Saturday, February 12, 2011

Choga: A Cozy Haven

Choga is a cozy friendly haven at the end of the Bleecker Street business district in the West Village. It is a place where the atmosphere is warm and friendly and the food and drink is served with excellent attention to detail. In addition to authentic Korean food, there is a fine sushi bar where the combinations are fresh and inventive. BimBimBap in their new hotpots come out sizzling, and when several are ordered the dishes are popping around the tables like a stereo rhythm section. When the owner is there, her Seafood Pajun is unrivaled in this hemisphere. I would go there just for that.  The restaurant reflects the warmth and graciousness of an owner who has transformed Choga into a memorable experience. Go there more than once, and you begin to feel like you are at the kind of establishment where "everybody knows your name."

I go there to catch up on things and relax. With my iPhone I can bother all my friends or check out FB, while I often use the notepad to write a poem or two, or just sit long hours and listen to the music tapes put together by singer/composer C. J. from Korea who performed at The Bitter End while he waited tables at Choga. He has a great ear for music, and if you sit there long enough, you are bound to hear some of your favorites. I like the Soju, O.B., and the side dishes. Every entree is tempting and all ranges of spicy and non-spicy treats can make every visit distinctive. I often bring along some book of poems to enjoy at a quiet table in the corner. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, a friend will pop in and we have a go at it... almost instant partying...  Truth be known, I get lots of work done while there, generating lyrics, ideas for music, researching... all of it in the end is research...

Choga is especially great when it is snowing, and you can sit in the quiet warmth and look at the snow through the window.

One of my most recent visits was populated by visitors from Korea where one of them sang a version of Arirang on the spot that almost made me feel like I was in Korea. This was in counterpoint to the music playing up at the front of Choga... yet at the end, the owner and staff applauded the impromptu charming performance.  Choga changes with the seasons, there are seasonal dishes, and in summer it serves as a refuge from the heat with cool air, cold noodle treats, and icy drinks.  For now, it is winter and usually we are greeted with hot tea to warm our hands on the cups.

Winter evening settling
Outside Choga
Speaks of snow
Dotting the dusk
As I sit with my Nabe Udon,
Reluctantly approaching
My inevitable departure
As a dreaded return
To some awesome emptiness
That has plagued me for days.
Sounds of music hover
Near the front window,
A vacant drone
As evening dissolves
Into night.
I cannot delay
Any longer...
Still unsure of a destination,
I descend the steps
To Bleecker
And look up
Into the swirling snow
Of night.

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