Even though I usually label Japanese food as my favorite cuisine without a second thought (ignoring my dessert obsession, as Asian food doesn't usually rate high in my world of sweets), I don't eat it often. Considering how many Japanese restaurants there are in NYC (current count: a very huge crapload that could fill a very large bucket), my act of not frequenting Japanese restaurants is just moronic. To think, all those times I was eating non-Japanese food, I could've been eating...Japanese food. Why such pain, such horror, such anti-Japanese-ness?! WHAT WRATH HAVE I WROUGHT ON MY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM?! (Did that sentence make sense?)
...I dunno. Actually, my eating habits vary a lot (seriously, lately it's been all about chocolate and non-wheat products, and before that, perhaps just wheat products) and I do like to eat a variety of cuisines, usually within that huge continent called Asia where the food tastes unbelievably good, yet doesn't make most of the native people fat because over many generations they've acquired some skinny super-gene to protect them from the potential fattening capabilities of their delicious food, genes that suddenly disappear when you emigrate to a western nation and have babies that turn into obese 20-somethings (by Chinese standards).
I guess I'd avoid Japanese food because I had this impression that I could get something faster, cheaper, and more filling from somewhere else (that I look for such qualities would explain the weight gain). But if you haven't noticed, I don't usually eat typical fast and cheap college fare, such as sandwiches, pizza, and other marriages between wheat and something savory that aren't renown for their ease of digestibility. Sometimes I'll get sushi from a cold case in a market, but I've been disappointed with that kind of sushi lately, as each grain of rice, huddling close to his (or her; hell if I know) rice brethren, washes over in depressed...coldness. Because it comes in a cold case. (Were you expecting some other resolution? "And then the pickled ginger brandished a chopstick sword and skewered the rice grains out of their misery." That made no sense.)
Well. Screw that. You don't need a lot of time to go to a restaurant and get some freshly made sushi. Now that I know this, my sushi eating prowess is NEARLY UNSTOPPABLE! [cue bloodcurdling screams of vinegared sushi rice everywhere]
After possibly failing my Beverages midterm (it takes a spectacularly incompetant mind, such as mine, to mix up Bordeaux and Burgundy solely because they both begin with "B"), I headed towards Marumi (546 LaGuadia Place), a place I've been interested in trying out because...well, it's close by and it's Japanese. Its large, sleek, metallic sans-serif sign situated above a spacious window is welcoming and seeing the happy people (one could assume) comfortably sitting inside while munching away on platters of sushi also makes me want to be comfortably inside, munching away, ingesting various kinds of sea life and vegetation wrapped in sheets of rice and seaweed.
As the restaurant opened at noon, I had no problem getting a seat at 12:15 PM. Snuggled in the right corner of the sushi bar, I had a good view of...well, not much, but I could peer down the line of four sushi chefs and watch them prepare appetizers, ladle soup into bowls, arrange sushi, and broil fish all in this compact area. Note to self: if I can design my own itty bitty kitchen, model it after a sushi bar. Or buy a sushi bar and a personal chef. I guess that'd be the way to go, if I were rich enough.
Sidenote: I've just realized (because I have that aforementioned incompetent mind) that I've never seen a female sushi chef. [UPDATE: I found a female sushi chef in NYC...kinda. Apparently she's not there anymore.] Not that I can remember, at least (which doesn�t meant much; ask me what I did yesterday and you'll get a slow response). I know there are female sushi chefs, I just haven't seen them yet. Hm.
While lunch is the prime time when you can get a cute, inexpensive bento box partitioned into numerous sections of yummy food, I went for that magical roll I had a few days ago: ROLL OF SPIDER! I think that's a more dramatic name than "Spider Roll", yes? "What'd you eat, Robyn?" "You know, some soup, some Roll of Spider." "...Huh?" I love confusing people, whether intentional or not.
Since I'm rarely satisfied with just one roll of sushi, I also ordered uzaku, an unagi (eel) and cucumber salad, as an appetizer. Since I usually ignore appetizer menus, I've never noticed uzaku before, but I wanted to fulfill the never-ending unagi craving (and ever present gluttony) somehow.
The Japanese concept of a salad isn't like one most western people would be accustomed to. In my "Essentials of Cuisine" class (basically "Asian Cuisine"), we read an essay about Japanese cuisine that mentioned how salads aren't just chopped raw vegetables but small dishes of marinated cooked or raw foodstuffs, arranged in a simple and aesthetically pleasing manner as most Japanese food is. (We discussed how the Japanese way of displaying food is ironic because the goal of cutting pieces and positioning them in a specific ways is usually with the goal of making the food look "natural". For instance, a carrot slice can be made to look more "natural" by fashioning it into flower petals. I'm generalizing here but I think you get the idea. Of course, this attention to appearance that is both simple and complicated at the same time makes the experience of eating Japanese food so coveted. �ZOMG, THIS RADISH LOOKS LIKE A TULIP!�)
In my case, salad was a small bowl of a bed of thin cucumber and radish strands with a medley of seaweeds, covered with a shiso leaf and topped with three slices of grilled unagi, all marinating in a light, sweet vinegar and soy sauce mixture. The bowl was garnished with a slice of lemon and a mound of pale pickled ginger (none of that cotton-candy pink stuff). I daresay I could made this at home, but I probably won't since I wouldn't have use for all the ingredients (if I bought unagi and cucumber, I'd probably just eat them plain). Naturally, I enjoyed this dish--I ate all of it except for the lemon slice--because I'll eat almost anything with unagi in it. A salad essentially in the form of a few ingredients swimming in a vinegar soup is new to me. Even though vinegar gives my throat a burning sensation (washed away with gulps of hot green tea, which could induce another kind of burning), I thought it tasted good. I heard the spicy sashimi salad is particularly good, but not being a big fan of sashimi, I didn't go for it.
And now, the ROLL OF SPIDER! Unfortunately, since I've already eaten a roll of spider, I can only think of comparing it to the previous roll of spider eating experience: I didn't think it was as good as Izumi's, but it was still tasty. It just seemed...weaker. The fillings probably differed a little. The portion was also smaller (six pieces instead of eight), but the price was proportionally less so that's not much of a factor. The crab was crispier than Izumi's and there wasn't anything wrong with it. Overall, I just liked Izumi's more.
I was in and out of Marumi in half an hour, so if you have enough time you can get a fairly quick bite. It's best if you're a loner like me though; the tables filled up as I was there, but the sushi bar wasn't crowded. Final bill with tip was $14.50, not bad for a sit down meal with two dishes. Obviously, I wouldn't eat lunch by myself for that price very frequently, but when I go to a supermarket I tend to spent that much anyway, perhaps buying a few calorie and sugar-dense snacks or a chocolate bar (also calorie and sugar-dense). *cough* I think if I eat in a restaurant I'll spent more money on less food, which will at least ensure that I eat a smaller quantity of freshly prepared food than...
...heavily processed bars of fat, sugar, milk and cocoa beans. Oh. Chocs. ...
I'm talking about Japanese food, I think? Yeah. Um. Marumi! They've got lots of reasonably priced choices (besides the sushi, there are rice, noodle dishes, a variety of sushi and kitchen appetizers and sushi/bento lunch specials) and quick service in a warm, wood-accented, moderately sized space. I�m sure I�ll go back at some point.