Rain Art Eat

By Kathryn Matthews

It was Thursday evening, March 10th.  I was headed out to an opening reception at Denise Bibro Fine Art gallery in west, west Chelsea for our friend Daniel Borlandelli, a visual artist from Uruguay.  As I stepped outside our building, a powerful gust blew my $4 umbrella inside-out, immediately drenching me in a torrent of hard-pelting rain.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Daniel was psychic.

His exhibit, entitled Vendaval, which refers to a powerful wind—south by west—in late winter or early spring, typically accompanied by thunderstorms and violent squalls, aptly captured his opening night.

"Vendaval"

Unable to get a cab, I waited 40 minutes on a crowded subway platform for an 8th Avenue line E train that never arrived.  I finally boarded a 6th Avenue line train and, despite the grim weather, hoofed it three blocks and four-and-a-half very long avenues to the gallery.

I staggered in at the eleventh hour; only my bedraggled appearance got me off the hook with my relentlessly punctual husband, who had arrived earlier.

Paintings capturing the vendaval theme

The exhibit, which runs through April 9th, was well worth a soaking.  Indeed, Daniel’s portrayal of nature—sometimes explosive, sometimes repetitive—through dramatic application of color and textures, conjured vendaval.

Daniel Borlandelli and his "Williwaw" sculpture

His sculptures, constructed from plywood, acrylic paint and screws, are also meant to evoke energy in motion. The takeaway: an unsettling reminder of how capricious nature can be, from hot lava spewing out of the earth’s core, to the bifurcation of plants or river tributaries.

Tangling with the elements, both en route to the gallery and on canvas, had whipped up our appetite.

Venturing out again into thwacking rain and wind, we sought repast at B.E.S., a.k.a. “Boutique Eat Shop”, on the corner of 11th Avenue and 22nd Street.

“By artists for artists” is the mantra of this eight-month-old hotspot, opened by New York City’s nightlife guru and party promoter Patrick Duffy.

Swathed in luxurious shades of brown and low-lighting, B.E.S. is a highly textured space, from a glittery silver disco ball and hand-crafted chandeliers; to exposed brick walls; a glossy black-tiled bathroom hallway; and a ceiling fashioned from mahogany-stained Brazilian cherry wood paneling.  The vibe is friendly, relaxed and low-key.

A voyueristic dollhouse

The restaurant serves as a rotating art gallery.  And, as far as the eye can see, art—some of it erotically suggestive—informs the space.  A striking chandelier over the bar, created by urban artist Andrew Poneros, was made from reclaimed wine jugs and sake bottles that are wrapped inside with vellum images.  A life-sized white dollhouse installation is the work of artist Paul Reynolds: tiny, backlit windows and doors allow voyeuristic peeks into the kitchen.   And restroom doors feature superimposed full-frontal nudes (male and  female) by Los Angeles-based embroidery artist Maria Piňeres.

Since B.E.S. draws an arty and fashionable crowd, I braced myself for fashionista gold standard favorites, like tuna tartare or sushi, on the menu.  Happily, NOT!  The chef Charles Cho, previously based in Los Angeles, executes an Asian-Mediterranean fusion-y menu with a deft, light touch, to delicious effect.  With Cho, Duffy has also created an SB (“Skinny Bitch”) low carb, low fat dining option.

Chris started with long green Japanese shishito peppers, sautéed until blistered, then drizzled with a sweet ponzu sauce ($10; right).  There were lovely sounding salads, like burrata and cherry tomato ($14) or fennel and pear ($12).  But, feeling damp and soggy, I decided to order a side each of steamed baby bok choy ($5) and sautéed broccoli rabe, gently spiked with red pepper flakes ($5).  Perfectly cooked, both were light, delicate, yet warming.

I forged on to thoroughly enjoy my organic medium-rare Angus burger perched on an airy-light truffle brioche, served with thick potato wedges and a harissa aioli ($24; left).  Chris sated his seafood hankering with a ginger-crusted red snapper, paired with corn and a creamy peanut-miso sauce ($26).

The service can be a bit too laissez-faire, but it is affable and accommodating.  When our server, caught up in a large party, forgot to bring a glass of wine that Chris had ordered, he apologized profusely and declared it “on the house”.  And, as we prepared to pay the bill, our server surprised us with a complimentary chocolate lava cake (normally $10).

B.E.S. aims to please.  And succeeds.

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