Went to Cafe Asean (W 10th) last night after my decent, but relatively uninspring Italian lunch at Giamebelli yesterday (of which I previously wrote). I've been going to the place since it opened, but since I moved to the east side two years ago, my visits are much less frequent.
First of all, I adore the garden. It's nothing fancy. Not decorated spectacularly well. Tables a little rickety. Still, I felt like I was in a good friend's back yard, hanging out, eating some tasty treats, sipping a beer.
Second, the food, while perhaps not the most phenomenal fare anywhere, is consistently VERY good and finely prepared. We shared apps and noodles: Ca Bam (diced monkfish, peanuts, shrimp crackers, lettuce), salt and pepper calamari (lightly battered and not the least bit greasy), and noodles w/ tofu (put their peanut sauce on a shoe and I'd eat it).
Third, the service, as usual, had absolutly no attitude. They're laid back there without being lazy, professional without being the least bit pretentious.
Yes, I'm waxing poetic about a meal that, for 2, even with many many drinks, cost no more than $60 w/ tip, and a place that is certainly not new. But, what the heck. It's great to see a restaurant that not only is really good at what it does, but also doesn't pretend to be something its not. Perhaps most significantly, it's maintained this consistently for years, which is NOT easy task.