Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Yakitori Taisho & St. Marks Place

Walking in NYC's Greenwich Village from west to east on 8th street, you pass into the east village as you cross Broadway. You enter a kind of no-man's land called Astor Place with Cooper Union, street vendors and musicians and a curious cube near the subway. As you continue east you enter the twilight zone, a stretch of 8th street so bizaare that it is given a different name: St. Marks Place (named for St. Marks-in-the-Bowery, two blocks north).

The moment you enter St. Marks Place you sense a different vibe. It has been that way for decades, even though the vibes have changed as times have changed. There is enormous energy that infuses you, a heightened awareness as though you somehow were on some substance that once and always flows freely everywhere. But you don't have to be high to experience high. You are sped along a vivid sensitivity just by the surge of people who have keen perception and a zest for living in the moment.

Yakitori Taisho is not exactly a restaurant...it is more like a happening that is spilling over into available crevices and spaces along St. Marks Place. Inside, the chefs are spirited and appear to be having the time of their life. Yakitori seems to be like tempura exploded inside out with every conceivable way of preparing a vast array of vegetables, meat, and creatures from the sea on skewars, in pancakes, and free form assemblages that exist like new edible art forms.

But while the food is the excuse for going to this establishment...the real attraction is the people. People start to arrive early, waiting outside for an available table, sometimes for hours, despite the expansion of Taisho into several spaces. And why not? You could be in the middle of a scene from a new novel...a new F. Scott Fitzgerald or a John Updike capturing a new time and a new culture, or a new movie from Tarantino, who might have already invented such a place in a script written and forgotten long ago. Overnight these blocks have quickly adopted a brash Japanese style, and the absorption of the west by the east is now re-introduced like a cultural isotope slowly dwindling in half-life stages as it morphs into yet something else new and different. The catalyst is the people, the individuals whose energies and dispositions clash in a fusion of hiphop, rock, jazz, heavy metal, and folk genres.

Wildly cataclysmic...

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