04 August 2006


My friend from Florence came to visit last night. She's been in town for a few weeks, but we've not managed to get together. I had thought that it might be a good opportunity to try another izakaya but then thought better of it. M came home and suggested we got to Chola, an Indian place nearby with a high Zagat rating and a low pricetag.

We had:

Chicken Chutneywala - mango-coconut curry sauce with pieces of chicken. Yum.
Staff Goat Curry - goat on the bone, spicy brown curry sauce. Not the best thing at the table, but still good.
Five-grain daal - spicy, but very, very good. I'm pretty sure they savoried-up the dish with a dose of Marmite, which I've seen in Indian food stores like Dowell Quality Products.
Mutton Biryani - This was tasty, but not the standout.

The service was very nice. I'm going to try out the daal with Marmite thing some time soon. I see there's a Marmite Cookbook on Amazon.

03 August 2006

Aburiya Kinnosuke

Aburiya Kinnosuke

Went to this restaurant (whose name I can never remember) with friends on Tuesday night. It was awesome. First off, they seated us at a table separated from the dining room by paper screens, so it had the feeling of a private dining room. I started out with a shochu on the rocks, but after seeing the grapefruit shochu cocktails that arrived for everyone else, I switched over quickly. They basically bring you a glass with shochu, soda, and ice in it, and a squeezer with half a pink grapefruit. You squeeze your own juice and pour it into your glass. Really great.

I just rattled off a bunch of stuff that sounded good from the menu, making sure to get the giant chicken meatball for which the place is renowned. The service was amazing. Every dish they brought, they separated up into four bowls and served it to us. Normally you have to pay big bucks for service like this. First was soft tofu in basket, served with sea salt, chives and ground ginger. It was very smooth and custardy. Really delicious.

Then came ochazuke, the tea-rice dish I loved from Tokyo. I haven't been able to find it here like I had it in Tokyo, served with Japanese pickles and raw marinated fish. They only do it garnished with a little fish, cod roe, or in this case, umeboshi plum, a very sour fruit that's not actually a plum. This also came with shredded nori and wasabi and chopped cilantro. The broth was very satisfying, even if it didn't quite match with the heat of the night.

A big and rather pedestrian sashimi dish came next. Not much to say here. The fish was decent, but it was at room temperature, which diminishes its appeal.

Now came the robata grill. In Japanese, robata means "by the fireside," and it's an apt description. Rather than yakitori, which skewers everything and grills it over charcoal, robata uses the radiant heat of the fire to grill. I do not envy those robatistas their jobs during this heatwave, but we did eat very well for their suffering.

We had grilled sticky yam (yamaimo), which arrived with sheets of nori for wrapping. The waiter instructed us to wrap the slices in nori and dip them in soy sauce. It was crunch and a bit textural. Not overwhelmingly great, but a neat experience. Considering the price ($6 for 8 slices of yam each about the size of two stacked poker chips), it was not something I'd walk across town for by itself, but it made a neat accompaniment to the rest. Ditto the grilled asparagus, thick spears chopped into 3" pieces and served with the first butter I've ever seen in a Japanese restaurant. Still, it was only two stalks at $3 per.

The standout was the pork cheek. A grilled piece of meat, sliced into salty, fatty morsels, served with a lemon for squeezing and an accompanying relish whose ingredients and taste I can't place right now.

The giant chicken meatball, our raison d'venir, was more impressive than the picture from the Flickr New York Cuisine Pool that had brought us here in the first place led me to believe. The paddle in the picture looks smaller and thinner than it actually is. The waiter sliced it off the paddle and carved it into six pieces for us. The meatball is big, teriyaki-sweet, and with the dip into the coddled egg, rich. If you go, make sure you order the teriyaki, not the plain meatball.

The bill with a few rounds of drinks, tax and tip came to about $50 a person for one of the best dining experiences I've had in a while. (Actually, not true, I've been blessed with an amazing streak of dining luck recently, but it was damn good.) I love good food, and I love not having to pay big bucks for it even more. I will definitely return, but there are some other izakaya in the neighborhood I have to check out first. I'm going to Ariyoshi with my Florentine friend tonight.

01 August 2006

We had the pappa al pomodoro again last night, cold, with olive oil and crumbled pecorino fresco. It was so freaking good. So here's the real recipe. I can't vouch for what it's like made with bagels from other places than Tal. It's a lot like gazpacho, but richer and rounder.

Pappa di Beighel al Pomodoro con Pecorino Fresco
Serves 6

1 large can San Marzano whole plum tomatoes
1 plain bagel, cut half, then each half into 12 wedges.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 ice cubes (1 tray)
Salt and black pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil
pecorino fresco (maybe could substitute crumbled goat cheese)
fresh basil or parsley
  1. Place a seive over a bowl and empty can of tomatoes into it. One by one, remove tomatoes from seive, removing any remaining skin, then halving them in your hand with a dinner knife, squeezing them gently into the seive to remove most seeds and juice. Place on cutting board. Once you've halved all the tomatoes, chop them coarsely and re-add them to the strained tomatoe puree/juice in the bowl. Discard seeds and skins.
  2. Heat olive oil in heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pan. Add garlic and saute until golden brown.
  3. Add tomato mixture and bagel pieces.
  4. Add 1-2 cups water or stock. Stir until the bagel pieces have soaked up all the liquid. Only add as much water as you need to make sure the bagels get well-softened.
  5. Bring to simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will be where the crumb separates from the crust of the bagels. The crumb should dissolve and make the soup silky, whereas the crust should form small, chewy, dumpling-like chunks.
  6. Remove from heat, add one tray of ice cubes and stir until melted.
  7. Adjust seasoning and chill well.
  8. Serve drizzled with a lot of good olive oil, crumbled cheese, chiffonaded basil.