SOBA. That's the answer to my not-very-serious question. See that guy up there in his little possibly sound-proof (but hopefully not air-tight) box? He's cutting soba. Soba-making is an insane process and by putting that guy in the spotlight, the restaurant reminds us of that (or maybe it's a threat; "make us angry and we'll put you in the box"). Hell, I have problems using a pasta machine. The machine rolls and cuts! THE MACHHIIIINNEEE!
Melody and I ordered the early dinner set ($16), which included savory egg custard, soba (hot or cold), a tempura medley, and broccoli rabe. I had gone to the restroom while the waiter bought us the egg custards. He waited until I came back to take the lid off the cup, which I found very thoughtful. The egg custard was pretty hot so it may have benefited from airing out for a minute, but still. HE UN-LIDED THE CUSTARD! How nice. I loved the little wooden spoon that came with the custard. As for how the custard tasted, it tasted like...savory Japanese egg custard. I've had it before so I can't think of a new way to describe it. Eggy. Light. Subtle. With little crab bits dispersed throughout and pieces of green things every now and then. I wouldn't crave it, but it's good stuff.
Ahhh, time to be soba-fied. The soba was flat and thin with a light flavor. Of course, it was delicious; I'm not sure what else to say about it. I rarely eat soba so I don't have much to compare it to. The broccoli rabe was in a sesame-something sauce that we couldn't identify, aside from the sesame part. Something bitter?
I rarely eat tempura, but I don't know why. It's fried! FRIES EQUATES TO TASTINESS! l like tastiness! Why don't I eat more tempura? Once reason may be because two of the main tempura-ed foods are vegetables and shrimp. I'm not a huge fan of shrimp and although I like deep fried vegetables, to me that kind of defeats the purpose of eating a vegetable. "Hi, previously semi-healthy food! I just rolled you in batter and fried you in a vat of oil! NOW YOU ARE NUTRITIONALLY USELESS! But crispy and flavorful!"
Sure is. I loved every piece of tempura. The chile was new to me (tasty; duh it's fried) as was the fish. Shove in a ginormous shrimp, eggplant, and slice of squash, and you've got some...very tasty things. I've underestimated the power of tempura. It's a delicate version of frying; no heavy oily taste or batter. You almost don't feel guilty eating it all. Almost.
Yeah, we cleaned up good.
EDIT (1/17/06): I forgot to mention that we were each given a little pitcher of soba water at the end of the meal. My first thought was, "Cool!" before the horrification set in that I had no idea what to do with the water. So. We didn't use it. Of course, google came to the rescue and from tastingmenu.com I got this bit of info:
You take the soba water and pour it into the teacup with the excess sauce, mix it up, and drink it. Crazy! But delicious. It makes a perfect "after-soup". The starchy water perfectly balanced and was brightened by the deep dark flavor of the sauce. With it's protocol of eating every last drop, soba may be one of the world's perfect foods.
CRAZY...DELICIOUS. I should've looked up what to do after my first encounter with soba water at Sobaya, but I forgot. ALAS, NO MORE. Next time I'm dumping the soba water into the tsuyu cup. ...That's what you do, I suppose? I don't think I had another cup to mix them together in. Uh. Yeah. So. That sounds yummy.
Even though I had plenty of desserts from that day of hoarding sweets, my mouth spoke before my brain could show any sign of restraint and I ended up ordering their black sesame pudding. LOOK AT THAT BEAUTY! [grabs your head and points it towards the monitor] This is good stuff. The pudding is not runny or gloppy like some puddings (not that I have anything against that texture) and is kind of mousse-esque in its stability, but even more so, just by a little (it's not fudgey and it ain't Jell-O). Not too light, not too sweet, a little grainy (from the sesame seeds, I suppose), and has a medium amount of sesame flavor (as in, not faint, but not too strong; someday I'll come up with a better way to describe it). I wouldn't have minded if it were sweeter, but I still loved it. ;)
Diana spent a few hours in my dorm filming me preparing a loaffin (muffin batter baked in a loaf pan) for one of her class projects. After such a grueling session of stuffing ourselves with loaffin, we went out for dinner at Doyers Vietnamese, which is on...DOYERS STREET. My god, did you see that coming? I hope so. Doyers Street is the length of a paperclip (albeit, am ungodly large paperclip) so you should have no trouble finding this place.
Since there weren't photos on the menu and I'm a moron without visual or extensive written descriptions, I had no idea what to get. I also wasn't that hungry (because of the excessive loaffin) so I let Diana order whatever caught her eye. We had this vegetable crepe, which was ABSOLUTELY GINORMOUS, and surely a good deal at around $6. It came with raw lettuce leaves, mint leaves (um...I'm not sure, correct me if I'm wrong), pickled carrots, and cooked mung bean sprouts. The crepe was super-thin, crisp, and eggy, with bits of mushroom and maybe other stuff I can't remember mixed in. Although I didn't know the "right" way to eat this, I really liked it. I figure you just rip pieces off and put in whatever filling you want? Someone needs to teach me how to eat Vietnamese food. EDIT (1/17/06): Helen commented that you wrap stuff in the lettuce leaves, rather than the crepe. That does make more sense. Doh!
Also per Diana's request was this lemongrass salmon, which was really tasty (using the useless word "tasty" goes against everything I learned in my food journalism class...oops). We both agreed that we rarely eat salmon in Asian restaurants, although we don't know why. During my childhood, salmon was the main fish we ate at home to the point that I got majorly sick of it. I've gone long enough without it to appreciate its ...um, salmon-ness once again. The lemongrass flavor was faint, but it gave a nice touch and I've never had it with salmon before. I was a big fan of the tangy ginger sauce and the vinegar-y (I'm not very familiar with Vietnamese cuisine so jump in if you know the ingredients) celery salad that came with the salmon. We were also give a large bowl of rice, which was a ridiculous amount for two people (I think we ate half of it). If you want rice, get a small size. The final bill was about $20. Mmmmm.
So, that baking thing. Well. I don't usually bake (haven't done it in my dorm yet this school year) because I will eat everything. Really. (You read the garbage can entry, I assume.) The end result of me stuffed with carbs, unable to move, moaning, "Why did I do that?" while crumbs lay on my chin and fall onto my sweater is not a pretty one. Hell, throw in some drool and slurred speech...yes, now that's more disturbing. However, I shared the end result (Chocolate Chip Muffins; very good, I recommend it) with Diana and Mary, meaning I DID NOT EAT THE ENTIRE PAN OF MUFFINY GOODNESS, even though I would have loved to. At least, the masochistic part of me would've loved to. The part that likes the feeling of near-explody-ness. That freak.
Ain't that a beaut? I didn't have a muffin pan but hey, no one said you needed to use one. Or maybe they did and now I'll be on a "Most Wanted" list and be forced to live as a subversive muffin-baking vagrant.
I used my roommate's pan and it worked beautifully. My main concern was that the center wouldn't be fully cooked, but it came out fine. I used two of the New Tree chocolate bars I received from Bea for "A Menu for Hope which was about half of what the recipe called for. If you use the full amount, you'll get some crazily chocolate-filled muffins. I also threw in chopped hazelnuts since that's what I had on hand (Diana and I combined our kitchens for the ingredients; all we needed was baking powder, so now I have a fresh container of baking powder that I'll probably never need again). The muffin recipe is freakishly easy so I'd recommend you try it, unless you're like me and can eat five gazillion muffins.