145 East 13th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 982-1688

Asian fusion restaurants are not something that this city is in short supply of. Any neighborhood worth it’s weight in rent expenses has at least one. You can tell an Asian fusion restaurant right away. They’re sexy. The interior screams cool. The waitresses are hot. There are funky cocktails. The menu doesn’t know if it’s Japanese or Thai. And the food always tastes kinda the same. Not bad, not great. Better than mediocre most of the time. Mediocre the rest of the time.

Hea is pretty standard Asian fusion. The first floor has a lounge area where a DJ spins beats and a bartender whips up specialty martinis. The second floor has the dining room and sushi bar. The basement probably has extra plates.

I was the last to arrive at Hea the other night. Bossette, Shoulders and Pike were already there, discussing the usual work stuff. They were itching to eat by the time I graced them with my presence and upstairs walked we four.

After a not-very-short, but I'd like to think hilarious running commentary about our respective love lives, we ordered some food. To start, a round of Miso Soup, which was universally derided as bland and tasteless. Shoulders liked the sliced seaweed. Pike sort of just grunted and tossed in another squirt of soy sauce. Bossette chose the Chicken Coconut Soup and, wagging her finger said, “You guys should have gotten this. It’s great!” Clearly, you know what to have when you go.

After soups came more solid forms of appetizers. I ordered the Thai Chilli Mussels (sic), mussels served with glass noodles in a spicy seafood broth. These were a very good appetizer. The broth was spicy, but not obtrusively hot, with more emphasis on flavor than on raising your tolerance. It's not a small appetizer and was a little big for me. Two people could easily share it. Bossette ordered a Spicy Tuna Roll and Shoulders tried the Yellowtail Tartar appetizer. The yellowtail was light and smooth and fine... if somewhat thin on flavor. It sat in a soy-sauce-esque sauce that was either desperately needed or too thin to be of any real value. The spicy tuna roll, however, was quite good. Good enough that when Bossette finished it, she went and ordered another.

Entree time. I ordered the Lychee Duck, a fried duck dish with vegetables in a sweet lychee curry "stew". This was very good and went well with my lychee martini. The duck was perfectly cooked and virtually fatless, though somewhat bony. The vegetables were just the right degree of crisp. If you like curries, this is for you. Pike ordered the Krapow Shrimp, jumbo shrimp over vegetables. The sauce was very good, and like the mussels spicy in flavor over hot way, but I'm positive that I've had it before somewhere else. I can't put my finger on it, but it was painfully familiar. I enjoyed it and I think it tied with my own entree for best of the evening.

Shoulders and Bossette shared the Mango Chicken, a chicken and vegetable dish with a heavy, sweet glaze coating it from head to toe. This was possibly the dish I liked the least, if for no other reason than because it seemed like something I'd get at a takeout restaurant. But, to be fair, I was in the minority here, everyone else deciding that it might have been the best dish of the night.

So what's the word on Hea? Well, we all left with about the same vibe. The interior is great. The staff was friendly and they've created a laid-back atmosphere that you don't always get at trendy places. Hea is not trying to fill you with adrenaline. At least not upstairs. Think of it as the ambient-house version of a restaurant. Still, the food has a very been-there-done-that quality. It's not new, not inspired, not even presented on the plate terribly sexily. But it's also not bad and not expensive. If you want something unique, Asian fusion just isn't the way to go. But if you want something fun, Hea does the trick.

Two drinks, four sodas, three soups, five appetizers, and three entrees, no dessert, with tax came to about $125.00. I rounded the pennies.

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