Inside the Hole

Belltown for trendophobes.

Belltown and I have never been very good friends. It inspires in me a kind of reverse snobbery. It's not so much the shops and restaurants; despite my overall derision for the blocks between Virginia and Denny and First Avenue and Fourth, I'm completely amenable to the fact that lots of good stuff is available there. It's more that I when I get around all those open-toed shoes and terrible new-construction condos, I want to throw eggs. I don't believe that mustard yellow and teal blue should ever be anywhere near each other and certainly not on apartment buildings with quasi-industrial metal cladding. It really makes me want to throw eggs. But last week I decided to block out the view-blocking monstrosities and give the neighborhood another chance. Inside Bada Lounge there's a huge postmodern hole in the wall. The entire room is a creamy white, and in order to get there, you walk down a sparse corridor that's lit as if to feel like it leads underground. Or into space. Inside the postmodern hole there are deep red couches and ottomans large enough to sprawl on, though I'm quite sure that actual sprawling would be frowned on. Reclining, relaxing, leaning back: These things would likely be just fine. The molded plastic chairs and tables (creamy white, of course) that fill the lounge are oriented toward the postmodern hole; the implication is that this is where the really interesting things will be happening. Most of the time, anyway. On the first Monday of every month, Bada puts some interesting things on the outside of the lounge-inside-the-lounge, too. Voyage is billed as a "night of global experience," and the first evidence of this that I encountered were the groups of friends who, upon greeting, kissed one another on both cheeks. This is typically something that only foreigners and New Yorkers do, and I was heartened to see it going down against the laptop beats. And I don't even like laptop beats. By 9:30 p.m., the room was full of people from all over the planet; by 10 p.m., they were done kissing each other, and then Ocheami, a West African rhythm collective, played exquisite tribal patterns in front of a few short art films projected onto a screen. I ate some wonderful tuna poke and agedashi tofu and some less wonderful crab spring rolls, drank a suburb Bombay Sapphire martini, and left feeling like I had actually been somewhere. Also among the good and not-phony or weirdly steel-plated in Belltown is Mistral, but unfortunately not all of us can afford artful European cuisine more than once every two years. Until now, that is. Gone is the little thrift store that used to be adjacent to Chef Belickis' place; See Sound Lounge has replaced it. If you can stomach the picture-perfect bartenders, two faux waterfalls, and a large inset TV screen that plays—so far as I can tell, at least—those Baby Einstein videos of underwater coral universes and dancing amoebas, you can enjoy Mistral from next door. The menu is far less expensive and far more approachable, too. Although the music is of the prefabricated chug-chug-pop-disp-disp-chug variety—the kind of stuff that gets played all the time in those lousy condos, I'm sure—if you get to See Sound early on a warm spring night you can snag the table in the front by the large open window and split the difference between faux modern and au courant with a really decent little cheese plate.

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