Ok, so I don't know why I like this place. Yeah sure, I know, its supposed to be about the view. The view of Times Square that your friends from Milan would fly 10 hours for, land, arrive jet-lagged and then jump up with excitement and adrenaline as they emerge from the dark and "way-too-hip-for-its-own-good-but-still-slightly-restrained-bar-area" and into the lit-up launching pad of a dining room perched above the teeming Times Square fray. Its true that seasoned New Yorkers aren't supposed to gush about anything, much less a view of anything anywhere - but especially not the view around the Disneyfied tourist district that used to be our soul. But the view is there, a flashy reminder in an otherwise calm oasis that bankers are working overtime across the street, that cars and taxis and buses are weaving and flowing in a beautiful and seemingly orchestrated cadence down Broadway, that everything is OK in the current economic environment because there are no shortages of blinking ads hawking everything from DVDs to first class flights non-stop to India. And right smack in our faces and on our eye-level.
But its really more than the view. Its the fact that this restaurant is one of those currently seemingly unknown Manhattan hideaways, a setting suspended in a moment of time that may be lost when those power-hungry, euro-toting frenchmen (and women) descend en masse air kissing and ordering crystal in the bar until their 1030 table by the window clears. Where the hell is the front door of the Renaissance Hotel (huh, which hotel is that?) anyway. And who knew that it only took a 15 second elevator ride to rise up above a small and clumsy entryway into an entirely unexpected, chic and sleek retro/mod living area complete with a kind-of Austin Powers like vibe and the savory aromas of a Korean-influenced new-Asian cuisance wafting about (or, did we just smell grilling beef - its not another dreaded steakhouse is it?). Savor this experience now, while the food is still slightly off-key and the reservations are still plentiful on OpenTable.com.
The food is only ok, not superb. The salad was good but unremarkable. Rock shrimp crispy and spicy and tasty, but the sliced pork below it lifeless, tasteless and gray. Braised pork had a nice softness to contrast with the crisp and brittle fried prosciutto slice but it too should have had more taste. Beside the rock shrimp appetizer - which was pleasingly spiced but still nuanced - everything seemed just a little too bland. Maybe a little more acid, a little more salt. Something to make the food jump out of your mouth and compete with all-encompassing sights and sounds playing right outside the windows.
The bill? A very un-chowhoundian $225 - with some wine. OK, I know I shouldn't have gotten carried away and order those three glasses of a $25 nice but unremarkable Austrian something or other, but - to be honest - I just didn't care. It just happened in a seemingly out-of-body experience. Mesmerized by the quiet commotion around us and totally focused (how does this work?) on my charming bride across the table, I just lost all my senses.
This feels all wrong as I write it on the morning after - like I should seek an immediate confession and get on the first available #7 train to Little Pepper in Flushing to purge the evil in my soul and in my stomach. But I want to go back. Maybe I don't know why. Maybe tonight. Maybe its New York. I love this city.