed the French friend, who had been a waitress at Max's Kansas City in the '60s, and remembered it well.
"At least not drinking champagne," Swann added.
"No, they drank whiskey -- with a vengeance."
"Vietnam was a war then."
"Not a cuisine."
"Artists were poor then."
"Now look at them."
Dinner for two runs from $50 to $75 at Indochine (430 Lafayette St.).
Another night, another new restaurant:
Located near one of the worst drug-dealing corners in the city, across the street from an old open-air market, La Luncheonette (131 Essex St.) delivers what the name suggests: a French diner.
It's a one-man show here on the Lower East Side. Jean-Francois Faysse, a French actor who could not find work in this country, opened his own sort of theater three months ago. Each night, for an audience of 32 frankly bohemian gourmets, Faysse performs magic.
Like one of those unpretentious Parisian cafe's near Les Halles, La Luncheonette serves basic country fare: a good steak frites, a fantastic cassoulet, light tarte tatin -- all entrees under $10. You bring your own bottle.
The artists in the neighborhood chip in and share. Last week the owner of a nearby experimental theater brought a case of fluted champagne glasses over. He likes champagne with his food, but couldn't stand pouring it into the basic tumblers Faysse provides each table.
"He said this is the way you drink champagne," Faysse recalled. "Pretty fancy, no?"
Yet another night, yet another new restaurant:
Following the opening of an exhibit of his paintings at the Robert Miller Gallery last week, Roberto Juarez feted his friends and supporters at El Internacional (419 W. Broadway). Opened a few months ago by a group of Spanish conceptual artists, El Internacional is an outrageously decorated cafe' in the artists' ghetto of TriBeCa.
Like a Fellini film gone berserk, El Internacional clashes purple, aqua and pink in a wacky postmodern, multilevel setting of columns and arches. Exotic foods such as eel, octopus and chocolate-covered rabbit are served tapas-style, as in Spanish cafe's -- small portions washed down with heavy wines.
"Well, of course, people have always liked to eat," French-born artist Louise Bourgeoise said, having ingested a healthy portion of rich paella, "but what is new about it?"
Eating out is a trend.