I called. I texted. I attempted to use nonexistent telepathic powers. But there were no replies from Alex, my favorite vegetarian bundle of Parisian joy, who was supposed to arrive in New York City from Philadelphia at 4 p.m. last Friday. Initial worry turned to blissful unawareness as I lost sense of time, which is what usually happens when I'm at work. I swear that blogging and Internet surfing have the ability to speed up time. It's unsettling. You could be watching videos of cute kittens on YouTube for what feels like a few minutes and barely notice that the Earth has made one complete rotation.
Then I felt a tap from behind. Strange—we don't communicate with taps in the office. I turned around.
"OHMYGODALEX!" Insert squeal and mild heart-attack. Alex was right behind me (I'm assuming not for too long; that would've been odd), sporting a new, super short haircut, but the same bright smile and happiness-shooting eyes as always. Yes, they shoot happiness. Like pew, pew, pew, yay! I let out some more gasps and "omgs" while thinking, ":D :D :) :D :)." That really is the best way to approach a friend you haven't seen in months: pop into their office unannounced. He didn't do it on purpose though; it just turned out that his phone wasn't working before.
For dinner we met up with Caroline and Tristan at homey Japanese restaurant Soy in the Lower East Side, previously mentioned in my vegetarian recommendations post as possibly being good. Now I can confirm: It's good.
Look how cozy this place is. It's small without feeling too cramped, has just enough lighting, and isn't polluted by loud music. There was even an edamame-shaped pillow on my seat. I wish my living room were so cute.
I started with red bean and pumpkin soup. Pumpkin like kabocha (I assumed), not like pumpkin pie-pumpkin. It was almost strange to eat red bean in a savory dish for once; it tasted like any other regular bean. ...Whoa. A satisfying, hearty fall soup.
Crispy bottomed vegetable gyoza were stuffed with some green vegetable matter and tofu goo. I should probably be more specific than that. Yeah. Well. They weren't memorably awesome, but still tasty. Tristan asked me how those lacy fried bits form around the edges of the bottom of the dumpling, and in my experience that's just what happens when you pan fry them. I assumed it was from the starch that mixes into the cooking water and then crispifies. That's my unscientific guess.
Alex ordered the intriguingly named Treasure Sack (only second to what I hope to see one day on a menu: the Treasure Bucket), fried tofu pouches filled with tofu and hijiki filling, served wtih side vegetables (looks like soybean sprouts, green beans, and something yellow). Can you resist the Sack of Treasure? No. I think that's a good method to use when naming dishes on a menu; "cheeseburger" sounds boring, but "Treasure Cheeseburger" sounds so much awesomer.
Tristan's ginger tofu with string beans looked so simple that my first reaction was, "Meh," but after one bite of the light, pillowy soft tofu chunk I changed my mind. The tofu tasted uniquely refreshing and delicate. Like the tofu equivalent of that first burst of seafood essence you get from eating a raw oyster. ...Maybe. Distantly. The tofu isn't something added just for protein; it's the star.
Even though I ordered curry the last time I had been to Soy, I ordered it again after my preferred choice of the ramen special had sold out. Beef curry with potato croquette was another special of the day, and like the ginger tofu, was surprisingly awesome for something so simple. It wasn't the curry that impressed me—it reminded me of pretty much any other thick, mildly hot Japanese curry—but the potato croquette. What's so great about a deep-fried puck of mashed potato with bits of beef? The "fried" part. The crust was light and delicate, even more so with the scattering of airy panko crumbs, and cronched perfectly (yes, cronched) into the smooth potato filling. It more than made up for the curry sauce, which was a bit light on the chunks of beef and potato. Like every Japanese curry I come across, I devoured all of it. Caroline also cleaned off the plate of her vegetarian curry..
The only miss I had there was the soy mango smoothie. Could've used more mango and more smooth.
Soy is a great little spot for simple, homey Japanese food with an adequate selection of vegan dishes. I could make my own curry (Tristan and I just did yesterday!), but I probably couldn't fry a potato croquette as well. Although the restaurant wasn't crowded when we were there, they seemed to be doing steady delivery service. A popular spot for homebodies, perhaps?
Later that night I
forced convinced Alex to be my photography assistant for my Giant Manatee project. Meaning that we took Giant Manatee on the subway, with surprisingly little interruption from other subway passengers. On the first half of our trip one guy was convinced that there was alcohol involved in our project ("Nope, I don't drink!") while two other young men thought that as strange as it may be, it could be explained as being just another one of those special New York City things.
On the return trip, no one spoke to us. Possibly out of fear.
Here are some highlights. I would like to thank all my friends who joined the Giant Manatee gift pool, Alex, and the MTA for making this possible. Enjoy.