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.
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.
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...
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.
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 that...um, 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.
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 something...in 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.
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 ate...um, 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.
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.
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.