I was recently invited to dine at the fine new bistro in the upstairs of our apartment. New York occupies the space formerly known as Ivan’s Room. In its former incarnation, it served up wooden and plastic vegetables amidst an atmosphere of dinosaurs and superheroes. It was then particularly known for the revolving artwork that donned the walls, almost always monsters, that provided an atmosphere of cheery terror.
The brother and sister team who run the restaurant, Veronica and Ivan, are charming and eager to please. Veronica, armed with a sketchbook and crayon, seats me at a table – a very small table – opposite a small Buffalo.
“This is our guest Miss Buffles” she smiles. Ivan calls from the corner, “It’s NOT a GIRL!” Veronica laughs demurely, “Well I guess that’s Mr. Buffles. I’ll get you a menu.” As she leaves the table, Ivan, approaches.
“After you are done eating, you might like to spend some more money in the gift shop!” He smiles widely and gestures to a child’s desk in the corner. The array of items for sale are eerily similar to the flotsam I skimmed off his bedroom floor earlier that morning; a yo-yo with no string, several markers, a couple feathers and of-course, a stack of hand made books. I promise to look before I go.
Veronica returns and hands me a Child’s Illustrated Atlas of the World. “Here is your menu.” I flip through the pages. “Salad is our specialty, ” she says, while I look at a map of Portugal.
“Give me the Porteugese Salad, please.” She nods and scribbles illegibly in her book. A sophisticated code no doubt. “We also have a vegetable soup.” She says. “Sounds good,” I agree, and she turns to begin cooking the meal.
While she cooks, I inquire after the name New York. “Well, ” Veronica begins, artfully arranging the wooden peppers on my plate, “We are named New York becasue we are…” she looks ahead, appearing to search for the right word, “We are functioned by the New Yorker.”
“The magazine, The New Yorker?”
“Yes, we give them all our money, but then we get some change.” As a reviewer, I’m dubious of the business model. As their mother, I’m proud of their dedication to the arts.
Ivan interrupts, “Would you like a RARE ORANGE BANANA?” I am never one to turn down a rare culinary experience, so I accept. Ivan hands me hard plastic orange crescent. Rare indeed. I wonder if the service here might be improved by a better coordination of efforts, but then, my salad and soup arrive in a timely manner, accompanied my a thimble-sized serving of ice tea. The food is very similar to the fare served in Ivan’s Room; bright, simple, and perfectly portioned. What it lacks in flavor, it makes up for in presentation. I nibble at the air for a minute, producing satisfying eating sounds, and hand the plate to Veronica.
I pay my bill (one nickel) but before I am permitted to leave, am led by hand to the gift shop. This seems to be Ivan’s gig. He shows me a book, drawn in blue highlighter. “I made that.” He says, then grows impatient as I look through it. “This one is better, it’s called The Book. We were going to name it Monster’s Habitat, but I didn’t know how to spell habitat, so we called it The Book.” It is, in fact, monsters in their habitats. I choose to buy it, am again charged a nickel, and then allowed to leave to go finish the laundry.
Upon reflection, the staff’s attire – underpants and t-shirts – raises some sanitary concerns. However, given the lack of air conditioning, it is understandable. It looks as if the new tenants here in the second floor of our house will enjoy success, and even bolster the coffers of the esteemed New Yorker. I’ll just renew my subscription in their honor.