Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A recent romp in the East Village: "The Invisible Hand"; 212 Hisae's; ChikaLicious

Ayad Akhbar
Having seen the Broadway production of Ayad Akhbar's Pulitzer prize-winning play, Disgraced, and having enjoyed the play and the performances, we thought we'd venture down to the East Village to the New York Theatre Workshop (at 79 East 4th Street) to see his new play, The Invisible Hand. (See my previous blog post - 11th December, 2014 - for my extensive discussion/comments about Disgraced.)

In brief, The Invisible Hand    (directed by Ken Rus Schmoll) concerns a young corporate (American) investment banker who is held captive by a small (fringe) group of would-be or, at least, (suspected?) self-proclaimed "terrorists" who aim to profit handsomely from their captive through his ultimate exchange for needed funds for the "activities" of their group. However, one of the "terrorist"-captors, one Bashir (Usman Ally), quickly realizes that a considerably greater sum of money (indeed, many millions!) can be gotten via activating & operationalizing the investing knowledge of the banker-captive, Nick Bright (Justin Kirk). And, thus, it pays (handsomely) for the terrorist-captors to keep Nick alive and relatively well for the ultimate good of their cause, including for financing the activities of their alleged leader, Imam Saleem (Dariush Kashani).  

Usman Ally (Bashir)
There are conflicts between and among the (three) Pakistani captors but Bashir seems to dominate and win out in the decision-making process because he is beginning to understand the nature and profits that can be - and will be - accrued by Nick's investment strategies. The dialogue is quick, meaningful, with loaded (!) remarks, and full of continual sparks, revealing the potential & inherent dangers, of course, for the captor ... and his captives. Any more said here about the play, its characters and their relationships, would certainly spoil the drama for a future theater-goer and, I fear, would out too completely its various conflicts - cultural, personal, national-political, religious - and, finally, spoil the play for those intending to see it now ... or, more likely, when/if it, in the footsteps of Disgraced, moves to Broadway.  

If you want to learn more about the themes surrounding, and within,The Invisible Hand, simply visit The Brief -
New York Theatre Workshop's resource - "for further exploration of the themes, history and questions raised by our season's production," and which can be found on the Theatre's web page (at the link, just above), then clicking directly onto/into The Brief "clipped" graphic. (The play is scheduled to run through January 4th at New York Theatre Workshop.)

Following our rather successful theater experience with The Invisible Hand, we trundled up Second Avenue to East 9th, heading west for 212 Hisae's, an Asian fusion resto billed as an "Asian Pub" with tapas (at 212 East 9th St.; 212/614-3226)! 

Bowl of edamame
Greeted, according to their tradition, with a couple of glasses of house white wine (in our case, a cool glass each of Chardonnay) and a bowl of slightly salted, crunchy edamame as we sat down, we immediately felt a part of this friendly, charming, inviting, uniquely solicitous establishment - and kind of guessed we'd be in for a variety of culinary treats.  And, indeed, we were!

Hisae lump crab-meat cakes
We began our meal (a moderately light meal, to begin with, gradually escalating to immoderate[!] proportions) with a few selections from the Asian tapas side of the menu (@ $6 each):  the Kabocha dumplings (filled with Japanese pumpkin, grated walnut & tahini) & the ginger shrimp (delicately breaded with ginger & panko, lightly fried, and served with a mild-ish chili sauce). From there, we moved on to the carefully seasoned Hisae pan fried lump crab-meat cakes, accompanied by a side of homemade smooth & "silky" tartar sauce ($15). 

Hisae, herself!
Next we feasted on the fresh catch of the day - a whole white "Mediterranean" fish grilled in garlic, mushrooms, and a light soy sauce mixture; a side of perfectly done Asian green beans; and two separate (halved) portions of house salad, composed of romaine & kale, apple & walnuts & prepared with a lemon vinaigrette (all, together, @ $17). 

Our grilled fish course - and salad & vegetable accompaniments - was, further washed down & cleansed with another glass of Chardonnay (pour moi, @ $4) and an inviting but vigorously penetrating Mojito (pour ma femme; also @ $4). I should point out that Happy Hour pricing at 212 Hisae's generously, routinely extends all night long!

Mochi ice cream plate
Finally, dessert was offered to us gratis ... yes, just so that we could sample it: a Mochi ice cream plate (i.e., Japanese steamed & pounded sticky rice, with an ice cream filling) for us to savor & share. So friendly a gesture, emphatically providing a coda to such a fine freshly cooked meal ... AND simply reflective of the owner-chef-hostess, Hisae herself, who, according to the web site, seems to be a "firm believer" in the notion  that "food is thy medicine" ... and, further, avers:  "The formula [here] ... is fresh food, prepared to order, priced so that everyone can enjoy it." 

And, believe me (or not), the food here is, indeed, attentively prepared, plated generously ... simply delicious ...and certainly, in all, so exceedingly enjoyable an experience as to warrant a quick return ... perhaps with a couple of additional guests to be "converted" & to introduce to Hisae - both the owner-chef & the resto!

Vanilla bean mille crepe slice!
And speaking of dessert, the East Village offers a great deal in this category, including the now routinely packed ChikaLicious  (at 204 East 10th St.; and, directly opposite, @ 203, a second packed "branch"). They serve all manner of sweet things - pastries, cakes, cake slices, pies, crisps, eclairs, bread pudding, muffins, cookies, ice cream - and coffees/teas (hot & iced), but provide practically no space to actually sit down, eat & enjoy these little delicacies. 

The night we showed up there for dessert & coffee proved typically bulging with patrons of every demographic seeking, yep, all manner of sweet things.  But, somehow, we were able to score some seats and a tiny table however boxed in we felt & actually were - right next to & virtually up against a foursome of young women who indulged in sweet things non-stop. We sampled a few items, including a vanilla bean mille crepe slice, a caramel macaron, a black coffee & a latte, all very tasty, indeed ... and both of those creamy things and hot liquids for a grand total of $15 (sans tax assigned!). 

By the way, if you happen to be in the West Village & hankering for dessert - a sweet thing, or two - there is a new  ChikaLicious outpost (a Dessert Club!) located at 27 Bedford @ Downing Street. Hopefully, equipped with a bit more room to sit, stretch out, and relish your ethereal dessert with a hot or iced coffee!

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