An oasis vanished like a mirage in the desert. There's never a worthy explanation. Restaurants in this city have an abbreviated life span. There are so many factors that contribute to its demise, and it's hard to tell or guess, what will breathe life into a space. For the Casablanca Tea Room, I suspect the combination of a Moroccan cafe and upscale boutique combined with the encroachment of other (i.e., Babouche) bedazzled casbahs didn't help much. It's a shame too because one really did feel pleasantly lost surrounded by the whitewashed canopied walls and lattice. As if climbing those metal stairs, transported you to an exotic locale where sand and wind reigned. I think I will miss that feeling most, that and the delicious Moroccan mint tea served in teapots worthy of Aladdin's genie.
The food was mediocre Thai but the decor now that is something to write about. Similar in design to Spice, Prem-on-Thai has a futuristic motif. Double glass doors lead into a dining area reminiscent of a mess hall one might find if they crossed West Elm's catalog with a scene in The Fifth Element. Low ceilings, espresso wood floors with submerged floorboard lighting designed in a hopscotch pattern lead to a lotus-seated Buddha enclosed in glass. The unisex bathroom found behind an inconspicuous door toward the rear of the restaurant (it looked like a For Employees Only service entrance) featured a communal sink with a water-trough like basin complete with a waterfall chute faucet. I would love to have that in my shower!
Two blocks east on West Houston a set of wood and metal stairs lead to a subterranean beatnik-era bar and performance space. Kristin, Luiz & I were lucky to arrive when we did, snagging the last corner table for three. The layout of the space reminds me of a modern punk guitar with its long neck and juxtaposed base. Zinc Bar's long narrow entryway was lined with a row of 8 or 10 low tables and leather poufs. The room was low lit with nautical ceiling lights and red votive candles on each copper-top table. The Brazilian band, Choro Ensemble, had a 4' x 4' performance space. Choro, which means "cry" in Portuguese, is a popular form of Brazilian music that dates back to the early 19th century. The five-member band featured ukelele (or cavaquinho), guitar, bass guitar, tambourine and flute. As Luiz explained to us earlier, the string instruments are played unconventionally strummed more often than with a pick, the tambourine is played like a set of bongo drums...and the flute, who knew one could breathe so rapidly into the wind.