Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Australian for Phở Bò

Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe
and I will buy you a bottle of wine
And we'll laugh and toast to nothing
and smash our empty glasses down
- Joni Mitchell, "Carey", 1971

Phở originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam. The specific place of origin appears to be southwest of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese [...] and French tastes. - From Wikipedia Phở

"New Asia Grill" -  94th and 2nd, Manhattan
You could tell that they were Australians.

As soon as they stepped into the doorway of the newly opened "New Asia Grill" on the corner of 86th and Third.

A couple, early thirties, both tanned with sun-bleached hair - and with all the time in the world.

"D'ya have BYO?" the male half of the pair asked of the tiny Asian greeter. The woman (don't we always?) translated. And then, when it was established that the pair could indeed bring their own wine, the man left to cross the street to buy a bottle.

I listened to them later as they ordered. Yes, I was right. Definitely Australian. They were talking about the "starters", referring to them (correctly) as "entrées". On returning, the man had ordered a beer. When it arrived the couple clinked bottle and glass - looking at each other with that nonchalance of the long-married couple who still has that Aussie regard for social niceties - and said, "Cheers".

Ah, my memory was jolted. My mind floated back to a more civilized time. A time when entrées meant entrées. When we'd à la Joni Mitchell, "laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down".

Crowd at the "Mekong", Melbourne, OZ
Memories of Victoria Street, Melbourne. Home of the best Vietnamese cuisine outside of Vietnam. Of "Mekong Vietnam" in Melbourne's CBD, which is proud to proclaim in its window, "Bill Clinton Ate Here!"

The "New Asia Grill" on 86th Manhattan is a far cry from the genuine-article Vietnamese restaurants of Melbourne - Melbourne, perhaps the culinary capital of the world.

But it's worth a visit. Any restaurant that opens onto a construction site - a construction with a proposed life of 11 years- has to deserve our respect.

Yes, that's where the "New Asia Grill" is located. Slap bang in the middle of the mess that is Manhattan's Second Avenue subway site construction - started 2007 and supposedly to be completed by 2017. Of course they didn't tell us that when they started. 2012 was the estimated complete date back then. Do a bit of arithmetic. With that rate of delay we are realistically looking at maybe 2026.

Entrance to the "New Asia Grill"
When I first went to the "Asia Grill" last weekend, I had to enter through the kitchen - the construction works were blocking front entry. But the staff were cheery and putting on a good face. What else could they do?

Even a Little Aussie Battler couldn't do any better, or worse. And Little Aussie Battlers always have the worst luck. And overcome it.

I hope that the "New Asia Grill" does well. Sure its food isn't as good as the fare we get downunder. But there's enough of a similarity to jog the memories of the sun-bleached Aussie tourists. Let alone us long-termers, here for the duration. Yes you have to admire the pluck, the tenacity of the owners of the "New Asia Grill".

What is it that they say?

"If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" ....

New Asia Grill
1817 2nd Ave
(between 94th St & 93rd St)
New York, NY 10128
Ph (212) 828-3066

Give it a go folks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aussie battlers; you don't hear that word too often anymore. Has the Lucky Country made batt'ling easier? Lots of lollie from the state/guv'mint makes battling easier. Or does it?
Are there American battlers?
Oh yes, lots of 'em....now. I'd say close to 25% of the working population of these Un-Excited States are truly battling. But do they have role models? The BIG Depression generation has passed on to their heavenly welfare state and left little traces for their 3rd. or is it 4th generation to follow. So where are they to learn to battle? On the Field of Hard Experience. And yes, my brothers and sisters, it's going to be painful just as it was painful for their forebears. And the pollies will soon realize they have civil unrest on their hands.
Repent While Yet There Is Time!

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