Saturday, November 9, 2013

Trece & Jinya - two ethnic restos to try out; Pinter play to witness on B'way

Trece, a Mexican resto & tequila bar (at 54 E. 13th St.), and  Jinya, a Japanese ramen bar (24 Greenwich Ave.) are two ethnic finds below 14th Street worthy of checking out for yourself. Both are cozy, commodious & friendly low-key establishments that you will surely enjoy. 

According to the text on their own web site, the folks at Trece serve "carefully crafted" Mexican dishes reflecting traditional "bold flavors" that incorporate fresh ingredients "delivered daily" for a wide spectrum of their "homemade salsas, sauces & sides" prepared onsite ... all to be found within the context of a broad menu of equally wide possibilities. The best deal offered - and one with which to familiarize yourself to the resto's cuisine - is the $7.95 "special" lunch menu, pretty much a distillation of the whole.
Guacamole & chips

We began our late lunch (served until 3:00, or a bit beyond) with a margarita classica, with ice (@ $5) and quickly, simultaneously, ordered the "delectably creamy & fresh" (it was, indeed!) guacamole & chips (@ $10). 

Tacos al pastor
Next, we chose two generous items - which proved equally delectable & fresh - from among the various plates offered on the special menu: the tacos al pastor (two soft "tortilla" tacos with adobo marinated pork and grilled pineapple, @ $7.95); and the tacos de carnitas (again featuring two soft tortilla tacos of pork, braised in cola, bay leaf & an orange-based salsa, also priced @ $7.95). The flavors emanating from each taco plate seemed subtle at first, but, as one began to dig in & taste, proved invitingly rich & carefully spiced, and both were amply complemented by white rice & black or red beans (not re-fried!). 

Trece - by the Tequila bar
And we washed all of this down with a couple of premium Mexican beers - a Dos XX and a Negra Modelo - priced favorably at $6 a bottle. Additionally, the resto & tequila bar offers a very broad range of interestingly concocted and unique mixed drinks - for example, the chocolate Mexican martini - as well as an extensive list of all sorts of reasonably priced wines from Europe & the Americas, both by the glass & the bottle.

Our introduction to Trece proved, as you can, of course, readily tell, very positive and will surely prompt us toward a return visit soon, perhaps in the evening, to sample some of their "special" tequilas (a Patron Platinum, say, or Don Julio 70th) & a couple of their regional preparations ... say, enchiladas de pollo con mole (roasted pulled chicken rolled in corn tortillas, with Chihuahua cheese, homemade mole poblano, and served with pinto beans & rice; @ $13.50); or puerco en salsa verde (shredded pork in green sauce served with rice & beans and corn tortillas; @ $10.50). Simply have a look at the extensive online menu for the considerable number of specialty & regional dishes offered and for the descriptions of their preparation ... and (or) provenance!

So, until our next visit to Trece, a hearty & satisfied ... ole!

Jinya Ramen Bar
Our second below-14th St. ethnic find is, as noted above, a ramen bar on Greenwich Ave. in the West Village called Jinya, with sister restos (franchise sites, that is) in LA, Tokyo, Seattle, Vancouver & Jakarta. 

A seemingly authentic Japanese ramen bar, the resto is efficiently run by a (mostly) Japanese staff & operates, roughly, according to Japanese principles & overall dining orientation. The resto's space, for example, comprises typically large communal tables, as well as individual tables for couples & smaller dining parties. In an effort to adhere to some sort of "strategically" devised approach, we decided that we would try to sample the gamut of foods & preparations that such a unique establishment had to offer.
Tonkotsu "black"

With our plan in mind, however amorphous & malleable, we thought we would certainly sample the ramen (Tonkotsu) and as many additional small-plate items as we (and they) thought might be needed to structure a roundly satisfying dinner meal. And, indeed, we did! Our selection included a variety of tapas, buns, & smallish skewered dishes ... that is, something from each major category on the menu.

And, according to Japanese ramen bar service etiquette, our waiters would bring each dish we ordered to our table approximately one dish at a time, as they were ready, along with a shout (an actual shout by one or two or more chefs) ostensibly to signify all is well with the preparation and that a dish was completed and ready for pick-up. We initially tried out an order of the Brussel sprouts tempura, lightly doused with truffle oil (@ $6), which arrived perfectly done & which we consumed carefully with enthusiasm. 

Kobe beef buns
Next, two Jinya buns were delivered - one filled with Chasu pork (@ $3.50); the other with Kobe beef ($8.50). The pork was tasty & flavorful, but the Kobe beef bun proved divine (hmmm, in retrospect, we ought to have ordered two of the Kobe buns, hers & his ... but, well, a few more items were en route to our table so we would soon be, as they say, otherwise engaged). An order of Tsukune, or chicken meatballs (@ $3) followed the buns; these were nicely textured, with a gingery taste & ginger-laden brown sauce (perhaps two small plates of these would have been in order, as well). But we would press onward toward piece de resistanceJinya's Tonkotsu black, a substantial noodle bowl filled with pork broth, pork Chasu, kikurage, cabbage, dried seaweed, seasoned egg, garlic chips & garlic oil (@ $14) plus a chicken-filled wanton ($2) to top off the whole ... all adding up easily to a dish for two, and then some.  

This time, we aided & abetted the digestion of the meal - that is, the Tonkotsu "black" ramen bowl, the buns, the Kobe beef, the Brussel sprouts tempura, the Tsukune - with a tall glass of Sapporo draft beer (@ $5) and a 17-oz bottle of Echigo Koshihikari, a light, smooth, dry & crisp rice-based lager (made from Niigata grown rice).

 Gyoza pork dumplings
All told, we very much reveled in our dining experience at Jinya and, now fully assessed, we will surely return for the many items we missed and for another shot at a Kobe beef bun, or two, the Gyoza pork dumplings & the spicy-creamy shrimp tempura.  See you there some time soon ... on Greenwich Avenue in the Village or, perhaps, munching away in Tokyo, Seattle, Vancouver or LA!
Harold Pinter
Ever since Harold Pinter's death in 2008 Pinter revivals have been sprouting up (a few each year) in New York theaters, on and off Broadway, both in small-scale and large productions. I've seen a bunch of these, including The Homecoming, A Kind of Alaska & Celebration, to name just three. All were interesting productions; all were well acted & carefully directed. But this year's "Pinter season" brings us Betrayal (a revival I haven't yet seen) and No Man's Land, featuring Patrick Stewart & Ian McKellen in a truly solid, stunning & memorable production now in previews at the Cort Theatre on Broadway (West 48th, between 6th & 7th). These two actors are superb in every way & superbly cast and their verbal interactions, in manifestly Pinteresque dialogue, radiate & glow beyond the proscenium and throughout the theater. Indeed, these two actors will be heard!
Ian McKellen (Spooner) & Patrick Stewart (Hirst)

The play is essentially about a battle of wit(s) and words - and shared memories & reminiscences that may or may not to be true - between Spooner (McKellen), a down-and-out, disreputable, shabby fellow who may or may not be even a failed poet (think Prufrock) and Hirst (Stewart), an haute literary type (a rich & successful poet, essayist, critic) who is stymied in his creativity by excessive alcohol. Hirst seems to have come upon Spooner at a local, neighborhood (Hampstead) pub, picked him up, in a sense - and brought Spooner home with him for, well, whatever obvious and subterranean reasons.

According to one British critic, No Man's Land is "funny, scary, and resonantly poetic" ... a "haunting drama." I would agree, but add that this comedy-drama (profoundly Pinteresque in style & tone) presents an identifiable world where characters find themselves engaged with each other somewhere between appearance (what appears to be true & solid but just might prove to be false) and reality (what appears to be true and real might be so ... or, well, might not). What memories a character purports to have in this circumscribed "universe" - and posits to the other of the two central characters - might or might not be true, or accurate, or even have any basis whatever in reality. This is the titular "no man's land" ... the murky region between the known (knowable) and unknown (at least unsubstantiated, unverifiable), between illusion & reality, between what appears to be the case & what may or may not. 

Moreover, the play is permeated by, and refracts throughout, Pinter's signature climate of menace - a lurking presence of hostile instability. It projects an atmosphere that (gradually) physically & linguistically reveals at least the potential, the lingering possibility, that something frightful, or destabilizing, might occur ... something that awaits us (& the characters), incrementally emphasized, say, when a door is locked, or lights are dimmed, or a window's curtains are drawn & the light is shut out ... or, more specifically, when Hirst's self-identified amanuensis, Foster (played predatorily & icily by Billy Crudup), might actually be, and seems more likely to be, a body guard or lover ... and up to who knows what.

The Inimitable Ian McKellen
This No Man's Land  is a first-rate production in all respects ... and a vehicle through which you can see a few of the preeminent stage actors working today. The play, about what The New York Times calls "the vagaries of memory," will linger in yours for some time to come!

PS No Man's Land opens on November 24th, running in "rep" with Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot through early March.