There is this trio of friends that somehow seemed to materialize out of nowhere. As such they are often involved in things together, or follow parallel paths that define a singularity of purpose. These things sometimes evolve out of human experience, and there is no real logical explanation. But it is a rare and exquisite experience that you should cherish whenever and however it happens.
As it turned out during the holidays, one of the trio went out of the country, so upon return, we decided to honor the homecoming by indulging ourselves with our own fiesta, which suggests partying --- with lots of great food. Fiesta can be any festive occasion, and of course it is closely related to a feast. A feast is more than just food, it is defined as a "rich and abundant meal." And a Fiesta also implies a celebration, perhaps including dancing and singing, or musicing... and in this case our creative response was in a metaphysical context of a feast so sumptuous that we were somewhat overwhelmed.
The other of our trio suggested a new restaurant known simply as 8st Kitchen on eighth Street in Manhattan. We knew from Internet descriptions that it would be unusual, but we could not have designed on our own a more appropriate venue for our special fiesta. It was as though our friend had some intuition about how elegantly this Asian Bistro would create a special ambiance for our celebration.
8st Kitchen's cuisine is Korean, but served in small courses, French style, so that the emphasis is on tasting and savoring the moment. We began with a cocktail, Pear Soju, mostly because I am a fanatic about Soju in the same way that Toad was obsessed with motor cars in The Wind in the Willows. My friends indulged me and my madness.
We ordered a sparkling water, TAU, which is an ancient Welsh word that means "to be silent" --- quietly exhilarating in its taste, obedient and supportive as a companion to the meal. TAU is meant to be tasted, savored, slowly.
Our host and waiter was Jung-min Kim who transformed our experience into an event that might have been worthy of a Disney theme park. Every dish was presented with painstaking detail and arduous enthusiasm by our host.
Our first dish was Wan Ja Jon, bite-sized patties of beef so delicate and delicious that they seemed to melt in your mouth. The food was so tantalizing we had to deliberately slow our pace. The others of the trio put together a sequence of dishes, so the tasting experience emerged like a musical score.
The second dish was Chung Po Mook Moo Chim, a green-lentil jelly with vegetables and wasabi. It served as a delicate transition from the opening to the third course, Ba Ssak Bul Go Ki Gui, sliced Kobe rib-eye, with a flavorful sauce. This was a powerful middle section, masterfully orchestrated, deep lavish taste with lush texture.
The fourth dish and movement of this culinary suite was O Jing O Bok Keum, stir fried squid with noodles, serving to connect us to the Finale, Bo Ssam, pork belly with
pickled cabbage, daikon salad and oyster (photo by Joe DStefano), a masterpiece of collected tastes that topped off a truly memorable feast.
Our host provided a complimentary Soju drink made of richi, that served as a cadenza to the coda: another gift from the Kitchen, Dae Goo Jon, lightly pan-fried cod fillets brought to us as a surprise. This was a substantial coda worthy of our meal, introducing new tastes, but reminding us of themes from earlier courses.
Our Fiesta was not yet done. We proceeded to a small intimate concert space nearby where a composer was premiering a string duo, a trio with violin, cello, and clarinet, and an electronic sound score. This provided a sonic feast of sounds, giving some chance to refresh the senses, to realign ourselves from our sense of taste and touch, to a heightened sense of sound.
We capped the the evening at bar and restaurant, Murphy and Gonzales, which was both upbeat and low-keyed---whatever you wanted to make it. We ordered drinks (of course) and Mexican appetizers in keeping with our fiesta as a convivial fanfare to welcome the return of our friend.