I had my “recipe comix” moment at saveur.com! Click on the excerpt below for the full strip (and recipe)!
Archive for the 'tables for one: when you vant to/must eat alone' Category
I had my “recipe comix” moment at saveur.com! Click on the excerpt below for the full strip (and recipe)!
A fancy Japanese place on 40th street, right next door to The New York Times building. I’ve had numerous occasions to treat myself to a seat at what looks like a sushi bar, but it’s since it’s not all sushi, I’m not sure what to call it. Maybe a robata/sushi bar? In any case, it’s great to sit there, because sometimes you can catch a frozen but still living crab fidget a little in it’s grave of crushed ice, which is kind of creepy and neat, like watching the end of a thriller about crabs. But it’s also fun because the guys preparing your food will pass your robata orders to you on a long wooden serving paddle, while yelling something purportedly uplifting. Every time they do something there, they yell something out in Japanese, and everyone on the staff joins in. You walk in, they yell, you sit down, they yell, it’s kind of like letting hapy people in a Japanese boot camp serve you. It’s amusing when you get up to use the toilet and they yell something, which I’m sure only happens when they think you’re leaving. (I don’t think they’re saying, “enjoy the super high-tech wand-washing fountain toilet with the heated seat and automatic hiney-dryer.” But they might be. Yes, by all means use that toilet! You’ll be in there all day marveling at the technology.
You’re wondering what robata is? It’s Japanese BBQ. I really like the sweet potato robata, but the okra is also delicious, not gooey at all. My favorite thing to have for lunch is the chirashi sushi lunch special, $18, which comes with soup or salad. I always get the miso soup, which is rich and delicious. If I’m hungrier than usual, I’ll order a side of robata. I’ve also had the bento boxes, which are copious and delicious, but a little more expensive. The cheapest one is still plenty filling.
Inakaya is pricey, but worth it. They do have lunch specials, which are in the high but reasonable range if you’re looking for something extra-special, as well as someplace a little quieter than the rest of the places midtown. I once met a friend there for drinks and sat at the bar for quite a while alone while she was delayed, and felt very comfortable with my little wooden box of saké, and some robata. It’s definitely a place where you can feel at home alone.
That’s a picture of me above at Happy Hour, where they pound “mochi” and let the guests participate. They also share the pounded mochi amongst all the guests present. Full disclosure: I was not alone when I did the pounding (I don’t drink alone at Happy Hour!), but I go there for lunch mostly alone.
Inakaya: 620 Eighth Avenue (Aka: 231 West 40th Street), New York, NY 10018
(The scaffolding is because our landlord is replacing the windows in our building, just above and ‘round the corner.)
Tres Pasos appeared one day just downstairs, right across the sidewalk from the subway station. It’s my daily pit stop on my way to a job or the park, and often gives me a reprieve from my kitchen when I can’t stand the heat in there. I can design my own taco for $2.50, with crisp, colorful pico de gallo, the greenest, freshest guacamole, cilantro, and a good dose of jalopeÃ±o. They know my habits by heart, and smile as they fill my taco before I bother to speak. The choice of meat is either pork, chicken, or beef. I’ve only tried the pork, which is alternately tender and chunky, or a little more like shredded cochinita. Either way, warm spices like cumin, oregano and cinnamon (and the rest of what goes into achiote) call forth gustatory memories of my Aunt Carmen’s Christmas pork roast, and the portions are as generous as those memories. Â¡Me gusta!
I went downstairs just now to buy a couple, intending to photograph them, but I completely forgot, and ate them.
So, to continue with the $6 burritos, which are humungous: I have been unable to bring myself to order one, but I’ve watched the City College kids Hoover them down quite appreciatively. If you sit outside on the bench next door at Vinegar Hill Bakery (review TK), you’ll be sitting next to their like, or maybe just a tired old-timer taking a load off on his way to another bench further down Broadway. I told one such neighbor that I believed the heat of the jalopeÃ±os took the edge off the summer sun, and she let out a surprised cry of “Oy!” as if I’d set myself on fire right in front of her. Which was the first and only time I’ve ever impressed anyone in this neighborhood.
Don’t be surprised if they call you “mami.” That means you’re nice.
Here’s their menu.
3385 Broadway (at 137th St.)
New York, NY
(Found this image here.)
When I made my first attempt to move back to New York from Paris in 1998, I lived on St-Mark’s street near Avenue A. This was in the old days, when drug dealers acted as my security guard on the stoop. I lived with two and a half roommates (Jason would turn on the christmas lights in his window when he was available to spank girls during the sex act), in an apartment where I could see through the gaps in the living room floor to the apartment below. It was nothing personal, but I didn’t really like having roommates, so I used to go to another living room: Alt Coffee. There, I could sit on a seedy, cozy couch with my soy chai and read my “Futurological Congress.” Or sit at a dinky old computer and trade love emails with a kind of silly, unrealistic man (who forgot to tell me about his live-in girlfriend) in Germany. It was escapism, Alt Coffee was.
I was one of the contributors to the graffiti and sticker art in the bathroom. I’m one of those people so broke that I spent hours taking tiny little sips of my one hot beverage. I didn’t love the place: it was simply comfortable the way being at a friend of a friend’s house on a holiday can be. You sat there feeling like the one people might ask about later: “Whose friend was she?” When I moved back to the neighborhood in 2002, even though the rest of the neighborhood was already taking on the aspect of a hipster mall, it was still there for me when my two Italian roommates made life intolerable by watching “Sex and the City” on a loop all day long.
Alt is reopening as “Hopscotch,” which painfully (to me) and eloquently speaks of the patronage it will be catering to. No more strange vaguely homeless looking, but oddly confident and self-contained personalities. No more mystery, no more spiders from Mars. It’s true, I’d often go home rather than use the really disgusting bathroom, but maybe that should’ve been anyone’s measure of how long is too long to stay: if your bladder is bursting, you’ve been there roughly four hours. No, the new clientele will be stroller jockeys, and aunties of stroller jockeys. The last bastion of the gritty survivor who wouldn’t dream of living on Park Slope is gone. In fact, I think it wouldn’t be too facetious to call this a bit of Park Slope Spread.
Even the person bemoaning the “draining” away of the East Village’s “grit” in this New York Times article about Alt Coffee, seems to think that the place where Alt got its first furniture is a place called “Dumpsters.” How clueless is this city becoming?
Ah, well! I have no more time to complain! Life moves on. The gritty keep moving. I moved up to West Harlem where Starbucks died on 138th street and Broadway. The only gourmet coffee you can get here is at Vinegar Hill downstairs, where espresso is only a dollar and is served to you by my neighbors. It gives me hope for our neighborhood. For a little while, anyway.
(Note the sausage detail on the ceiling.)
Baltimore has lots of facesâ€”the astonishingly good (and also astonishingly free) Walters Art Museum, the plasticky and scrubbed if benignly pleasant waterfront, some new little fusion restaurants that could, the grim dead-end commerce echoed in The Wire, all those others I havenâ€™t seenâ€”and, of course, plenty of history. My aunt Bridget grew up there, and on a trip into the city she introduced Carolita and me to a few places sheâ€™d seen change a lot over the years. The old department stores, abandoned (white flight, I gather), their gorgeous edifices looking lonely on the nearly empty street. Drusilla’s Books, an antiquarian bookstore almost too perfect to be real, which everyone who cares about such things should keep in business by frequenting its website. The strip-joint and porn-shop block called The Block, which used to feature some famous burlesque dancers, said Bridget, and which now has a phalanx of cop cars poised to bear down if anything especially untoward should go down. It all seemed tame and low-rent rather than Sin City, like a quickie trip back to a few storefronts of the old 42nd St., but I did keep my eye on the basically genial-seeming sleazemongers as we strolled with my beloved girl cousin Jane at my side.
One of the other historic sites we stopped by was the Lexington Market. I just learned this from a Baltimore civic website: “Baltimoreâ€™s Lexington Market, the world’s largest, continuously running open-stall food market, has operated since 1782 at the same site it occupies today on the cityâ€™s West Side. General John Eager Howard, a hero of the American Revolution, donated the land for the market, named for the Battle of Lexington, on his return from the war.” Battles since include the economic downturn of the city proper; though genuinely bustling, the Lexington Market is surrounded by and filled with the clear signs of hard times. Itâ€™s also filled with delicious food. I understand Carolita and Bridget loved the sandwiches they had from the fish stand, but what I wanted was sausage: something like a bratwurst, which I can never find on the East Coast. If Manhattan still had a true German neighborhood, I bet Iâ€™d be able to find bratwurst there instead of having to rely on having to go all the way to Madison, WI, to visit State Street Brats or, better, have something properly soaked in beer and turned on a backyard grill. Anyway, a lot at Lexington Market looked tempting, but there was only one lunch on my mind as soon as I saw Polock Johnnyâ€™s, despite the Sausage Master and the Konstant’s Hot Dogs (as well as the pleasingly named Omlet Side Show and the best not thought about Cattleman’s Pride) elsewhere in the market. The other thing on my mind was the very unmodern and un-New York name “Polock Johnny’s,” plus the sausages lovingly painted on the booth’s ceiling.
Well, the Beef Polish, which Jane and I both had with ketchup (we keep it simple, despite the tempting extras listed above), was delicious, filling, resistant but not tough, tangy, juicy, and toxic in just the right ways. We did not require a napkin to blow our noses (.05, 3 for .10), since it wasn’t very spicy, and although “A bag because yours is breaking” is an affectingly poignant phrase (and only costs a quarter), we didn’t need that, either. The Beef Polish completely hit the spot, and across the aisle was a chocolate shop that provided some locally made sweets, including some not at all bad marzipan dipped in milk chocolate. Nearby, a band played; Baltimoreans talked, snacked, and danced. If I could find sausages this good in a market in my city, with decor this snappy to match, I’d dance too. Next time I go, I’ll have a Muffinski.
Lexington Market, 200 N. Paca St., Baltimore
Guest blogger: Emily Gordon, a.k.a. Emdashes
(Photo: Jeff Berlin)
When I first started to go to Los Angeles for photo shoots, I missed the ease of how one can grab a quick lunchtime bite in NYC. More often than not, in LA, a quick bite meant fast food. And though In-N-Out Burger and Baja Fresh are pretty terrific, I’m not much of a fan of McDonalds, Burger King, or KFC.
As I adjusted to the more casual pace of Los Angeles, I actually began to sit while lunching, and I hence discovered my then-new favorite place to do lunch – Fred Segal on the corner of Melrose Avenue and Crescent Heights. To this NYer, Fred Segal’s excellent Italian restaurant was a taste of New York bustle infused with a huge amount of Los Angeles. And having lived in Milano, Italy for nearly two years, I’m a bit of an Italian food snob, so when I say that Mauro’s is good, it really is.
When I’m in town, I can usually be found there a few times a week, sitting on the outside covered patio digging into a fresh fruit salad and perfectly dente penne arrabbiata. Their sautÃ©ed combination vegetable dishes, broccoli/ asparagus/ mushroom, for example, are also terrific. The veggies snap in the yummy rigatoni primavera, and though I did once get sick from the spaghetti with tiger shrimp, it too was ambrosial.
Of course, Fred Segal is also a high-end conglomerate of fabulous boutiques that attract fashion cognoscenti and fashion victims from mostly NY and Los Angeles. That’s one of my favorite things about the place – it’s NOT touristy in the Disneyworld sense. And that’s what also attracts the stars, who are ogled much more discreetly in this stargazing Mecca. Indeed, the last time I sat in the full-service restaurant with a talent manager friend, Salma Hayek was at the next table – I didn’t notice, of course
Guest blogger: photographer/writer, and airplane pilot extraordinaire (and old junior high school friend) Jeff Berlin.
In a little nook on the periphery of Astor Place, you’ll find a teeny tiny little place that you might walk past even if you were looking for it (as I have, many a time), were it not for the wisely installed bright flags with Japanese writing on either side of it’s narrow front. It’s not a sit-down place. In fact, you’ll be lucky to find standing room on a cold day. But it’s yummy. It’s “Japanese comfort food,” as the little sign inside says. If you don’t mind rubbing elbows, stand inside. There’s a bench outside that seats three strangers, or four friends.
The thing you want to appreciate is that this is the Japanese equivalent of hot dogs or knishes. In Japan, you’ll find this food at the outdoor markets. I know, because I’ve had “Takoyaki” there myself. What is Takoyaki? They are defined at Otafuku as “octopus balls.” Who am I to say different? You get six, with some dark savoury sauce and a dollop of mayo as a topping (they ask you how much you want before they dollop it), finished off with a sprinkling of bonito shavings. The light pastry outside contrasts with the hot, creamy inside, and the little chunk of octopus you’ll find, usually on the second (and final) bite of each “ball.” You can even watch them being made on their little rolling, vibrating grill in the window. If octopus balls don’t tempt you, go for the cheese or plain versions.
Other warm, comforting snacks include the well-known Yakisoba, and the lesser known, but no less soothing to a hypoglycemic 4 o’clock zombie, Okonomiyaki. Otafuku is also one of the only places that won’t cost you an arm and a leg and take an hour and a half if you’re hungry in the neighborhood. Have a snack there while you wait for Decibel (my favorite sakÃ© bar) to open, just down the block, at basement level.
236 East 9th
(Image: carolita johnson)
The other day, a self-assured, infinitely likable, well-traveled person confided in me that the thing he hates about dining out alone is that “They treat you like a leper, and they always give you a dark table where you can’t even read a book!”
I was immediately intrigued by his use of the word “leper,” which I realized I’ve rarely heard employed outside attempts to describe the experience of dining out alone! Upon reflection, and after trying to imagine anyone treating this eminently respectable person like a leper (try as I might, to no avail), I am quite convinced that the only person making the lone diner feel like a leper is… the lone diner! It has simply never happened to me anywhere, nor have I ever seen anyone regard a lone patron as a leper when I worked in restaurants myself. Perhaps you think I simply never perceived the obvious pity in so many maitre d’s, and you blush to think of my obliviousness to shame? I’ve never wanted to say “pshaw” before, but here I really must emit a hearty, “Pshaw!”
Fifteen years of living in various kitchenless rooms in Paris with nothing but a “Camping Gaz” burner and one small pot to cook my meals in, and a bathtub with a plank of wood over it for a table—forced me to overcome my initial embarrassment and become an inveterate, well-received, lone diner. I will therefore share my expertise with you.
Besides arriving with just the right amount self-confidence (not too much, but not too little) and a smile (rather than an apologetic plea for mercy on your face), another key to being treated accomodatingly, if not lavished with positive attention, is to keep going back. If you’re on the road and this isn’t likely to happen, be pleasant and project the image of a person who’ll leave a nice, 20% tip: keep in mind that one person occupying a table will invariably result in a lower tip spread over two seats than a couple would yield.
It may add to your comfort level to be aware that most hostesses or maitre d’s do not object to the custom most lone diners observe of not dallying overly long at their tables. Restaurant staff will also usually give preference to regulars—lone or not—over strangers, even when the place is crowded and fully booked. I’ve been a hostess, and I know the importance of regulars to a restaurant’s survival. We were admonished at the CafÃ© Costes (where I worked illegally for a summer) never to turn a regular away.
As for the dreaded dark table, it’s likely all the well-lit tables have already been reserved, or perhaps all the tables are rather badly lit. If you want to read, opt for bright establishments, or favor sushi bars, Japanese noodle bars, and diner counters. That said, I’ve been given extra candles upon pulling my book out at my favorite, rather dimly lit Tibetan restaurant without even having to ask.
What will people think? Whether people imagine you’re a sad sack whom nobody wants to dine with, or assume you’re simply treating yourself to a tranquil dinner temporarily relieved of your usual adoring retinue comes down to one thing: the expression on your face. Indeed, I’m sure I’ve caught socially encumbered diners coveting my solitude.
Finally, the whole point of going to a restaurant is to be served. You’re meant to enjoy it the way you’d enjoy a massage or a hard-earned vacation. I’ve noticed we Americans seem to have a proclivity for feeling guilty when served. Not so me, ever since I understood this: you are paying for this privilege! You’re contributing to the economy! As long as you are a gracious patron, you have nothing to feel guilty about, except for not enjoying it enough!
I used to go Bus Stop whenever I was in the neighborhood, mainly because it was convenient and because one of my favorite movies has the same name. Perhaps because I never ordered anything but bacon and eggs, I never thought to do a T4One on it. Before you get to know Bus Stop, it seems to be the usual, run of the mill “greasy spoon,” but in fact, I’ve never actually seen a greasy spoon at Bus Stop: they’re impeccably clean as far as I can tell.
Yesterday, having forgotten to eat my lunch, I arrived seeking a remedy to my hunger pangs and lightness of head. Sitting at the counter I spied what looked like a tray of perfectly cooked and seasoned roast chicken with broccoli. The short order chef (no doubt feeling my eyes boring through his head as I tried to get his attention and ask about it) turned to ask the usual question: “French Toast with bacon?”—I’d been eating a lot of French Toast with bacon in the last weeks because I’d lost weight (a no-no in the fittings business, if you can imagine such an ironic misfortune!). No, not this time, I grinned, as he feigned shock. I went for the special. It was $6.95, and the roasted salmon next to it was $8.95, looking just as come-hithery.
My roast chicken came (hither) with rice and beans, and a few stalks of bright green, just crunchy enough broccoli. The chicken was tender, the skin nicely roasted, transparent, supple, and bronzed. I’m not sure if they added the extra leg just for me (diner folks seem to enjoy overfeeding me), or if you’ll also get two legs, instead of just one, and a thigh. I’m fairly sure you can ask for white meat, if you prefer it. As far as white rice with red beans goes, it’s made by and for people who know how it should be done.
Today I had perfectly done grits with my fried eggs and sausage, but I usually have it with home fries, which I invariably finish. That means they’re not dry and cakey, like at some other diners. But I’ve said before that what makes a diner is the people: here, we have convivial Greek owners who speak perfect Spanish (who yet appreciate a cheerful “kalimera” now and then), and extremely affable Spanish-speakers, working together like a well-greased pit-stop team (and sometimes at the same pace).
The two languages are semi-interchangeable, with the Spanish-speakers pitching an occasional jesting “malaka,” and Kosta rattling off prices and menu items in Spanish. As is the coffee: there is cafÃ© hispanico, and cafÃ© americano. The Spanish coffee is better, of course. Being made with half and half, I believe, it is not good for you. But it is delicious.
Even worse for you and more delicious is their homemade flan, which is worthy of buying, repackaging at home, and pretending you made it yourself for your friends. Hehehehehe.
Last apparent endorsement: the cops eat here (burgers, usually), as does the very cool, rastafarian mailman.
Bus Stop Restaurant
on the corner of 135th and Broadway
(take the 1 train to 137th street station).
Feeling ugly? Go to Tomo!
All kidding aside (and explanation forthcoming), I went to Tomo once, this past summer, on the recommendation of my friends at Takahachi Tribeca. But I was not inclined to give it a review in T4One, because I’d gone on a Friday night, and been surrounded by collegian daters, all rather annoying. I gave it another try last night, because it’s only a few subway stops from home, and I’d decided I needed to treat myself to some sushi to cure my blues after paying a photographer nearly six hundred dollars to try and make me look like a model. (My agency has insisted that I need to cave and get what they call a “comp card.” This is essentially a 4×8 card with several cheeseball photos of a model posing in different outfits, trying to look marketable. Somehow, there’s nothing more depressing than trying to pass yourself off as marketable, based on photos of your face and body in different unreal situations, taken by a guy who’d much rather be shooting Halle Berry for a cover for “Vogue.”)
So after slowly and fitfully beginning to recover my dignity (and my own, more merciful self-image) at home for a couple of hours, I ran to Tomo. And voila, on a Sunday night: much more cozy. Read the rest of this entry »
That’s me in the mirror. And just in case you doubt it, this story has a happy ending.
In a bid to furnish my new apartment, I made the journey on the free shuttle from Port Authority to Ikea yesterday. I came back burdened with just enough stuff to make me very, very sorry that the 1 train route suddenly developed “signal problems” at 96th street, spitting me out 30 blocks and two buses away from home. Starving, my muscles aching as I strained to hold onto three heavy wooden venetian blinds, a backpack and giant tote of indispensable doodads I’d spent too much money on, I climbed up the stairs to the street and asked a man walking a fat black labrador (which is how I knew he was a local) where the closest diner was. He pointed me to Key West Diner.
Having spent the last two weeks breakfasting, lunching, and even dining at my local diner (which I’ll review next week), I’ve grown to see the diner as the weary artist’s refuge and solace. At my diner, the greek owner calls me “kukla.” So what if the eggs are a different price every day? They know how to make a girl feel at home-away-from-home.
So I pulled open the first door to the Key West Diner seeking similar hospitality. As I struggled with it, the manager, a portly man with a goatee, watched me from not four feet away on the other side of the second door. He took a half-hearted step forward, then changed his mind and let me struggle towards the second door as he leaned back against the counter of the cashier. As I proceeded to wrestle with this door, he looked as if he might yet come hold it open for me, but again changed his mind and stayed put. When I was finally inside, I was peeved.
“Thank you,” I said, “You’re so helpful.”
“What did you say?” he shot back, apparently expecting me to back down. Read the rest of this entry »
I was walking west on 38th street, on my way to the Ramen King when I noticed Lazarra’s sign. It rang a bell. Could it be the obscure, garmento upstairs pizzeria Owen Phillips had once reviewed for The New Yorker’s Tables for Two? I wasn’t sure, so I went up the stairs and took a peek, and sure enough it was. I couldn’t resist the urge to review a Tables for Two subject for a Tables for One.
It was dark, nearly romantic inside, and empty except for a few odd people dining at a table by the window. I spotted a counter and asked if I could sit there and have a slice of pizza. The nearly flustered (but not quite) waitress offered me a table instead, but I insisted on the counter and she conceded to my wishes. I ordered a slice, to which she responded by showing me the way they make their pizzas at Lazzara’s: they only do “sicilian” style, square cut pizzas.
But they’re not your usual “sicilian” slices. They’re not two inches thick and doughy. Lazzara’s pizza prides itself for being “New York’s best thin crust pizza.” A slice is nearly flat, and arrives looking like a very pretty enameled glossy jewel-like square. The crust is very crunchy, and if you get a corner piece (with edges of crust) you have to be careful how you bite into it, or you’ll hurt yourself, but it’s worth taking the care, as it’s delicious. The pizza, which Owen had reported was the only thing they did well, was done well. In fact, if I hadn’t realized I only had three dollars in my wallet, I’d have had one more.
A square “sicilian” at Lazzara’s, about four by six inches, makes a good snack and will cost you $2.00. Plus tip!
Lazzara’s Pizza CafÃ©
221 West 38th Street (upstairs)
(between 7th & 8th aves.)
It’s hard for me to believe I’m doing a Tables for One on MacDonald’s. I actually used to cry when my parents announced they were going to “treat” me and my brothers to lunch at MacDonalds. All I wanted was a nice big salad. Yes, I was a strange kid, and my mother assumed I was anorexic for having such discerning taste buds, but being picky did wonders for my cholesterol levels later in life.
Alas! MacD’oh (as they say in France) has finally figured out what people like me will break down for. The “Snack Wrap” is a savory, warm snack with nearly every ingredient of a good meal (according to the old food pyramid: protein, carbs, greens, dairy) for a dollar twenty-five ($1.40 with tax). It’s small, it’s warm, it has the appearance of something healthy, with it’s simple flour tortilla, salad, and light sprinkling of cheese. In fact, it would be healthy if the chicken finger inside it weren’t deep fried. (I’m hoping the success of it may inspire them to come out with a broiled chicken version.) Deep fried or not, it’s not as greasy as the rubbery, heartburn-inducing “MacNuggets,” which I used to opt for to avoid getting stuck with a hamburger on our family outings.
In fact, it’s very light-tasting and small, with only the slightest hint of a crunch from the chicken finger inside, and it’s easy to eat on the subway or office elevator (if you have the nerve to push all the buttons and maintain your innocence to anyone boarding after you). It’ll get you through the four o’clock hypoglycemic chasm. And it’s cheap (did I say it’s cheap?). But don’t overdo it, as I’m sure that even if it’s not the unhealthiest snack, it’s probably not the healthiest either.
If you know how to read such charts, you can find the nutritional value of the Snack Wrap here. (I can read, but the figures mean nothing to me! For example, 330 calories and 4.5 g of saturated fat, 30 cholesterol, etc: is that a lot?)
(Chez Gari, 370 Columbus Ave between 77th and 78th Streets)
Have you ever walked into a restaurant, sat down, looked at the menu, met the eyes of your waiter, and realized it was way too expensive for your budget, yet somehow found yourself glued to your seat by pride?
It won’t happen to you chez Gari, now that I’ve warned you. It happened to me there, though! I was sauntering down Columbus Avenue after a long walk through Central Park, feeling a bit peckish, remembered I’d seen Gari reviewed in TNY’s Tables for Two, and went in on an impulse. Once I realized I was paralyzed by indecision in my chair, I obeyed another impulse and decided to make the most of it, or the least of it, or maybe both. I pretended I only wanted a snack and ordered an appetizer, one roll, and a small hot sakÃ© (when in doubt, order hot sakÃ©, it’s always the cheapest sakÃ© in the house, since it’s a waste to heat up a fine sakÃ©).
The duck salad appetizer was actually rather bland, even though it purported to contain jalopeÃ±o. To be fair, I did get a hint of it later on, as an aftertaste. But bland as it was, it was still somehow rather pleasing, maybe because the duck was nice and tender, and because the salad portion was actually rather copious by Japanese restaurant standards. It led me to suspect it had been conceived for the rather conservative taste buds of non-sushi eaters who would inevitably be brought to Gari by their sushi-loving dates.
I ordered my one favorite personal sushi comfort-food: a salmon-skin handroll, which was light and crispy, the lightest I’d ever experienced. The chef’s special sushi selection passed through my line of vision on its way to a table (I was sitting at the sushi bar), and I noticed a very beautiful, jewel-like piece of sushi beckoning to me. I asked my waiter, who was handing me l’addition, what it’s name was, and was told something I absolutely cannot remember! But I do remember it was tuna, marinated Korean-style, and it was delicious. The chef was kind enough to make me a miniature version of it, compliments of the house.
To complete my dinner, I went home, a little lighter of wallet, slightly tipsy, and made my own cold Japanese buckwheat noodles, sprinkled with hand-roasted (my hands roasted them) sesame seeds, and shredded Nori on top. (Total value of this home-cooked side dish: probably about two dollars or less, once you divide the cost per ration of the noodles, the sesame seeds, and the Nori.)
All in all, not a bad experience for what might have turned into a night of financial chagrin. There was no discomfort in being alone at the sushi bar, though the leather seat, molded over time into two concave buttock-bowls by other people’s derrieres, was a little unnerving at first. I was there on the early side, before it got too crowded, and everyone was absolutely kindly and cordial, probably thinking I was just another Upper West Side chick on a diet. I recommend Gari for an Upper West Side, civilised experience anytime you’ve got the financial wherewithal to splurge, or if you have more self-restraint than cash and only want a little snack for around $50.
If you go there, tell me if I imagined the “Chez Gari” on the window. (Nobody calls it “Chez Gari,” but I could swear I saw the “chez” !)
370 Columbus Ave., New York, NY 10024
near 77th St.
Angelina. (Photo by Jeff Berlin)
The best time to be in Paris is in August. Why? Because almost everybody is on vacation, leaving the place wide open to tourists like you, or to the antisocial residents (like I once was) who love the desolation of their own little abandoned-by-the-neighbors neighborhoods, and who you’re not likely to run into at Angelina’s.
Angelina’s, on rue de Rivoli (metro Concorde, Tuilleries, or Palais Royal—they’re all so very close together) has the best hot chocolate, next to Les Deux Magots, on Boulevard St-Germain. The difference is in the clientele. If you want to see lots of fancy-shmancy tourists as well as whatever fashionistas are in town, Angelina is for you. If you’re in town during fashion week, you’ll wait a long time for a table, but you may see a celebrity, an overrated designer or photographer or two, and that’s always amusing. Best of all, nobody in their right mind ever feels awkward sitting alone in any cafÃ© or restaurant in Paris. It’s done all the time, or as they say in France, Ã§a se fait!
Look at that hot chocolate. It’s almost like melted chocolate pudding, nice and thick. My friend Jeff Berlin* took that photo while he was in Paris recently. He’s the kind of guy who can’t go anywhere that isn’t preapproved or potentially approvable by The Beautiful People I prefer to avoid because I know them too well. I call him “princess.” (He did used to call me “Apeface Johnson” in Junior High School, so I can be excused, can’t I?). To feel like you’re part of it all and mingle with the smart set, just because now and then one should, try Angelina. If you find the atmosphere too rarified and snooty, that hot chocolate will make you forget it.
Now, just so you don’t say I didn’t warn you, the above snack set Jeff back by about 10 euros. That’s the price you pay for being a princess! But who says you can’t be princess for a day?
226, rue de Rivoli
01 42 60 82 00
*Stay tuned for Jeff’s guest appearances in “Tables for One: On the road special editions,” TK.
Almost home-made. Maybe better.
Tables for One isn’t just about eating out alone for one’s pleasure. It’s also about necessity. This week, we’re dealing with The Summer Cold. But winter or summer, if you come down with a debilitating cold, there are many reasons you may find yourself stranded alone and foodless (or with nothing but junk) at home. For one reason or another there may be no one to bring you some chicken soup, or you’ve run out of cash to tip the delivery boys. Below you’ll find a list of ingredients to keep on hand for such emergencies, as well as a list of easy to find ingredients you can buy on your way home from work to make your own very deliciously nourishing and easy to make cold/flu soup treatment. And you can make it in about the same amount of time—or less—as it would take to wonder what you want to eat, order it, and wait for it to be delivered.Read the rest of this entry »
The view when you’re coming from the beach, past the playground on the left, and the rehabilitated Mr. Softee truck on the right.
After a day of bikini-watching (male and female bikinis) at Brighton Beach, you might work up an appetite. And if you’ve watched the sun set, or simply disappear behind some clouds, you might even hanker for something warm. I have just the place. It’s between the beach and Brighton Beach Avenue, on a side street called Brighton 2, midway between Ocean Parkway station and Brighton Beach station.
Look at the photo above. The name of the place is Varenichnaya, and the word on the side of the yellow awning is “Varieniki” (in Russian letters, no, not “Bapehuku!”). My friend Elena says this about the name:
“Technically, varenichnaya is a place where they serve varieniki (varieniki is another word for pelmeni or certain sort of pelmeni)”
Both varieniki and pelmini are a type of ravioli or dumpling. Varieniki usually contain only vegetables, and pelmini (apparently of Siberian origin) will usually contain potatos and beef. Both are served, at Varenichnaya, with beautifully caremelized onions spread like lace over them, and they will literally melt in the mouth, testifying to how freshly made the homemade the pasta envelope around your beef or vegetables is.
You can accompany your varieniki or pelmini with other Russian specialties, such as a refreshing compote, which is basically homemade fruit punch with some fruit (cooked) at the bottom of your glass, which I find makes a fine dessert when you’ve finished. The homemade Russian soups are satisfyingly hot, but not the best my friend Elena has ever tasted. (For soups, I’ll post another T41.) Elena also thinks the management is a little rude, but being less sensitive I found them sufficiently civilised myself. (Basically, if you feed me, I will think you’re nice, even if I have to pay you.)
Once you’ve warmed up and appeased the growling gods in your stomach by throwing some russian dumplings into it, you might enjoy a walk. Read Paul Berger on the traditional Russian promenade on the boardwalk. It’s just as pleasant after dinner, and if you’re not on a budget and don’t need to get home sober, you might also stop somewhere along your promenade for a nice shot of vodka before you take the subway home.
And yes, I realize I didn’t go alone, I went with my trusty friend and translator Elena. But Read the rest of this entry »
You must think I have noodles for brains by now, with all these ramen posts in my T41’s! But you can never have enough ramen joints in a city! Ramen (when it’s not the kind you simply add water to in your office kitchen), real ramen, is healthy, fast, hot, and not as easy to find when you need it as it should be.
So when I was cutting across town to meet a friend at Penn Station (late, as ever), and spotted the Ramen King on 38th Street near 8th Avenue, my stomach growled a little. It growled, “Let him wait.” So I ran in, and ordered the basic: miso ramen. It was perfect, in a classic way. Not innovative (so annoying, those innovative miso ramens!), and perfectly up to par with it’s relatives in Tokyo, with its pinch of slivered red ginger on top. I had to run, so I poured a little into a styrofoam cup and grabbed some chopsticks so I could finish it on my way to Penn Station.
On my next visit, I tried the “Miso Veggie,” the nickname of Miso Ramen with Vegetables uptown at Sapporo (only the waiters call it “miso veggie” as they yell it to the chef). It was, again, perfectly classic. The only difference between the Ramen King and Sapporo’s “miso veggie” is that there’s no cabbage (a little more spinach and wakame instead), and the subtle bite of the red ginger. Otherwise, in quality and deliciousness, they are equals.
Pricewise, a little cheaper, about $6.50 for a typical bowl of ramen or udon. They also have little tubs of kimchi, and japanese desserts in a fridge for you to take out or eat on site. For the kid in you, there’s Calpico (an indescribable, but well-loved drink savored by little Japanese kids everywhere. And me.)
Perfect before or after getting on a train at Penn Station or Port Authority.
As usual, I started eating before it occured to me to snap a pic. This “miso veggie” contains miso soup, noodles, spinach, wakame seaweed, soy sprouts, corn, shredded carrots, scallions, and red ginger.
237 West 38th Street (near 8th Ave).
Hours: 11:30am – 8pm M-F
(closing 7pm Saturdays, and closed all day Sunday)
This photo is borrowed from their own website, whose link is below.
This one was easy, and thank goodness, because I have three jobs at the moment, and barely enough time to write about what I eat. Aceluck Thai! Recommended to me by fellow artist-slash-telemarketers (albeit high-class ones, after all, the National Symphony Orchestra isn’t exactly the Fuller Brush Company), I spent an hour’s pay on my dinner there on my first day of work with them, and kept going back for the Tom Yum because it was the only thing that helped my allergies last month.
It’s in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s got that railroad car, cozy, narrow feel that I love in a little treasure of a restaurant, and it’s green inside, which reminds me of all of my favorite things. My perfect meal: the Thai Spring Rolls, with a Tom Yum soup (I take it with tofu), and some Thai rice, a la carte, which add up to about $9.50. You don’t need more than that. But you can always have more, or maybe just some beer, wine, or sakÃ© with it. They’re also on the menu.
530 Ninth Avenue (Bet. 39th – 40th Street)
New York, New York 10018
Tel: 212 594.7083 / 212 594.7084
“Tempest in a tumbler,” image by carolita johnson.
Well, it was bound to happen some time. I got food poisoning. Or perhaps the stomach flu. Whichever it was, it laid me up the entire weekend with fever, chills, and a couple of tears of anguish at the precipatory moment when it hit me. Of course the entire weekend was spent trying to pinpoint the agent of the malaise. So let’s see…
It was either Lombardi’s Pizza (Nolita) Friday night, or MacDonald’s “Asian Salad,” Saturday night (don’t feel sorry for me, I was experimenting!) The thing that points to Lombardi’s is that at least one of the friends I dined with there also got sick, miles away in upstate NY. To be fair to Lombardi’s it could also have been beer glasses possibly not cleaned well enough at The Magician on Rivington and Essex, where we fellow New Yorkers had previously celebrated Owen Phillips as he moves on to Men’s Vogue and starts wearing ties. Come to think of it, perhaps Owen himself was the carrier of the bug (he does have kids, and kids are well known for pestiferously carrying and breeding annoying diseases) (not to say they’re walking germ-bags), and he naturally distributed and received many potentially germ-propagating hugs that evening. Hmmmm.
But why play the blame game? I woke up with no more fever today, weighing about the same, and have just been called to urgently sub for a size 6 model who became a size 4 from grief over the weekend after being dumped by her fiancÃ©e. I’ll be making good money while she eats her way back to good fortune. So all is forgiven, whoever it was.
I maintained my fighting weight by eating my friend Juan Pittaluga’s Uruguayan version of “chicken soup for the miserably sick”: uncooked rice sauteed with plenty of onions and several dashes of oregano, then boiled in lots of water till it becomes a liquidy porridge. A light squeeze of lemon adds a Greek “avgolemono” touch and augments the oregano aroma, if you’re stomach isn’t too jumpy.
Till next Monday!