The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Rai Rai Ken and a delicious blob

Rai Rai Ken

If you live in/around NYC, then you'll know that yesterday felt blood-freezing (which I guess also means ...human freezing) cold. You know that feeling you get in your hands when it's cold and you're walking around and your hands absorb the cold and you can't feel your hands because it's cold but then you go to a warmer place and your hands regain some feeling after the aforementioned cold numbingness, but instead of feeling like normal hands, they feel kinda (WARNING: fake word up ahead) spingly like a hand transplant gone wrong? Yeah? ...No? Nevermind.

Last night I met up with Janet at Rai Rai Ken, a small Tampopo-esque ramen house in the East Village. Pulling from my feeble knowledge as opposed to doing online research (because I'm lazy and I don't want to stray from the non-academicness of this blog), ramen is one of many foreign foods, in this case from China, that Japan has adapted to the point that its synonymous with Japanese cuisine (some other popular Japanese foods or foreign origin: curry, tempura, and...omu-raisu, whose name I love for some reason). It wouldn't be strange then that a ramen house should have Chinese decorations (although much more pleasing ones than just about any Chinese place I've been to, harhar).


That's not an example of Chinese influence. That's butter. I like butter. No, I didn't go for the extra butter, but someday, who knows...I might just go for it. That'll be the "wild and crazy Robyn", the one who will do such "wild and crazy things" like garnishing my noodles with fat of bovine origin. Anyway, back to the Chinese thing.

Chinese tea pot
Chinese-esque tea pot

Janet's green tea came in this kind of cute teapot. Kind...of. Cherubic, black hole-eyed kids with hands clasped, bowing to us as we pour our tea: freaky? I dunnoooo. Kindaaaa.

green tea

Whoa, they really put the "green" in "green tea" (and I suppose they put the "tea" in there also...because it's green tea...), and maybe a dash of "radioactive". We thought it looked pretty cool. "MAN, this tea is green." Yeah, we're easily amused. I thought the cup was cute, and oh so Chinese. If I could bottle up a Chinese design, that little cup would be a good representation. Actually, that's if I could cup a design. A bottle would be the same, but in bottle form.

...[twiddles fingers]...I'm just going to leave that last babbling paragraph in and move on. Treat it like roadkill on the highway; acknowledge it and forget it soon; you know you'll see more roadkill down the line anyway.


The seating is all along the kitchen, like sitting at a sushi bar...if the sushi bar had revolving seats bolted to the floor and didn't make sushi, but noodles. (So perhaps it's not really like a sushi bar; just work with me here.) The ceiling looks like layers of old newspapers randomly splodged down with red paint that's just opaque enough so that you can tell its newspaper, but can't actually read anything. The inability to read anything could also be due to a lack of upbringing in a household where everyone speaks Chinese, thus the assumption being that you would learn Chinese because, god, how could you not? It's so damn easy! Just memorize a bunch of tones that you can't differentiate and 100,000,000 characters that resemble stick formations on someone's tree-filled lawn after being hit by a typhoon and run over by a truck and you'll be able to converse with all your relatives, which come to think of it is what you'd rather not be able to do. (This is a roadkill moment. Movin' on...)


The menu is pretty easy to navigate...because there it is. The other side of the menu has appetizers but I came for ramen, dammit. Janet and I ended up both ordering from another menu...

special curry ramen

Ah, the one item menu: for customers who are beyond indesive and need to be told what to get. I thought about getting one of the regular non-curry filled dishes, but...nah, that would've been insane.

curry ramen
curry ramen bowl

An ample bowl full of curry-fied soup over long, yellow strands of ramen, topped with thinly sliced pork, half of a hard boiled egg, chopped scallions, and a sheet of dried seaweed makes for some happy, curry-splattered eating. Janet commented that the meat was salty, but I thought it was okay salt-wise (not that I thought it wasn't salty, just not alarmingly so...oh god, do I have tastebuds?). The noodles were just right and not "peculiar, mashy, attacked by wetness dough" soft, which I wouldn't like. Of course, I liked the soup since it was full of curry, which would tell you, if you like curry, you should like the soup (which you could've figured out yourself). Unlike the curry ramen soup I had at Men Kui Tei, which was more like curry sauce on top of the broth and noodles, Rai Rai Ken's curry sauce was completely mixed with the broth (the broth and the curry became ONE). Because of this, I figure the soup may have a little more body than the other non-curry ones.

We ate just about everything we could while avoiding the risk of tearing our stomach linings. So, what's next? Oh. OH. You know.

Tarallucci e Vino

We walked a few blocks to the cover of 10th Street and 1st Avenue to Tarallucci e Vino, an Italian cafe and bakery. I've passed it many times before but, like for many Italian bakeries, had never actually tried it. Gasp! Horror! BAKERY! I don't know why I'm not more drawn to Italian desserts or food in general, but I must be missing my brain. (Like...that big gray mass.) Since the mother nature was close to wonderfully preserving us in her deathly, frozen arms of cold hatred, we stayed inside the cafe and sampled two dichotomous desserts.

chocolate hazelnut cake
chocolate hazelnut cake

We both had our eyes on this chocolate cake, which had sat whole and pristine in the bakery case until we came by and destroyed its serenity. The waitress cut a chunk from its side to be presented to the two evil girls desiring chocolate decadence with no regard to the cake's feelings. "Where's mah chunk?" implored the cake, but no one listened, primarily because we couldn't understand cake language. ...And that we wanted to eat the cake. It's more the second reason than the first, but they're both pretty important.

We speared it with our forks ("Show no mercy, Janet, JUST GO FOR IT!"...okay, I didn't actually say that) and chewed. Our water levels immediately decreased by a few percent and we fainted from dehydration.

...This was one dry cake. It wasn't stale-dry, but inherently dry. Why would anyone bake a dry cake? It had so much going for it--chocolate, hazelnut, frosting, a steady job, a new home--but alas, no H2O. Where's the moistness? Where's the liquid content? Despite the dryness, we actually, almost all of it, which is just a testament to HOW VERY BADLY WE WANTED TO HONOR THIS CAKE, THIS CHUNK, THAT WE HAD BOUGHT OT FULFILL GLUTTONOUS CHOCOLATE DESIRES. OKAY? The frosting was great, like a mellow nutella (meaning you could easily eat more of it than you would nutella without feeling nauseous), but there wasn't enough. If the cake had been 50% frosting, maybe that would've saved it. And made us very sick.

panna cotta
panna cotta

But remember, we got two desserts. Ohhh yes. On the lowest part of the bakery case was a crowd of white, gelatinous blobs that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie involving Blobling overloads that descend upon helpless children and eat them for fuel for the journey back to the home planet. It was so unassuming and blobby I almost expected that, at this stage of it's life (the end of the gestation period), it would explode, unleashing a new army of terrorizing Bloblings.


Of course, it was just panna cotta. BUT NOT JUST ANY! NOOO! UBER DELICIOUS PANNA COTTA. I may have only had panna cotta once or twice in my life, but this one defitely beat them out of the water. Or something. That doesn't sound like the right saying. How about: this one totally shot them in the heads and beat them with sticks a few times, then kicked them in the groins? Yeah. This was really tasty. Everything was just right: sweetness, texture, vanilla (quite real I think, judging from the taste and the little piles of vanilla beans around the perimeter) blob-ness. The little pool of strong raspberry sauce (well, a sauce-ish substance) in the center was a welcome accompaniment, and I'm not even a huge fan of raspberries. As you can see from the photo, the structure easily held up to a fork, but it was very soft, kind of like a mousse and Jell-O hybrid with a slight "skin" surrounding creeeaammy innards. Kind of like...humans!


So that was damn tasty. Go there now and hanf over $5 for DELICIOUS BLOB. At the same time, scold the cake, or dunk it in a bucket of water to rehydrate it.

gyu don
gyu don

If you're curious enough, I ate gyu don for lunch at Win 49. While Win 49 isn't that far from campus, I rarely go there; yesterday's visit was begat from having to go to the Mercury Lounge to buy five Stars tickets (YOU KNOW YOU WANNA COME, RIIIGHT?). Thus gyu don left me full all day while burping beefy aromas. I wouldn't say it's my preferred burpable aroma, but that's my fault for eating too quickly or having a stomach that doesn't like to digest gyu don. But it's so good! I love simple dishes like beef on rice. It's not much for the eyes but it still looks neat and cute, even just with the little garnish of pink pickled something-or-other on a plastic green "leaf". Gaah, I love Japanese food.


mzn / January 27, 2006 3:43 PM

Butter on ramen? Perhaps the restaurant is Asian by way of Wisconsin? Around here people but butter on everything, even hamburgers. But wouldn't butter just melt into a pool of grease on the surface of the soup? Is that good eats?

Shawn / January 27, 2006 4:31 PM

Thanks for the ramen house review! But, um, what is that translucent stuff on top of the gyu don? They look kind of like jelly worms.

mini / January 27, 2006 4:43 PM

yummy i love ramen ... especially miso ramen. can't figure out the obsession with the butter ...but i gotta try it one day. what's another slab of butter can't be worst than the dessert i consume !

Rebecca / January 27, 2006 5:13 PM

Maybe the cake was dry especially to work in tandem with a cup of I-talian espresso? Like... you dip your cake-laden fork into the coffee? It might be cool to dunk a slice of cake into your tea like it was a donut.

Kathy / January 27, 2006 5:19 PM

MMM...curry ramen is the ultimate comfort food! I've tried miso ramen with extra butter back home in Hawai and I must say - it's pretty damn delicious (if you don't consider all the extra fat you're ingesting).

Melody / January 27, 2006 7:01 PM

I think Italians just have a thing with dry cakes and cookies and breads and so on. I mean, biscotti, hello. Heh. But they do do creamy desserts well, yep.

Julia / January 28, 2006 6:45 AM

I think the cake was dry 'cause making cakes is not an Italian talent. I mean, it's not like a tradition in any Italian city I know, and there aren't any regional dishes that have Chocolate Cake on the menu. On the other hand Panna Cotta - now they DO know how to make a good Panna Cotta. Even the NAME says it's Italian.

Julia (in Italy)

roboppy / January 28, 2006 1:29 PM

mzn: Whoa, maybe I should go to Wisconsin! BUTTERRR! I'll have to try butter + ramen to see if its good eats; I figure it would just melt into a grease pool, but maybe you mix it with the soup to make it all...buttery? Hmmmmm.

Shawn: The wormy stuff are chopped noodles made of konnyaku...I think. I think it's more for texture than taste, although they kinda just soak up the...meat taste.

mini: THE BUTTER DEMANDS TO BE TRIED! And nope, can't be worse than the gazillion desserts I eat already! Hehe.

Rebecca: That's a possibility. I love biscotti but I guess cookies aren't super-moist anyway (I don't eat them with coffee, hehe). Cake isn't as user-friendly when it comes to dunking into a cup like a cookie is though. Mrah!

Kathy: NOTHING CAN BEAT CURRYYY!...cos I love curry. So I guess the butter just makes it all the more fat-ilicious, in addition to the pork and whatnot already in the bowl? Mmm!

Melody: But I love biscotti! Mraaah. But I don't have much experience with eating Italian pastries so maybe they are all like that.

Ani: I hope you enjoy these places!

Julia: Ahh, someone living in Italy to get in on this debate! ;) So are Italian cakes like that or do Italians prefer them that way? this just an American thing? I've been to some Italian bakeries here that have a lot of cakes, but they're more like mousse cakes than flour-y cakes, so I guess they're not comparable.

Melody / January 28, 2006 8:13 PM

All the bakeries around here are Italian, so yeah. ;] Just about every non-biscotti cookie seems to have a dry, butter-cookie like base. Cannoli are crisp and hard. Biscotti are dry. Cakes are dry. I'm pretty convinced it's an Italian thing in general.

The dryness works for cannoli and biscotti. But the other cookies and cakes...not so much.

Oh, you like cheesecake right? I am so dying to try Italian cheesecake. They use either ricotta or mascarpone, and that sounds so nice and different, yum!

Julia / January 29, 2006 12:17 PM

In the list of traditional Italian desserts, cake is nowhere to be found. Biscotti (Tuscany), Tiramis� (Tuscany), Chocolate (Piemonte), Pandoro (Verona), Cannoli (Sicilia), Gelato (everywhere but mostly south with ices), Torrone (Cremona). Remember also that Italy has always been a "Poor" country, hence butter was not a main ingredient in anything and was reserved only for royalty and the rich.
They do make (everywhere) excellent pastries, Whenever I've seen them want to make a moist cake they always drown the thing with some sort of liquor to get it wet. Yuk! Oh, they're also good at making layered cakey stuff, like millefoglie...I'll pass on the cake cake though.
ps - Italian cheesecake doesn't exist. When you make a "cizcheik" it's considered an american thing (they shuddered when I told them I use Philadelphia for frosting), so substituting with Mascarpone or Ricotta is just cause they don't want to use a "foreign" cheese.

roboppy / January 29, 2006 6:27 PM

Liz: I hope you get your gyu-don fix! For my birthday I'd rather have....mmm...KATSU, SO MUCH KATSU!

Melody: Biscotti are the only Italian cookies I really like. :| I'm all about ginormous chewy chocolate chip cookies, hehe! Or...thin, crispy butter cookies. For some reason, I never got into cannolis. I think I'd rather just eat the cream, but I'm not even a big fan of that. For most of my life, my Italian dessert consumption has consisted of tiramisu and tartufo (I like tartufo more), although I doubt I've tried any as good as what you could find in Italy.

I'm actually not a big fan of cheesecake, not that I dislike them, but I'd rather eat...a plain ol' butter cake, ice cream, or cookies. :D

Julia: Thanks for the info! Out of those desserts I've never heard of pandoro before, but I googled it and it looks pretty tasty. Would that be the closest thing to cake? I'm not a fan of liquor-drenched stuff either, hence why I'm not very into tiramisu (besides the coffee-esque part, which I don't like), unless it's just cake and cream, in which case it's fine with me. :)

I had no idea about the cheesecake thing, although I probably should've since one of my classmates did a research paper/presentation on cheesecake. Since I'm stupid I don't recall much of what she said. Um. Well. I think I'd like the kind made with ricotta or mascarpone more than ones with Philly cream cheese if they're lighter. Most of the cheesecake I ate growing up though was the Japanese kind, which is really nothing like American cheesecake as it's super-light and there isn't much cheese in it.

Julia / January 31, 2006 1:06 PM

Pandoro (also Panettone): only eaten at Christmas where it's made into this tower-like monument. For Easter they make it again by giving it another name (Colomba = Dove) and shape (uh, dove shape). It's yeast based so it's really really light. You can eat half the Pandoro and not feel full at all...which I don't think is a good thing!

roboppy / February 1, 2006 9:17 AM

Julia: I'm not a big fan of Pannettone, but maybe I haven't had a very good one. I remember it being kinda like babka, not really light, nor heavy, but I definite'y couldn't eat a crapload without feeling full. I can eat an airy, crusty loaf of bread quite easily though. :D This columba sounds yummy...

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