The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Homey Japanese at Soy, and Subway Joyride with Giant Manatee

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.

red bean and pumpkin soup
Mm, soup

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.

gyoza! innards

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.

ginger tofu

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.

beef curry with potato croquette

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..

soy mango smoothie
Soy smoothie

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.

Manatee is ready to roll!
He's ready to roll
This way, manatee
Come on, it's time for a subway ride!
lying down
Aw, sleepies.
Hey manatee
A bit too close, perhaps.
smiles with head bump
He takes up the WHOLE seat.
Seriously, what else would you do with a giant manatee?
up against the window
Manatee likes staring out the window.
Manatee wants out
Still staring.
Alex + manatee = BFF!


102 Suffolk Street
New York, NY 10002


Marvo / October 13, 2008 2:36 AM

Soy may look cute, but does it have the Giant Manatee? Hey, you know what would be the most awesome-est picture?

The Giant Manatee sitting in Soy.

Mahar / October 13, 2008 8:05 AM

Awwwww! Giant Manatee is so cute!

On Japanese curry---I like it but only when it's only good curry around---i know, it sounds weird, but usually mild curries for me are kinda meh.

roboppy / October 13, 2008 8:58 AM

soopling: :D I'm glad!

Marvo: Manatee would fit pretty well in there. If only more restaurants had giant manatees; then I'd be more likely to go back to them!

Mahar: Mild curries are definitely more meh than spicy, but they tend to come pretty mild when I eat out. I still love em!

FN: I wish there were more cozy places like Soy out there. Or maybe I haven't found em yet. Or more specifically, a homey Chinese restaurant? ;_;

David: TOTALLY! I perpetuate the good name of the JMZ: best train ever!

wonders / October 13, 2008 11:19 AM

Ooh the manatee pics are sooooo adorable!!! lols Ooh I see Kosciuszko street, I'm two stops away on Halsey! -=D

So is your beef curry really beef or was it some vegan substitute?

Mary Sue / October 13, 2008 2:07 PM

Man, if I didn't have photos from my BFitWWW's wedding as my background, the manatee staring out the window would be my computer background.

Kat / October 13, 2008 4:10 PM

Hi Robyn! I've never posted before but I've been reading your blog for over a year now-you have got to be the best food writer type person ever...umm yea : )

btw-food in this post looks yumms

Boots in the Oven / October 13, 2008 6:03 PM

Soy looks more than just regular "homey" - it could seriously be a picture of someone's living room, if they decorated with menu boards. How cool!

And hi to the giant manatee!

roboppy / October 14, 2008 12:25 AM

wonders: Oo, you're not far away! I haven't gone that far east on the J before, hehe.

Yup, my curry was beef! Not vegetarian friendly.

Mary Sue: When that wedding photo gets old, MANATEE can take its place!! BWAHAHA.

Kat: Thanks for de-lurking! And for sticking with me for so long. I CAN'T BELIEVE PEOPLE DO THAT!

The food WAS yums. Mmmmyums.

Boots: It would be easier to just live in that restaurant than make my living room look like it. Warh.


Jane: :) Manatee luvs u.

Ana / October 14, 2008 9:50 AM

mm, what could be better than tofu and ginger? i have to hit this place tonight now (they were closed yesterday for the holiday, those bastards. i had to go to work).

the soups in particular look delicious...i can't wait to try.

Kate / October 14, 2008 10:49 AM

That tofu looks yummy!!

Aww a manatee...on the subway!!

The very first picture looks very should totally try and sell it for $$...

maomau / October 14, 2008 8:57 PM

omg, i love simple dishes. japanese curry makes me eat and eat and eat.

if i was on the platform, it would have been fun to see manatee inside staring out the window. hehehe

Michelle / October 14, 2008 9:38 PM

The manatee made me giggle outloud as well; I could see him being like the Gnome from Amelie..hrmmm

roboppy / October 15, 2008 12:07 AM

Ana: I had to work too. BOOOO. Did you get to eat there?

Kate: Haha, sell my photos for money? If only someone wanted to BUY EM.

maomau: I wish that happened more often...more "manatee inside the subway" sightings.

Michelle: But way cuter than the gnome. Bwahaha.

ila / October 15, 2008 12:57 PM

mmmmm soy looks soo good! i love homey japanese eateries :)
your manatee reminds of when i was on a business trip in atlanta. i bought a giant whale shark plushie at the georgia aquarium(his name is jin-bei) and rode the metro to the airport with him. in full business attire. i got a lot of strange looks.

SuperChomp / October 15, 2008 5:24 PM

That restaurant looks so cute!
I've tried making croquettes before. It's quite a lot of effort, but fun too. I cheat and use instant mash :] I only shallow fry (very carefully) but the light 'n' crispy/smooshy effect is still there.

"Manatee looks out of the window longingly, yearning for sea... but knows he would probably just soak it all up." XD

roboppy / October 16, 2008 12:53 AM

ila: THAT'S AWESOME. My photos would've been funnier if I had been wearing business attire. :)

SuperChomp: Manatee looks out the window, looking for a nice head of cabbage to eat. And for his soulmate.

kawaii: Yes...for now...act fast before someone else takes him! ;)

Sammie / October 16, 2008 10:36 PM

Umm... so like, I'm LOLing at your manatee pics. They're high-larious!

BTW - I'm a LONG time lurker and rare/non-existant poster but I had to post out of love for the manatee.

Mitzy / October 16, 2008 11:50 PM

Robyn, those manatee photos look sooooo cute! He is almost as big as a person! BTW, did you pay for his ride? :-)

Thanks for another vegetarian restaurant recommendation, I definitely need one for Fridays.

roboppy / October 17, 2008 1:25 AM

Sammie: Thanks for de-lurking! I should take more weird photos of plush toys on subways in the future, eh?

Mitzy: He's nearly MY SIZE! I am little. Doh. Manatees ride the subway for free, of course!

Is Friday vegetarian day? :O

Mitzy / October 17, 2008 11:29 AM

Yes, Friday is a vegetarian day for me :-) Since I was young I don't really like vegetables, unfortunately up until now I still don't eat vegetables regularly :-( That's why I decided to have at least 1 day to eat only veggies; I know it doesn't make sense :-)

Julie / October 17, 2008 12:35 PM

I've never met a curry I didn't like. But now, man, what I wouldn't do for a big bowl of it.

You should do a "man meets manatee" comic strip.

Manders / October 17, 2008 11:09 PM

I'm so tempted to put an "I'z in your subway stealin your seatz" caption on one of those manatee pics...

roboppy / October 18, 2008 2:07 AM

Mitzy: I don't eat vegetables regularly either. Veggie day sounds good to me!

Julie: I might do a Poofy Meets Manatee storyline. Now I just have to draw it...

Manders: I welcome all lol captions!

Joanne / October 21, 2008 1:22 PM

hi robyn :DD

potstickers lace=happens when you use the fry & steam method, fry the bottoms brown and then add water and "steam" until all h20 is gone. I think the dying water bubbles is what makes it like that.

cheers from China!

Katie / October 21, 2008 3:24 PM

Hahahaha. I like how the manatee pictures are in front of the "If you see something, say something" sign.

roboppy / October 23, 2008 1:54 PM

Joanne: Ahh dying water bubbles...make pretty dumplings. :D Thanks for the info! I love the steam and fry method.

Katie: If only the sign had said, "IF YOU SEE A MANATEE, YOU SHOULD RUN FOR YOUR LIFE."

Melissa / October 24, 2008 1:04 PM

So i totally read this over a week ago when it was posted, and loved it then, but I felt the need to inform you that posts like this have caused me to start writing a list of different foods that I want to try asap..... goshhhh the pictures are so yummiful

Owh! and giant manatee picture

roboppy / May 28, 2009 1:52 AM

Keith: I've had a few people tell me that I should've named my manatee Hugh. But I like Giant Manatee!

Thanks for checking out my blog; I hope you enjoy the non-manatee content as well.

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