Sunday, February 21, 2010

Asia Society: A Much-Needed Respite

When one starts thinking that it's a week later than it really is, and that it's the 28th and not the 21st, it's a clear sign that a certain someone needs to slow down and chill out.

Which is how I found myself at the Asia Society today, exactly one week earlier than I had agreed to with friends A & L.   We were scheduled (or so I thought) to arrive at noon and dine at the Garden Cafe.

Once I realized that I was 168 hours early for our lunch date, it occurred to me that I was in fact right on time and right where I needed to be.  I had a few unexpected hours to myself in a place that is renown for its serenity and elegance.

I had been reading about the Garden Cafe, one of the 'best kept secrets in New York'.   It was lovely, with high ceilings and live trees and sunlight streaming in from the large windows.  The menu was spare but inviting.  I ordered the chicken curry salad, which was savory and cool and perfectly complemented by the warm coconut-flavored jasmine rice and crisp vegetable sides.  I love thoughtful presentation of food, and appreciated the little sprinkles of scallion on the rice and the small slice of red pepper on the plate for accent.  It was delicious.

After a satisfying meal, I headed upstairs to the gallery.  Unfortunately I was unable to take my camera.  The current exhibition features ancient art of Viet Nam, and the pottery and sculptures were spectacular.  Viet Nam's long coast and internal river systems ensured it played a key role in shipping and trading among many Asian nations, including China and India.  Buddhist and Hindu themes were prominent, and several of the sculptures were playful, exciting (I know, I don't usually use those words for sculpture either, but in this case it's true).

Any sighting of a Buddha statue or painting reminds me to breathe, calm down, be present.  And so it was this afternoon.  I breathed.  I remembered the day and date.

Many people's itineraries in NY do not include the Asia Society.  For anyone planning a trip, I gently encourage you to find your way here.  Especially if it's between the hours of 12-3pm, when the cafe is open.  Plus, you'll get a cute little admission button, like the one below.  $10 well spent.

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