Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Power Play(a)

Don’t be hatin’ on Playa, the pan-Latin restaurant presently laying claim to the cursed plot that is 230 Fifth Avenue (Biscuit, anyone? Or, wait, Lookout Hill?? I mean, Night and Day???), because, trust us here at DDB, these guys are in it to win it. Going for the gold, beach-resort-style, and serving up a mouthwatering array of savory Caribbean bites along the way.

Alright, truth be told, I sampled just one such bite, but something tells me (the colorful “parrot” “perched” above the bar? LOL!!) a plethora of tasty tidbits await on my inevitable return.

Finding myself with a spare half-hour between appointments (you didn’t think this blog was the only thing we DDB’ers had on our plates, now, did ya? LOL!! I certainly hope not), I wandered into the spirited domain of this Slope newcomer at around eight o’clock last Friday, “all business,” you might say.

A pleasant, smiling hostess courteously inquired into my dining status (“just one—I’ll take a seat at the bar, if that’s alright”), and I happily positioned myself at the festive, straw-canopied counter, taking a moment to line up my “tools,” by which I mean a journal and mechanical pencil for valuable note-taking; a camera for the requisite visual component; my phone, useful in cases where a visibly subprime experience coincides with an inopportune revealing of my high-profile identity, thereby forcing me to “call in the reserves” (A to the L to the X!); and a batting glove.

Once settled, I took a scan of my surrounds, counting twelve additional customers, each rounding out a pair and suggesting an air of romanticism. The décor, as alluded to, called to mind a beachside cabana; indeed, inspired renderings of whimsical palms stretching idly across dazzling aqua walls were/are remarkably “lifelike,” so much so that I actually dipped into my trusty backpack’s side pocket at one point, fishing for the ol’ SPF 30. LOL!!

It wasn’t long at all before I was approached by the resident bartender, some well-scrubbed “island help” in his mid-to-late 30s, I’d surmise. What followed was an exchange that continues, several days out, to chafe a little, and I must say, I’m inclined to hold it against, if only gently, an otherwise adroit playa. (LOL!!)

I was still deliberating when I heard something akin to, “Whadaya think?” to which I responded, “I’m sorry, I’m still consulting your menu. If you’ll just allow me an additional minute or two.” And what, dear readers, do you imagine this was met with? How about: “Well then I’m glad you’re enjoying it.” Before I could gather my wits well enough to appropriately chastise such a blatant discourtesy, this aqua-clad hire turned on his heels, retreating to the far corner of the bar where he proceeded to engage in some conspicuous “huddle activity” with some of the other playas present.

If you’re wondering how this made me feel in the end, I’ll tell you: Just fine. Heck, it was mere seconds before indignation gave way to downright merriment; I may have even chuckled a bit, experiencing the mental equivalent of rubbing one’s hands together in delight as I privately, and more than a little giddily, affirmed my formidable reputation as progenitor of a fabulous food blog such as this one. To be cognizant of one’s power-wielding capacity is healthy, even life-sustaining, no? LOL!!

Anyway, it was the PULPO that won out in the end, a selection described as “grilled octopus / lemon / parsley / garlic / aji amarillo salsa” on the menu, a straightforward paper affair minus the frenetic fonts and grammar misconstructions to which my “partner in crime” (see: previous entry) was woefully subjected the other week. On placing my order, again with that delightful tender of bar, I was met with the following: “The PULPO, eh? Good choice. Something to drink?” Me: “No, that will be all, thanks.” And then.............

“Something to drink for the octopus?”


No words. (Okay, a few words: Funny guy after all!!!)

It only got better. After surprising me with a beautiful “wine glass” of water, complete with fresh lime wedge and drink umbrella (psst: this was the point at which I started questioning just how “covert” I was; they may very well have been on to me, pulling out the stops like that!!!), ol’ funny bones set before me one highly exotic-looking dish. This was the point at which I discovered one my tools, arguably one of the more important ones, to be sorely deficient in juice: That’s right, the camera. That said, hear my regret, as well as my vow to never again let this same fate befall me. And please accept the images to come as vaguely compensatory, if not remotely unethical.

As I said, highly exotic, in both appearance and taste. This particular “creature of the deep” (or some % of him, anyway!!) was brought to me in a warm state of preparation, lobbed tentacles dressed in the previously cited ingredients and piled loosely in an earthen bowl, which rested plaintively atop a rustic wooden plate. Accompaniment consisted of four optimally toasted “bread spears”—three arranged spoke-like on said plate, with the remaining one lodged securely between a few of the “meatier” tentacle portions, where it existed in a state of slow, steady disintegration. Excepting this soppy, vaguely unsettling bite o’ bread, I was in (dead) cephalopod nirvana, let me just say. Oh, one other (minor) point of contention, it’s only fair to include, was the routine difficulty I had in maintaining any real what I’m calling “tentacular traction”: those slimy little buggers went slip-sliding on and around my tongue with such fervor, it was almost like they’d come back to life! LOL!!!

But, at the end of the day, all had gone swimmingly between the brightly festooned walls of Park Slope’s ~Playa~.

I’m just thankful my food didn’t swim away!!!!


*Note: I neither ordered nor ate the above item. Someone must have, though!!

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