A Culinary World Tour of Brooklyn With Sensual Indian Singer Vandana
Image by David Terranova
When we last spoke to Brooklyn-by-way-of-India graphic-designer-performance-artist-songstress Vandana Jain, it was 2013 and her debut record Anti Venus was just coming out. We fell hard for her sexy, international synth-hop.
Her new EP, which sees release May 12, is intriguingly titled Nox Anima (Latin for “night soul,” actually). First single “Vicious” picks up where she left off, a dark, haunting slice of electro-jazz with a dramatic arc that recalls Portishead. “Nearly” is similar but more sultry, slithery, with an ending that is nothing short of epic…ominous, in fact.
“Nox Anima has delicate yet sinister undertones,” she admits. “I like to think that it inhabits a nocturnal world in which all creatures are moody and enigmatic. It was conceived during a phase in my life in which I felt like I had conjured up an incandescent cave around myself, away from much external stimuli but with intermittent bursts of wild preoccupation. It rings insular and at the same time instinctive and impulsive. It’s murky metaphysical alt-pop, lightly jolting and throbbing and definitely noir and mesmeric – a wall, as well as a mirror.”
But even Vandana’s music is a product of a greater, overarching holistic existence, driven by an unshakeable aesthetic and ideological point of view. It extends even to what she eats and where she eats it. And so, as BlackBook is wont to do, we asked her to guide us through her favorite BKNY haunts, which, much like her music, draw influence from every corner of the planet.
On Vegetarianism and Brooklyn
“A lot of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn are turning the experience of consuming healthy, sustainable food into a thought provoking discovery of the senses. Then there are those which are so simple and primal in their approach to food, it ignites a feeling of nostalgia and memory, the sheer depth and longevity of a single culture bringing all to the table for the shared experience of fundamental responsiveness. I find it all intrinsically related to creativity, art and music. It feeds the spirit, as everything about Brooklyn does. Even in it’s most basic form, food is dramatic and sensual and I like to eat it very, very slowly. My parents practiced some of the core values of Jainism which include non-violence and harmonious co-existence between all creatures on the planet. To this day, if there’s anything I have remained disciplined about, it’s about staying vegetarian. I love it, perhaps because I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Plants to me are jade out of the earth freckled with mud. Too bad I have to eat them.”
I come prepared to eat a lot at this beautifully rustic communal style dining Japanese restaurant. The food is impeccable, with lots of vegetarian options and their wasabi margarita made extra spicy always leaves my brain tingling.
This is my quasi-office, a few blocks away from my home in Williamsburg. The easy-going colonial vibe of the restaurant paired with tasteful electro playing in the background is perfect for a meeting or summoning inspiration on a hazy work day. Their Southern Sea cocktail and black kale salad are my favourites.
This is a cheap-eat hole-in-the wall but the food is delicious and fiery at this Mexican taqueria. I love the sopa which comes with spicy raw sides to wake you up, the rajas taco and the charred Mexican scallions. Expect to wait to be seated but it’s worth it and it’s pretty fun for people watching too.
I go for the feast combo at this amazing vegan Ethiopian. I’m not a fan of Injera but it’s authentic here and I always order a side of Misir Wot, lentils cooked in berbere and Daata, their Ethiopian spicy sauce. The Shai is also not to be missed.
The food at Norman is wholesome and pleasurable, made with precision, creativity and a love for harmony. Housed in the bright and enormous A/D/O design and work studio in Greenpoint, this revitalizing Scandinavian is my spot for breakfast, sitting along the open kitchen with ancient grain bowls and buffalo milk yogurt.