Umami Burger

[October 22, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

Anger management is one of many life lessons to learn in a timed series of ups and downs.  Honey fails to contain her inner animal as she exchanges bitter emails with her videographer throughout the day.  As a consumer, she wants the most for the least of her dollars.  Meanwhile, the worker bee wants to do the least amount of work for the most he could cheat from her.

I advise Honey to focus on what she can change, because being angry and procreating hate goes nowhere.  Irony then promptly makes his award-winning appearance by having a colleague rapid-fire false accusations at my professionalism and competency.  I remind myself to lead by example and let the anger go.  Thinking of lover always work.

Honey is less fortunate and clings onto her hulking rage, even though she has the Prince of Heaven accompanying her to the movies.  Her time is ill spent compiling pages of hate email, arguing over the subjective substantiation of professionalism.  Meanwhile, life can be better invested elsewhere, such as channeling all of that time and energy to writing love letters to me (as I do lover).

Where I fail, Bad Grandpa delivers the cheers to Honey.  Johnny Knoxville made a brief appearance and apologized for his humor prior to our screening.  His true person is unrecognizable compared to the old man in the movie.  I sum the retarded film as a waste of life.  However, Honey laughs at what she describes as funny stupid antics.  Disinterested in the movie, I turn over and watch her laugh.  I am at my best when I am able to bring happiness to those by my side.

Umami Burger
432 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
212.677.8626
www.umami.com

To reciprocate my sacrifice, Honey endures staying up pass her bedtime and agrees to have a late night burger with me.  Her first option was the nearby Shake Shack, but a long line quickly discouraged her and steered our hunger towards the truffle burger at Umami Burger.  I fly her to our destination for us to share the magical moments of good food and awesome companionship in one serving.

Five minutes of life are buried in needless waste before Honey and I are ushered to a table in the land of middle lane.  Congestion and busy traffic populate the space between the bar and wall tables.  Waiters squeeze through like anorexic models to make food deliveries, prompting me to worry if the weather forecast for tonight was raining burgers and fries.  Lastly, the restaurant wore a weird smell as its perfume of the night.

Honey and I both burn perfect handfuls of dollar bills on the Tropical Green Iced Tea.  Magic powder works on the patties, less so on their drinks.  Our lips taste warm water, while our eyes see clear liquid with ice cubes.  The only thing tropical and green are our daydreams of palm tree vacations in Puerto Rico for the overly embracing winter.

Manly Burger

Usually my planning sidekick, Honey wants me to go spontaneous and do the combo.  I may occasionally defer to pretty girls, but I rather make my own decisions than allow strangers to decide my fate.  Lover is not a fan of beef, so other than the duck burger (which I already photographically documented last time), there is only the tuna burger that would interest her palate.  However, Yun gave the tuna poor reviews on her multiple incursions, so I opt for the next best thing – man up for lover by having the Manly Burger.

Beer-cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion strings, house ketchup, and mustard spread decorates my burger tree.  The manly combination is a melting ooze fest.  Cheese and bacon usually makes everything better, but this is the exception.  I miss the crispy charred texture to the patty, which is rediscovered in our next burger.

Truffle Burger

I have not wrestled down their entire menu, but only the Truffle Burger has the noise and experience to contend as Umami Burger’s signature champion.  After tasting their best offering, Honey reconfirms that the word of softrice is the universal truth.  My recommendation against all her naysayers is the ultimate good for her.  The house blend of beef with roasted garlic aioli is a perfect match for her taste buds.  Even when Honey was unable to finish the last bites of her burger, she had to suck away all the addictive house truffle cheese and truffle glaze down her tummy.  Then she passed on the remaining two bites, coated with her new awesome sauce, for me to perform the finale.

In a heartwarming (albeit delusional) stake over my ownership, Honey frees me to sleep with all the little tramps that I want.  However, if I was to commit to another long-term relationship, they must go through her review and approval. Deviating from how most men simply despise matriarchal rule, I am proud that someone takes ownership of me.  I would even be happier if lover would hold me on a tighter leash and stop pushing me to make new friends!  All of these hungry females are devouring my divinity.

Truffle 'Em Thin Fries

Another poor performance by Umami Burger for the night was their orchestra of consumption symphony.  Honey could not accept that she had her burger before fries.  Our waitress also did not provide us with spoonfuls of their trinity sauce.  The Truffle ‘Em Thin Fries are the stand issue of potato sticks, dosed with truffle cheese, and dashed with truffle salt.  Honey licks the white sauce dry again, only to determine that the fries were not salty enough.  It is a good thing then that my personality supplements any additional needs for wetness and saltiness.

Unable to contain her excitement for my stories, Honey obsessively hounds through my notes and outlines, sniffing for clues on my softrice adventures.  In the past, she would read my posts as I provide links to her.  Due to my inability to write as fast as she reads though, Honey peeks down into another layer of my genius at work.  It is a different experience reading my initial plans and trajectories, because she knows they will change in the end, providing her and my fans an alternative euphoria.  I now hit Honey with three highs – the experience, the reconstruction, and the story.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Donut

My ultimate reason for returning to Umami Burger was to taste their Ice Cream Donut.  A great depression struck when our waitress informs us that they were out of Peanut Butter & Jelly for the night.  Honey attributes my heartbreak only to not getting what I want, so she orders a tramp to brighten my night – the Cinnamon Chocolate Chip.  (You would need to watch Bad Grandpa to know that cinnamon is a nickname for tramp.)  The dessert was a messy eating, with the dough and ice cream sticking on my fingers.  I give my thumb for Honey to suck on, to which she says I have a crocked thumb.  Bearing witness to all our fun, the couple on our neighboring table demands an Ice Cream Donut of their own!

Food: C
Drinks: F
Dessert: D+
Ambiance: F
Final: D

Lover has always been at the forefront of technology, while I trailed behind with the basics.  To catch up with her fancy though, I will pick up my first magic box tomorrow, the golden iPhone 5s.  Like most girls, Honey is surprised that I survived so long with a dumb-phone, and exaggerates that I could still update my Facebook with new pictures of Linda Chung everyday with such old technology.  It is simply called following her Weibo.

On related news, I shared Grace Wong’ s first song, “If I Believe”, with Honey and the world yesterday.  Grace is now a contracted singer and will soon have her very own CD.  I am proud of her achievements, which motivates me more to realize some of my own (atop May-Ling pursuing the CISA).  Honey thrusts everything forward with her statement that girls do like guys more for their smarts than looks.

I am the living definition of smart in lover’s eyes.  It is time to prove once again that she is always right.  The Success Momentum is activated.  With a twinkle in my eye, I warn Honey to prepare the celebration dinners.  Nothing can stop me now.  Everything is within my grasp, for my taking, and to my liking.  And there is so much to take, and so much to like.  All of which are mine.

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

Bohemian

[October 15, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

I have a new coin collecting hobby.  Along with the best of my world, I share my new toys with Honey.  Her ticket into the game was one of my favorites, the 2013 Silver Panda from the Chinese Mint.  This is the first year that three pandas appear on the coins.  I also like the Huangshan coins, but they are prohibitively expensive to add to my collection, because you would either have to buy a kilo or in sets of four.  The superior option for lover to experience the scenic beauties of Yellow Mountain will be my vacation there next March.

Unlike a faithfully patient lover, Honey is always cheating on me.  She takes my best and shares it with her girl friends.  Her most recent affair was an accidental visit to our Socarrat.  They were having oysters next door and decided to have convenient paella afterward.  When Honey saw the Jack, Queen, and King figurines on the business cards, it was too late to reserve only our memories at the Spanish restaurant chain (although they visited the midtown rather than our Chelsea location).  Their defiling meal was a Seafood Paella.  Honey liked its lack of cilantro, but her heart could not forget the tastiness of our cheese.  Only softrice makes the home run.

Bohemian
57 Great Jones Street
New York, NY 10012
www.playearth.jp

Bohemian exterior

A problem-solver by nature, I have the perfect solution.  I would bring Honey to a secret and exclusive restaurant, which will automatically block out her random walk-in affairs.  Hence, our arrival at Bohemian, the little known Japanese steakhouse.  Its exterior betray no hints of a restaurant.  Their public identity is a premium butcher shop, selling luxury cuts of Japanese beef.  Only the persistent would undress their alias and benefit from its greater purpose for being.

I lead Honey down their left hallway to an electronically coded gate.  A firm female voice questions our arrival through the speaker.  They only accept referrals from previous dining guests, so business spreads by word of mouth.  Fortunately for me, my handsome face and charming personality has won me many strategic girl friends.  Wenky gave me their number to make a reservation, and she also vouched on my behalf.  Satisfied with our response, the gate opens, and a cute Japanese girl ushers us into their culinary sanctuary.  Only breaking into a bank vault or opium production factory would require the same security clearance.

Bohemian interior

Bohemian inhabits a one-story lounge space.  The bar fits six, which becomes unbearably noisy when ice is being shredded by the machine to make drinks.  Two big tables and sofa-seats make a vertical line on the left, while two medium tables and three two-tops form two horizontal lines to complete the room.  The chairs are uncomfortable short, rendering it a painful meal.  Lastly, there is a transparent rooftop, but there is no view.

All of its negatives are instantaneously erased with the presentation of a cute waitress.  The Japanese girl is more eye-candy than meets the apple pie.  Honey assesses the threat level to cute rather than beauty.  However, my heart falls for cuties more so than beauties anyway.  She will do.

Uni Croquette

Honey is honored by the opportunity to share another first time with me.  Fearful of her response, I carefully monitor her lips as she moves toward her prey.  Mouthfuls of the creamy goodness filled her with ecstasy.  Honey will remember me forever, because this hot mess was a deep-fried orange ball of cheesy richness.  The Uni Croquette was neither slimy nor metallic, perfect for a beginner to the world of sea urchins.

A meal without alcohol is a yacht party without bathing suits.  On this philosophy, Honey washes down with an SBC cocktail.  It is supposed to be strawberry and basil, but she simply hates the tomato juice result.  Although Bohemian does have a dessert wine menu, nothing catches my eye (except the cute waitress).  I have the next best thing, the Mint Gold, and conclude that cocktails are only good for noise here.

Bohemian's Mac & Cheese

The crack of the house was Bohemian’s Mac & Cheese.  Honey was terribly in love with the cheese, so much so that salt and pepper was its only distance from perfection.  The twin tomato toasts were light and refreshing too, useful compliments to scoop oozing goodness from our macs.  If you can replicate this at home, you have the keys to her heart.

Miso Black Cod

On the underwhelming side of the story is the Miso Black Cod.  Legendary Yelp reviews proclaim this fish to be greater than all who came before.  Yet it is a strong, thick, cod brick.  The meat is not so delicate that it falls off with the slightest touch.  The modest attempt has crispy skin and cheesy mashed potatoes, but no cod kingdoms fell this night.  Nobu and Megu retains their crowns.

Washu-Beef Steak - 11.2 oz Culotte

The bread and butter of Bohemian are the premium cuts of Japanese beef.  Our cute Japanese waitress brings out a wooden board, shaped in a cow, and divided into sections for easy ordering.  I go one level above easy and have the pretty girl decide for me.  Our waitress recommends the Washu Beef Steak – 11.2 oz Culotte, which is the upper back of the cow.  (An 11.1 oz option was available for $1 less, but since this was Honey’s birthday dinner, I splurged and went the extra mile to show her how much she means to me.)  Because Honey does not eat raw meat, we ordered the steak to medium well.

The Culotte was steak at its purest.  Condiments used to cook the meat included a stick of rosemary, fried garlic on the side, and boulders of golden fried potatoes buried underneath.  Sea salt came on the side if you need extra flavoring.  I prefer the steak as it is – tender, soft, and juicy.  The lean meat was cooked to an attractive rose coloring, delightful to the eyes, and exceptionally edible to Honey’s preferences as well.

Sweet Potatoes

Honey and I made the mistake of ordering an extra side of Sweet Potatoes rather than replacing the Fried Potatoes on the Culotte.  They were both crispy good and much to our liking, but if you did the math on all our food divided by two modest appetites, our eyes were wider than our stomachs.  And we were saving space for the best part of the meal!

When our cute waitress presented us with the dessert menus, I purposefully drop a line for Honey to choose her birthday cake.  The waitress would make for a great girlfriend, because she picked up on all my cues and seamlessly handled everything in the background.  After we chose our desserts, she made sure everything was super special for us to mark the occasion.

Sweet Potato Creme Brulee

An impressive sign of universal preparation came in the form of a heart-shaped wooden serving board.  “Happy Birthday” and “musical notes” were a silent song of well wishes for my dining companion, written in chocolate letters.  Accompanying the romantic gesture are Honey’s actual sweets.  Her favorite creme brulee came to life as the Sweet Potato Creme Brulee, partnering alongside a scoop of Salty Caramel Ice Cream with a candle for her birthday wish.  I am already her healthy and happy wish come true, so she adds that may we play together forever and always.

Middle West Whiskey Eggnog

Bohemian’s dessert menu is neither extensive nor exotic, so I chose two ice cream flavors over their cakes.  The eternal optimist in me also thought that ice cream would be a refreshing lightness to wash away the prior heaviness from the red meat and potato farms.  My first choice is the Middle West Whiskey Eggnog.  This holiday flavor reinforces the specialness of tonight.

Cinderella Pumpkin

My second ice cream flavor was to elevate the fairytale beauty of our time together.  All is said in the name of Cinderella Pumpkin.  Life is a series of magical moments, defined through sweet desserts shared with the one and only softrice.  The salty caramel, the eggnog, and the pumpkin were all great ice cream, yet none were as rich and satisfying as me.  Our time together was a bubble of eternity, to which Honey had no fear of turning into a pumpkin after midnight.

Food: C
Drinks: D
Dessert: C
Ambiance: C-
Final: C

The concept of a secret Japanese steakhouse is a solid sell.  A welcomed plus is good food on top of the gimmick.  Yet there are still more drawbacks than there are positives.  The space may be cozy, but uncomfortably so.  The restaurant is exclusive, at the price of unbearable banshees ricocheting within the trapped room from every large movement.  I would want to come back with lover to try their branzino special, but I do not have the heart to make her suffer through such uncomfortable seats.  I want to taste another cut of the cow with Honey, Prima, or May-Ling, but we would have to mentally train for torture beforehand.  In summary, although we want to return, Bohemian makes it difficult and uninviting to do so.

Honey maintains a list of her Top 5 Restaurants – River Cafe, Fishtail, One If By Land, Two If By Sea, Craft, and Four Seasons – in that order.  The steak at Bohemian is good enough to join her ranks of Peter Luger and Del Frisco’s, but they all fail to break into the Top 5.  Honey plots her next steak target, Landmarc, to taste bone marrow for the very first time, while I need a plan to topple and replace her very best experiences ever.

The receipt at the end of our meal was an old school love note.  Our cute waitress hand-wrote everything.  “Love you until the end of time.  Call me anytime,” signed by Akiko.  Maybe I do need to revisit Bohemian, often too.

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

Pulqueria

[October 14, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

Plans boil in the background until they become action.  Prima and I wanted tacos in Chinatown for the longest of time, and tonight was our night of fulfillment.  The two of us align the stars to visit the snaking Doyer Street, an iconic battleground for Chinatown gangs of a bygone era.

Pulqueria
11 Doyers Street
New York, NY 10013
212.227.5997
www.pulquerianyc.com

Pulqueria exterior

Pulqueria is a subscriber to the anonymous restaurant club.  Other than a flickering neon sign of a Mexican plant, there are no indications of a legitimate eatery.  We explore down a dark stairwell, reaching three choice doors to open.  Given the neighborhood history, Prima and I have no interest in uncovering past closets of hidden skeletons.  Our safest bet was the door closest to a mandatory posting, an “A” from their Sanitary Inspection.

Pulqueria interior

A different world welcomes us after opening the third white door.  Pulqueria operates in a cavernous environment.  Damp lighting, barely enough to assure visibility, fails to educe romance.  A dragon carving on the wall and one stick of burning incense greets us alongside the hostess.  In a picture I took of the room, a woman in the far left background glowed white like a ghost.  Maybe it was best that Prima and I sat closer to the exit rather than a more spacious table further inside the belly of the underground beast.

Guacamole Clasico

When you open shop in Chinatown, the easiest criticism is the overpricing and under-delivering of goods.  Pulqueria is unable to squeeze clean of this judgment.  Our example was their Guacamole Clasico, a house-made classic guacamole with tortilla chips.  (A spicy version is available as well, but Prima cannot handle too much hotness, so we stuck with the classic.)  The house-made guacamole serves as a sufficient snack, but its taste is nothing out of the ordinary, while I can replace and acquire much more in quantity at Whole Foods.

Where I focused on price, Prima obliterates its value.  She knows of a better place for guacamole in the Lower East Side.  Although Chinatown offers cheaper and better food, I prefer to conquer the Lower East Side.

I am unable to offer anything new to lover in Chinatown.  My value comes from photographically plundering other neighborhoods (and countries).  Only then am I able to be her window to a brave new world.

My drink of the night, the Pistachio Margarita, slips in for a timely interlude.  Its nutty flavoring is deceptively acceptable on the lips, effectively masking the alcohol for a boomerang sneak attack.  Yet it is far from replacing the sugar highs from lover’s smiles or dessert wines though.

Atun

A big fan of raw fish, Prima lines up the Atun for our bellies.  The three open-faced tacos were filled with whitish pink sashimi-tuna, avocado, chipotle mayo, and crispy onion.  The bite-sized snacks quickly became crispy goners.

Unlike the immediate fate of our appetizer, the box of Prima’s favorite childhood cereal, Oreo O’s from South Korea, still remains at home.  (A portion of which is reserved for my sampling test.)  I offer to smuggle more boxes back from other visiting amigos, but she has already found a steady supplier.  It turns out that Oreo O’s are available on Amazon for $8 a box.  The pricey foreign export will have to be saved for only special occasions, such as when Santa visits.

On world financial news, regular and modest dents are smashed into Prima’s college loans.  An end is in sight to her debt situation, currently targeting for next March or April.  Then Prima will be able to save and spend on world tours with the one and only softrice!

To alleviate her nascent traveling itch, an upcoming reward is a week away in Chicago.  The funniest detail about her trip is that Prima does not like the wind, and yet her first time out of the East Coast is directly for the Windy City.  I instantaneously demand Prima to order the white truffle fries at MK.  Surprisingly, the restaurant was already on her list as one of the Top 5 Steakhouses in Chicago.  She updates her instructions to try my singular must-have item there.

Tacos De Gringas

Our culinary treasure hunt ultimately lands us with the Tacos de Gringas.  Two soft flour tortillas wrap generous helpings of citrus and chile chicken, queso chihuahua, crema, avocado, and chunky salsa. Eating them requires messier hands than expected, while the tomatoes actually pack quite a one-two punch and a kick to the fiery levels.  Thankfully, the spiciness falls on the tasty category, and precariously escapes a red hot flaming Hell.

Food: D+
Drinks: C+
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: D
Final: D+

A meal at Pulqueria robbed $60 from our bank accounts.  For a drink, two tacos, and three quick bites, there was no justification for that ransom.  The ingredients had no wallops, the decor is a deficit scam, and nothing of the experience spoke to us.  Depressed from our bloodsucking dinner, Prima and I elope to a happier dessert world.

eight turn crepe
55 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
212.334.3408
www.eightturncrepe.com

Eight Turn Crepe

Good cheers come from Japanese dessert crepes.  Eight Turn Crepe is a small crepe factory in Nolita, establishing itself as the new and cool kid on the same block against another historic competitor.  Their Oriental spin on the treat seems to have won many converts; I am not one of them.

Chocolate Nut Party

Prima’s crepe is the Chocolate Nut Party.  It is a fresh warm wrap of almonds, crushed hazelnuts, crushed walnuts, crushed pistachios, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, chocolate custard cream, and chocolate pocky sticks.  Because Prima does not like yogurt, she switched out their whipped yogurt for banana slices.  My feline companion immensely took to their housemade dark chocolate, which was subsequently banished by me to a disfavored bitter categorization.

Lychee Valentine

My crepe was the Lychee Valentine.  It was meant to be a fruity crepe bound only by romance.  Participants include lychees, raspberries, whipped yogurt, rose custard cream, edible rose pedals, and almonds.  The display have an actual rose in the crepe, but mine came deflowered with a mere two out-of-season petals.  Their misleading marketing also led me to order a crepe lacking in the ice cream department.  My stomach consumed a medicre crepe, while my heart filled with a hefty disappointment.

Food: N/A
Drinks: N/A
Dessert: D+
Ambiance: D
Final: D

In its relatively short lifespan, Eight Turn Crepe has built a remarkable fanbase.  Even Wenky makes a brief cameo on softrice by running in on a late night crepe refill.  (I actually learned of Eight Turn Crepe through her.)  Among the loyal addicts was a man with a scrunched up LV bag behind his back.  Prima already dislikes the brand in general; his overload of femininity toppled Prima’s prided sense of liberalism.

To prevent the dominoes from continuous free-fall, Prima and I pick up allergy medicines at Duane Reade on the walk home.  Lover would be happy to know that in Prima’s eyes, I am always healthy and able.  Meanwhile, allergies persistently stalk and attack Prima’s innocent defenses.  My boyish good looks and a right dimple are ample distractions for the temporarily relief.  The true cure though is international travels, to build your body a stronger immune system.  We have to plan the next elopement!

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

db bistro moderne

[October 8, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

Lover applauds my ability to make the impossible possible.  In an impossible world to conquer, I discover another possible wonder for us to explore.  This fantastical work of man is the Huashan Miku (aka Flower Mountain Enigma Grottoes).  It is a labyrinth of towering underground chambers hidden for over 2,000 years and only recently rediscovered in 1999, which is a remarkable oversight considering its close proximity to the most popular mountain in China, Huangshan (aka Yellow Mountain).  The 36 known chambers so far are a system of connected square palaces, each spacious enough to fit a small dragon.  Adding onto the mystery as to how and why these grottoes were built, they are “coincidentally” situated at about 30 degrees north latitude, as are the Bermuda Triangle and the Great Pyramids.

Researching and planning a world of greater marvels for lover, I invade the travel books section at Barnes & Noble.  This is what I do with my spare time, as I wait for Honey to color her nails with two layers of blue (effectively making them black).  We were going out for an early birthday dinner at DB Bistro Moderne tonight.  World travels cannot be done every day; restaurants, on the other hand, are local wins within my daily grasp.

db bistro moderne
55 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
212.391.2400
www.dbbistro.com/nyc

db bistro moderne

DB Bistro Moderne is the most accessible ticket to the world of Daniel Boulud.  This relatively economical French restaurant caters to business groups and hotel guests.  Everyone else, such as Honey and I, are limited to the experience of a claustrophobic circus.  Endless conversations filled the room with noisy jubilation, while servers juggled dishes back and forth their bumpy strip of dining space.  Fortunately, all was controlled chaos, as we would soon learn from their excellent service.

No celebration is complete without wine.  My drink of the night was the Melon de Bourgogne, Domaine Hautes Noelles, Muscadet Les Parcelles, Cotes de Grandlieu, FR 2012.  The wine was a misleading muscat, dry rather than sweet, and entirely disappointing on my heart for all things good and sugary.  Honey will have to fill the gap where the drink did not satisfy.

Maine Lobster

Fearful of a messy divorce, Honey sacrifices the beef soup in favor of the Maine Lobster.  Our appetizer was a seafood salad, dominated by a lobster claw and meaty chunks, and accompanied by heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, avocado, and eggplant mayonnaise.  The last ingredient appealed to me the most, but it barely registered on our taste buds.  Besides softrice on her eyes, all Honey had on her sensors were an overabundance of pesto.

Glazed Duck Breast

Our first shared entree gets me wondering what individual portions are like.  This is the Glazed Duck Breast, served with farro, hakurei turnips and their greens.  The kitchen considerately separates the duck on our behalf, acting on their own initiative rather than letting us do the work.  Honey and I are only meant to enjoy their food (and pay at the end).  Each serving has five thick pink slices of duck, sitting atop a bar of farro (think grainy risotto).  Albeit the glaze is negligible, the duck breast is perfectly tender.  If Peking ducks are put in another class, this might be the best duck that we have ever had.  (The turnips and greens were a different story, one that is probably not worth telling.)

Brussels Sprouts & Caramelized Salsify

I have long been a fan of Brussels Sprouts, while Honey is a new convert.  Our mutual interest in this vegetable led us to the Brussels Sprouts & Caramelized Salsify.  (We have no idea what salsify is.)  I prefer the sprouts broken down into leaves, while Honey likes them whole.  DB Bistro Moderne read our minds beforehand and found our middle ground by serving us the vegetable halved.  Somewhat compromised and lacking in butter, the titleholder for my favorite Brussels Sprouts is still with the City Hall restaurant.

The Original DB Burger

At long last, we arrive to the prize of our midtown pilgrimage – the Original DB Burger, a sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle on a Parmesan bun.  Perfectly halved by the kitchen again, each side of the burger is held together by two cute “toothpicks”, separately labelled with a “D” and a “B”.  Honey likes her positioned standing, while I prefer mine lying down.

The Original DB Burger is a rich, red meat burger.  A premium short rib patty holds within it a slab of foie gras as a donut would hold jelly.  Once you get to the center, it is a mouthful of wonder.  Alas, this euphoria is only for one or two bites.  The remainder of the burger is still good, if you like braised short ribs (which we do) and eliminate expectations of foie gras and black truffle (which we had).  Perhaps the problem lies not with the burger; Honey and I just need more money to finance an all-truffle burger.

Our side of accompanying Pommes Frites were sufficient.  Surprisingly, McDonald’s is still the gold standard.  The fries came with three choices of lipstick – ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard.  I mix and match, knowing no sauce can ever dethrone the white truffle sauce at MK (in Chicago).  Honey sticks to her ketchup and want more salt.  Poor mustard never received proper attention.

Honey and I entertain the idea of eloping for a weekend to the Windy City, but I have grander ambitions.  If we were going to do crazy, we need to do crazy right.  Life memories are built on foundations of crazy.  The idea I had in mind was an impromptu flight to Paris for an extended weekend, either for my birthday or hers.  We would merrymake in the vineyards and tour the ladies’ castle during the day, have dinners among the candlelight and fireworks in a castle and atop the Eiffel Tower, and catch Moulin Rouge and a Seine River cruise into the late night fun.  It will be an awful fast fling of money, but the experience will certainly be lifelong memories of good times with good people.

Vacherin

There is something romantic about my craziness.  Entranced by my outrageous propositions, Honey is also crazy jealous of lover, because I am romance come to life.  My plans were sweeter than our dessert.

Honey and I shared the Vacherin, a blueberry compote, crisp meringue, lemon verbena ice cream, and blueberry sorbet.  The violet and purple makes me happy.  Its coloring brings out a delightful blossoming of joy against the creamy white meringue.  The combination of compote, ice cream, and sorbet brought a refreshing end to our meal.

Food: B
Drinks: F
Dessert: B
Ambiance: D-
Final: C+

The food and service at DB Bistro Moderne were a snowman in winter; built with effort and distributor of happiness.  Instead of bombarding us with all the food we ordered at once, the kitchen customized a three-course meal for us.  They timed our pace and never interrupted the flow to our conversations or consumption.  Their portions, equally divided among two, were generous and delicious.  All of this is for your taking, if you can endure a cramped and boisterous environment.  If you like the food but not the ambiance, Daniel Boulud has seven solutions for you – his other New York restaurants.

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

Umami Burger

[October 3, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

The Movie Club is also the Coin Collectors’ Club.  Stephen and I are corrupting Mandy into joining the hobby.  Her newest acquisition is a 1 oz Fine Silver Coin for the Year of the Horse (2014) from the Canadian Mint.  The coin comes in an artfully designed silver square box, marked with the same curvy waves pattern as found on the horse’s body.  Neither lover nor I were born in the Year of the Horse, but maybe I should have gotten one just for its pleasing aesthetics.

Umami Burger
432 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
212.677.8626
www.umami.com

The money saved is used to finance our burger expeditions.  Yun and her crew have already made numerous return journeys to an Umami Burger, a Californian import in the West Village.  They have developed a religious obsession with the restaurant’s ketchup.

Lady Luck favors the Prince of Heaven.  There was no wait necessary to welcome my arrival.  Umami Burger has two floors.  The upper floor is a bar with round tables for bigger groups, while the ground level is a spacier setup for individuals, dates, and small gatherings of friends.  We sat on the right wing tip.

Smushed Potatoes

Stephen demands an order of Smushed Potatoes.  These were double fried creamer potatoes with roasted garlic aioli.  Smush lives in between the cultures of smashed and baked.  Although they do not have as large of a fan club following, smushed potatoes are good enough to start its own community.

White Truffle Fries

A visit to Umami Burger would be incomplete without a tasting trial for their Truffle ‘Em Thin Fries.  The culprits are standard issue fries, sliced thin, and topped with a wham of truffle cheese and truffle salt.  Their sentencing was a disappointing heartbreak.  The fries were lacking crisp and missing salt.  I do not like them.  The only white truffle fries that I can get for lover is MK’s in Chicago.

Since our table did not order any alcoholic drinks, the waitress was disinterested in explaining the three spoons of accompanying dipping sauces for our fries.  The two neighboring men, with the crown of alcohol on their table, receives preferential treatment.  Our waitress showered them with attention and offered elaborate debates on what each condiment was and did.

Victoria judges the house ketchup to be as addictive as crack.  Although it was better than those from a mass-produced manufacturing line, I would not smuggle them out of the restaurant as Victoria would.  I did not even like using the other sauces.  The thin fries worked best with the white truffle sauce.

The Original

Unfathomable in his ordering strategy, Stephen has the Original Burger.  The bun is a boring house party for parmesan crisp, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, and ketchup.  He loves it beyond a doubt, refusing to trade his original version for a Truffle Burger.  The latter was overwhelmingly salty for his palate.

Truffle Burger

While the two big men next to us cautiously debate whether they can finish three burgers, Mandy and I act on our ambitions.  We have a Truffle Burger each and split another.  Yun’s raving recommendations insist that I must have my own Truffle Burger.  Greatness cannot be shared.

The Truffle Burger is a house blend of beef with roasted garlic aioli, house truffle cheese, and truffle glaze.  It is one tasteful mess of oil and grease.  Their crispy exterior is incomparable to burgers elsewhere, while the beef patty is an optimal combination of moisture and leanness.  The white truffle sauce is somewhat light, yet understandable at this price point.  I cannot help but feel that the burger is missing lettuce and tomato though.  Meanwhile, Mandy itches from its one step removed from perfection; she dips her burger in ketchup and taste completeness.

The 5 Spice Duck Burger

Freeing the cows from slaughter, Mandy and I pilfer the skies.  We split a 5-Spice Duck Burger between the both of us.  This house party uses house ground duck, peach apple chutney, Chinese 5-spice, and Madagascar pepper.  All of which are topped with crispy duck skin and garlic aioli on a bed of caramelized fennel.

I was hoping to identify a burger for lover, who does not eat beef.  However, the Duck Burger sported a strong gamey taste, along with some rawness in the middle.  Mandy explains that duck meat does taste like this, even in Chinatown, and Westerners do not cook duck to the fullest.  I may have to stick with Peking duck and French breasts.  Weirdness struck me out of this playing field.

Food: C
Drinks: N/A
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: C-
Final: C

Ever since May-Ling asked me where was my favorite ice cream place in New York, I have been pondering the same question.  In our search for the best ice cream, the Movie Club scatters across the neighborhood.  Our choicest find was Grom, a gelato chain known for superior Italian sweets.

Grom
233 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
212.206.1738
www.grom.it/eng

The three of us were indecisive on our flavors.  Extensive debates bounced between different selections without a settlement, ultimately entertaining the gelato girl as we became the US Congress.  She was nice and patient with us until we were ready to commit.

Being the most decisive in the club, Stephen orders a Frappe.  His drink was made with five scoops of ice cream with milk, while his cost was the same as our smaller servings of ice cream.  The dessert was undeserving of a picture or notable mentioning, but Stephen got value with his purchase.

Nocciola & Caramelo Al Sale

Mandy has two scoops.  Her prizes were the Nocciola with tonda gentile hazelnuts and the Caramelo Al Sale with caramel and Himalayan pink salt.  The texture of our gelato was too mushed, seemingly melting into liquid form.  Mandy liked her hazelnuts.  The gelato failed to achieve premium standards otherwise.

Pera, Cachi, and Nougat

My gelato trophies were Pera with pear pulp, Nougat, and Cachi with persimmon pulp.  Pear held the highest expectations, due to its refreshing juices, and yet it fell into the worst tasting category.  Nougat was the flavor of the month.  Similar to Mandy, I enjoyed its nutty rotation with the remainder of the slush.  My favorite was the persimmon, because it is a fruit that I rarely have, and this was a chance tasting.

Grom was unexpectedly bad.  Contrary to foodie reports, they are a forgettable gelato factory.  They do not make it onto my best desserts list to share with May-Ling.

Food: N/A
Drinks: N/A
Dessert: D-
Ambiance: D
Final: D-

While I was having my gelato, Stephen and Mandy played on their phones.  They were updating their Facebook statuses.  This is why the modern world has problems connecting with each other.  Everything social is done online.

Stephen disappears into the train tracks, leaving Mandy and I to walk home and explore future conquests.  Perla is nearby; anything Italian was good with Mandy, so she is up for this restaurant next time.  We walk pass Da Marcella, which is where Mandy had the best Italian food ever.  I can bring Honey.  And further down West Houston was Ushiwakamaru.  My eventual big celebration with May-Ling can happen here!

Planning cannot replace fate.  After Mandy and I separated, I randomly come across Kei Kei.  She is good and looking forward to appearing on softrice.  I also find out later at night that Chubby Chinese Girl was at Umami Burger too, except she went in an hour after my entourage.  We will have to arrange a future convergence.  Lover will be happy to know that my double peach blossom luck is still kicking lightning faster and more powerful than Chun Li!  New friends enlarge my world, and I broaden hers.

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

Sarabeth’s preview

[September 29, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

xxx

May Ling wants to honeymoon in Hawaii, good taste, same dream as lover

xxx

may ling brunches once a month, says girls like brunch,

more popular than i believe,

she wants the best american breakfast, pancakes, waffles, doughnuts,

xxx

Sarabeth’s Tribeca
339 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
212.966.0421
www.sarabethstribeca.com

xxx

wait 10 to 20 minutes,

table in front, both of us wanted in back, but okay,

noisy environment, loud decibel, too much people,

have crayons and coloring paper for children,

local families and public workers, such as fire department,

today is the walk for diabetes too,

xxx

Coffee

may ling has coffee,

Four Flowers Juice orange, pineapple, banana and pomegranate juice

xxx

she tells me the importance of breakfast,

but i only eat cereal in workdays because wake up early for work,

sleep in on weekends and goes straight to lunch,

today brunch with her is special occasion,

xxx

says HK is a city of night owls and not early risers, worker bees don’t even breakfast in morning, just bring something to work,

I say train station closes early at night, when we are 24/7, typical yankee and impose my standards and values

May ling says HK has cheap taxis at night, London closes earlier, so if they don’t have it, American jump to conclusions and assume most of the world wouldn’t have besides us then either,

xxx

Fat and Fluffy French Toast

Fat and Fluffy French Toast

almond flakes,

xxx

Chorizo And Sweet Pepper Frittata

Chorizo And Sweet Pepper Frittata

didn’t really have a preference, have her choose for me, so she can taste two of what she likes,

because she doesn’t like, don’t have with manchego cheese

regular egg,

English muffin, more like a scone,

strawberry jam, whipped cream,

like hers better,

xxx

says she eats a lot, but still pushes food on me,

can have takeout breakfast for her on weekday mornings for work,

xxx

Food: C+
Drinks: C
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: C
Final: C

xxx

shopping at American Apparel,

Muji, where i got container for my toy, her Purin is smaller, about two quarters,

Pearl River

Gap,

Linda has injuries filming Tiger Cubs II, may ling says because it’s her, certain she would cry

Uncertain if she would cry herself if fell and injured

Quiksilver

Uniqlo,

Banana Republic

Billabong, convince her to buy a Where’s Waldo hoodie, it’s Where’s Wally to her, cute, won’t wear for pictures, maybe ask her to bring back next time,

talkative sales, white girl, cute big eyes, smaller than me, may ling thinks she is cute and good for me,

American Eagle, buys a head band, makes into bracelet, black and white polkadots,

Urban Outfitters to return from yesterday,

American Apparel, cashier is a cute Asian girl, says i should go for her, i have choices,

she doesn’t know best one is lover,

lucky to win a prize, buy over a certain amount, never happened to her before, get another cream top for free, she rather has a bow,

ask her to bring one she bought last time back to ny to play with me,

xxx

hates my idea of exchanging Marvel Labbits, weird idea to her,

don’t stop by KidRobot,

my shoe laces keep falling off, more so with her today, embarrassing, need new shoes,

xxx

tour her of St Marks,

talk about David Chang and his restaurants, both of us are against no photos policy in restaurants,

she thinks it is detrimental to their reputation more than helpful,

xxx

Abraco
86 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.388.9731
www.abraconyc.com

xxx

Abraco

cramped hole in the wall, mostly take out,

don’t have her Cafe Au Lait,

a gap in my research, didn’t check for menu,

xxx

when Caffe Late meets Individually Dripped Coffee

Caffe Latte

okay, but not her best, #1 coffee in NY disappoints her,

xxx

Individually Dripped Coffee

straight black, dark and bitter,

too strong for may ling to even try,

best coffee for bitter, not our cup of coffee,

xxx

Share best cup of NY

want picture of coffee together, but she wonders where i have these ideas for poses,

xxx

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil Cake

her first and best, like very much, soft,

xxx

Food: N/A
Drinks: C
Dessert: C
Ambiance: D
Final: C-

xxx

walk down and have Van Leewan???

says better to have came here, more choices,

i would have ice cream,

get water for her at Walgreens,

says we don’t have competition anymore, is true, they are monopoly now,

xxx

her virgin metro ride,

Grand Central, her favorite sightseeing New York stop,

surprised me, she doesn’t like gimmicks, don’t like sightseeing, all about food, yet this attracted her,

best train station in world, don’t have in London, most probably in the world,

beautiful masterpiece to her, i take for granted,

perfect picture in her wally hoodie among the crowd,

xxx

walk her to see Junior’s Cheesecake,

she don’t like sweets, but surprised she is a cheesecake fan,

maybe next time,

uninteresting food court,

xxx

Taste of France at Bryant Park,

stationary, hot air balloon

may ling doesn’t want distractions from her store,

xxx

Sanrio store,

Chun Li Hello Kitty, think of Prima,

underwhelming,

not much products to her liking,

don’t find something for Honey either,

may ling will go to Hong Kong or Japan store,

train back to East Village for oriental food,

xxx

Ippudo
65 Fourth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
212.388.0088
www.ippudo.com/ny

xxx

wait 20 to 30 minutes

loud bathroom, loud atmosphere,

placed in back corner of wooden table, best spot in house since not communal table,

feels like a private corner in the restaurant,

xxx

may ling has green tea, likes warm drinks, i prefer cold,

Kokuto ‘Brown Sugar’ Plum Wine

may ling thinks i’m an alcoholic now, like drinking with friends,

sweet, but heavy with rum, but okay,

iced, cold,

quick to go, fast drink,

xxx

Ippudo Salad

Ippudo Salad mixed greens served with sesame shoyu dressing

spicy,

xxx

Soft Shell Crab

Soft Shell Crab

one of her favorite foods

xxx

Shiromaru Hakata Classic

Shiromaru Hakata Classic the original silky “tonkotsu” (pork) soup noodles, toppped with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, menma, red pickeled ginger, and scallions

portions small,

light broth, not salty as in London, which she doesn’t like, but everything London is better,

so London isn’t all bad, vast improvements in past few years,

proud for her country,

need to take her to Totto Ramen,

xxx

Wasabi Shoyu Ramen

Wasabi Shoyu Ramen soy sauce and vegetable based noodle soup, topped with bean curd, wasabi, menma, nori, scallions, and wasabi infused oil

sweet wasabi, tastes weird, vegetarian,

looks special to her, may ling says i go for fancy, but never orders right, classic might be best sometimes,

i want different experiences and pictures to share with lover,

xxx

Kakuni

add Kakuni braised pork belly

xxx

Food: C
Drinks: B
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: C
Final: C+

xxx

no Eileen’s Cheesecake or bubble tea for her,

walk back to the Smyth,

megu, name interests may ling, but won’t go, same as i, on principle,

xxx

errands and house calls tonight,

work, role play tomorrow,

first time meeting everyone,

xxx

next time,

Tokaji, cake, celebration,

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake,

Doughnut Plant,

better steak, better ramen, #2 coffee,

explore more neighborhoods,

brunch, Flushing, Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Higline

when warmer, bike, water taxi,

xxx

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

Costata preview

[September 28, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

xxx

may-ling calls in afternoon,

pick her up at the Smyth,

whole foods for her to sushi snack, coconut water,

she eats ginger, would be great to eat japanese with her, clean up my plate, she yells won’t be the only thing she eats,

not afraid this will affect dinner, she can eat more than other girls

xxx

workplace, Ninja, Chinatown,

different when not during a super storm and blackout,

enjoys the sun,

xxx

can’t make it to Abraco, first coffee in new york,

may ling too stressful and tired from work to start her coffee blog,

miracle bought a new place in london to start new life with property,

xxx

Think Coffee
1 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
212.533.3366
www.thinkcoffeenyc.com

xxx

When Red Eye Meets Cafe Au Lait

when Red Eye meets Cafe Au Lait,

her fave is Cafe Au Lait, not available in London,

should get Spanish Latte next time, latte with condensed milk, like super sweet,

likes that New York is diversified, more orientals everywhere,

xxx

teaches me things,

most Americans don’t have passports, narrow minded, vacation same place every year rather than explore, don’t know where places are, we are poor in geography, regardless if we are in 2013,

Europeans get paid once a month rather than twice a month,

Vietnamese pho is pronounced “fur”,

Ibiza is pronounced “Ibita”,

she has never been to Las Vegas,

wants to party in New Orleans,

xxx

she is definitely a foodie, food first, sightseeing as a side win, and museums are exiled,

London have to really think hard on where to go, zoned out, go somewhere for one thing,

we have more choices,

but didn’t enjoy New York as much on first time, expectations too high,

Toronto no expectations, but loved it,

xxx

Food: N/A
Drinks: D
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: D
Final: D

xxx

shopping at American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, latter have cool cameras,

couldn’t delay our dinner reservation, skip out on American Eagle until tomorrow,

will come back in November or December,

we will have pre Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner,

maybe if have advanced reservation can go to Bohemian or Peter Luger,

says might get travel jobs to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, or Japan too, she’s too tired to travel, i’m too localized and jealous of her travels,

support her frequent return to NY though,

xxx

Costata
206 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
212.334.3320
www.costatanyc.com

xxx

red color dominance, posters of paint,

large group of cute japanese girls on front floor,

we go to second floor,

wine cellar throughout layout, even basement bathroom,

bread was okay, nothing to write lover about,

xxx

may ling,

Pinot Grigio Elena Walch | Alto Adige

i make her try my dessert wine, okay sweet, slight hint of bubbly,

Moscato d’Asti Bersano “Monteolivo” | Piedmont

2011

xxx

Sea Scallop

Sea Scallop celery root, black truffle vinaigrette

may ling thinks generous portions, i say americans are obese,

what we thought was Chinese shrimp paste was black truffles,

pretty good for raw scallops, eats at perfect texture,

don’t know what I see in DaDa Chan,

thinks i will easily cheat on Linda,

says must try Tim Ho Wan, everyone says that, definitely need to next time,

Garganelli Alla Fiamma

Garganelli Alla Fiamma con prosciutto, peas, truffle cream

may ling doesn’t like parmesan cheese, don’t really eat, shouldn’t have ordered,

she never had pasta with steak,

but this is signature pasta, too springy, only mediocre when expectations high,

may ling too stressed out at work, boss imposes his unachievable standards, would call at 3 Am (time zone different between NY and HK) and get mad when you don’t answer, inhumane approach to work, but is able to learn from him,

can see she is tired, job too much for her, her mom notices, i agree,

i’m immature, just play play play, all i think about,

Costata

Costata 44oz tomahawk ribeye

medium,

not as good as Peter Luger,

Béarnaise

not what she thinks, weird to me, i just have steak as it is,

rosemary just for show,

Fries

Fries kennebec potatoes, sea salt

she calls chips,

Zucchini

Zucchini anchovy vinaigrette

courgettes to her,

enjoys teaching me in British,

not what she expected either, baby zucchini, she was thinking bigger, okay for her,

weird taste to me, combo with cherry tomatoes,

xxx

may ling takes pictures with her phone,

woman adjacent from me smiles at me,

may ling says we are having steak, she is having salad, smiling because she probably thinks she should be having something meatier,

xxx

too full for dessert, from steak,

too bad, for me, can just have sweets without food,

very opposite of may ling,

does what a girl does, makes me finish food,

jetlag, may ling tires from it, energy drains,

i have no jetlag, just came back from hong kong, fit right in,

xxx

Food: C
Drinks: B+
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: C
Final: C+

xxx

food okay, but no wow factor,

not giving the best of new york to may ling,

no more michael white restaurants,

xxx

challenges me on being Linda Chung fan,

says move to London, nab girlfriends in six months,

may ling wants to vacation in Chicago,

xxx

walk back to the Smyth,

wall of toys, clocks,

take pictures together to remember a beautiful night,

but would not pose with my rubber duckie,

sleep in early, rest for brunch tomorrow, Sanrio, shopping, and possible biking and Flushing tomorrow,

xxx

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

A.B. Biagi

[August 4, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

I had a plan.  I was going to finish writing my Hasaki post, go to the gym, shower, and watch TVB over dinner.  The ever spontaneous Prima ruins everything routine and structured, reshuffling my deck to live as the wind takes us.  We first complete the necessary evils – Prima on laundry duties and a beautifying facial, while I prematurely break my writing momentum to tone my chocolate bars on the elliptical.  Then she rushes me through shower to satisfy her noodle cravings.

When you are with me, you are with the best, and you shall have the best.  Thus, when Prima wants ramen, she gets the best ramen.  We make the longest journey away from the confined comforts of home to Midtown, home of my office building, satellite ramen dojos, and Flashdancers.  Other friends in her extroverted circle would refuse to wait with her for ramen, but I know how to enjoy quality of life.  We are in good company, of good health, with good weather, and will have good food.  As lover would say, life is softrice.

The hour-long waits for Totto Ramen empower me to uncover more to my feline sidekick, as Black Cat is to Spider-Man.  She has an obsessive craving for Oreo O’s, a discontinued cereal product that is currently only available in South Korea.  (I have never heard of such a product and I have no idea why it is only for sale overseas in one specific country.)  Irene is there now to smuggle a case back.

If Oreo O’s are as good as the legend says, I might have to fly to South Korea to buy a box to share with lover.  The mightier plan that I suggested to Prima was for us to fly to South Korea to buy the cereal and follow it up with a visit to Hokkaido for their fresh milk.  The combination is so powerful that even Prima admitted it was the best plan ever!  But first, in the here and now, we enjoy bowls of the very best ramen in New York.

Totto Ramen
366 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
212.582.0052
www.tottoramen.com

Totto Ramen

The two of us conquer bar stools and hold down forte for the time that it takes to consume a bowl of ramen.  Other than a mirror to look at my divine reflection, we had the best view in the restaurant.  Giant tanks of boiling broth and fire torches caramelizing glutinous plates of pork belly, Prima and I were front row witnesses to food happiness.  In a time bubble of our own, Prima starts our meal with a can of Coca Cola, while hungry followers that include Caucasians in their ranks continue to surprise her (in that they were willing to wait such long hours for Asian comfort food).

Avo Tuna

A cat with a taste for raw fish, Prima wets our palates with the Avo Tuna.  These torched cuts of tuna sashimi make sour apples seem sweet, most probably due to the culprit known as their special yuzu garlic sauce.  The marinated avocado were not fresh either, as Prima points out that they were once put in the refrigerator.  The tag-team of tuna, avocado, scallion, and yuzu garlic was one atomic bombing of salt in the mouth.  You taste nothing else, which is a shame, given the captivating red of the fish.

Paiten Ramen with Chicken

My motivation is to try the new and different for lover.  Having been to Totto Ramen a handful of times, this was my first order of the Paiten Ramen with Chicken.  These straight homemade noodles are cooked al dente style in a whole chicken and premium soy sauce based soup, topped with scallion, onion, and a nori.  I could do without the nori.  It is not my thing.

The chicken died in vain.  He would rise from the dead and complain to the chef.  Each of these chicken ramen bowls are accompanied by three thick pieces of white breast meat.  It would be a generous offering, if they did not taste like cardboard.  The meat is dry and tasteless, providing ammunition for Chinese to favor dark meat.  Lover is a huge fan of chicken, so this would be a grave disappointment.  Luckily, she eats pork, wherein their pork bellies make the sun shine on rainy days.

Paiten Ramen with Pork

The first-timer Prima has the best choice, the sacred Paiten Ramen with Pork Belly.  There is no comparison.  If I had to bring lover to one ramen in New York City, this would be it.  Their supreme broth is strong and thick of chicken essence, easily reaffirming Prima that my word is gold.  Chickens line up for the honor to be this soup!

If we had to nitpick though, Prima has two alternatives.  I really like the noodles al dente, which gives them a chewy texture.  However, Prima prefers her noodles a tad softer, such as the offerings at the girl power hotspot, Ippudo.  The second alteration is her indifference to Japanese pork belly.  It is good, but she much rather have Chinatown meats, like the white cut chickens, char siu, and roast ducks.  Yet Prima would not exchange the pork belly for these Chinatown meats, because the taste combination in ramen would be thrown out of proper balance.  I just care that lover prefers Chinatown meats too.

Food: D
Drinks: N/A
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: D
Final: D

Other than their barbequed meats, Prima also prefers the desserts in Chinatown.  One example is the tiramisu, which is overly moist when done by the Italians, but optimal with the Chinese version of less coffee and less rum.  Since Asian desserts held closer to her heart, I was going to take her to the nearby Kyotofu for Japanese sweets, even if both of us were going to skip on their cupcakes.  However, my intelligence needs updating, because we arrived to a vacated space.  They closed without informing me (or Eater)!  May-Ling will be devastated to learn of their demise (insert sarcasm here).

On our retreat back to my original dessert ambitions, Prima shares that I should be a food critic.  Others like Miranda have imposed the same career potential on me before, presumably on the simple facts that I like food and I write.  Overlooked is the motivation that I do both for lover.  I explain how impractical the idea is, because I would starve to death before I could make any money from doing so.  My blog has no following, aside from the loyal softrice legion.  And it takes me forever to write one post.  The worst to come from such a profession would be my enslavement to having friends, so that I may dine and wine enough to justify a restaurant experience on paper.  No, thank you, a love letter in disguise is a fine side hobby for my time being.

Brushing aside the doomed career path, my personality on paper (although she reads it as an email attachment on her phone) – INTJ – is of the greatest interest to Prima.  She studies the report with an intensity unseen elsewhere in the nine worlds.  All of her normal human friends are feelers.  The Prince of Heaven is the one and only “Rational” she knows, besides the girl in the mirror, which is one of the few reasons why we click.  One detail fails to surprise her; I am on the extreme end of being a planner.  We smirk on my commentary that these things are not always accurate.

Our journey to desserts brings us pass Armani Exchange in Soho.  Their windows were advertising Pima tees, prompting Prima to point and shout, “Wear me!”  I go over the idea with her.  If I wear her in front of me, my back will be exposed, and vice versa.  My savvy partner says I should wear her sideways, wrapping herself around my waist.  This way, Prima will be able to cover my family jewels and great behind, and promises that her “touching-breast-dragon-claw-hands” will protect my nipples from the savage mouths of pretty girls.  And although she is not heavy and I am able to (momentarily) carry her, I maintain my reservations on carrying her weight with me everywhere I go.  Pima tees have yet to win against the cotton body-huggers.

A.B. Biagi
235 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10016
212.679.4603
www.abbiagi.com

A.B. Biagi

A.B. Biagi is a bright yellow storefront that cannot be missed on the most romantic block in New York City.  (Lover lives here.)  Premium Brazilian gelato is made in the background machinery, while the actual gelato buckets and cashier girl are the midsection that separates a limited corner of seats in front.  A quartet of friends already occupied the small dessert shop, so Prima and I had our gelato on the outside wooden bench for two.

Pistachio

Prima is a faithful follower of softrice and a loyal addict to Pistachio Gelato.  A.B. Biagi serves a weakened version compared to Mo Gelato, which upsets my need for concentrated flavor punches, but tickles Prima fine.  This goes down softer on her throat.

Somehow our rants come upon the common practice of hiding proposal rings in food.  Neither of us could understand the logic behind it.  Prima worries about the blotched job, because the diamond is sharp and can cut all of her sensitive insides.  And even for those successful executions, I judge the deed unromantic and unsanitary.

Acai Banana, Vegan Peanut Butter, & Basil Pine Nuts

The climax of our night was my flowery heart on three gelato flavors – Acai & Banana, Vegan Peanut Butter, and Basil & Pine Nuts.  I love the Brazilian superfruit; acai is an inseparable part of my current diet.  I restock supplies from Whole Foods on a weekly basis just to drink it.  A.B. Biagi is also able to channel their inner Brazilian pride through this one definitive gelato flavoring, albeit their texture overly relies on the addition of banana.  I am happy to be the first one to introduce Prima to acai too.  My life adds another achievement to its long list of wonders.

Lover is a big fan of peanut butter, so my second choice in flavors was a no-brainer.  The gelato tastes as rich as the creamy spread, melting in your mouth as a snowman would on Christmas Island.  My heart fares no better against lover’s tender lips.

The Basil & Pine Nuts did a much better job at hiding its flavors than I originally hid my secret crush on lover in the beginnings of time.  The gelato was a faint hint of nothings, yet surviving on a close resemblance to a soulless vanilla.  Perhaps the best admiration is drawn from a taste for the subtle, as lover peeled away at my thick layers of shyness to reveal a heart true and tried.  I should give the basil and pine nuts more patience and care, to grow and surprise as I had under lover’s nurture against my nature.

Food: N/A
Drinks: N/A
Dessert: C
Ambiance: D
Final: C-

Shy I am still, regardless how expertly I disguise my introvert habits under an extroverted corporate mask.  Hence my jerk reaction to drum up conversation and camouflage myself in deep eye contact with Prima as lover’s parents walk by.  Dad walks ahead as mom trails a step or two behind, navigating through the narrow sidewalks of Nolita.  My mouth runs off simple automated scripts to push the conversation forward with Prima, while my brain secretly drowns in self-doubts and over-thinking.

Did lover’s parents recognize me?  Do they wonder what I am doing, sharing gelato with a young and attractive girl in short shorts?  Do they mentally battle Prima against their younger daughter in an unknown mental arena?  Do they doubt my faithfulness to lover?  Or did the two of them walk pass, oblivious of me, and had nothing more on their minds than what was for dinner tonight?  And which outcome would I want?

The easiest passage through collapsing brain waves was to return to my jabe with Prima.  Her childhood survival story was dependent on three foods to eat while she was starving at home – Peanut Butter, Whipped Cream, and Condensed Milk.  When Prima was eight years old and home alone, these three treasures kept her alive.

Her mom was hardly home and restocked supplies on the same frequency.  There should have been canned pastas to last the duration, except this schedule did not account for her stepfather crashing on and off at their home, and finishing two to three cans in one serving to fill an adult appetite.  The juvenile solution to this monster jerk was to always choose canned pasta with sausages, which he disliked, instead of his beloved spaghetti and meatballs.  This prolonged the availability of food supplies.

Because of the humidity in Florida, bread did not stay fresh for longer than three days.  Her saving grace was bagels, which stored for longer periods of time.  They went along well with her three treasures, especially whipped cream.  The other two were eligible solo acts when necessary.

When Prima moved to Virginia, she looked forward to school lunches.  (Virginia generally does have superior food, as I can attest after having been there on work trips.)  This excitement did not survive their next immigration to New York.  She wondered how humans could eat this garbage.  Other than starving my way through high school, I grew up on these school lunches, so I was used to them.  My favorites were pasta shells with ricotta cheese, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken wings, and chicken nuggets.  However, if you were to serve this quality of food to me now, I probably would spit it back out and curse along a lawsuit filing on how human beings could be reduced to eating such waste.

Prima and I grew up in poverty; we were content and happy in the only world we knew, but we gladly drifted away from the old lifestyle as we worked towards a wealthier future.  I rose through the noble ranks of SYEP, while Prima played hot potato with cash as a hostess at Grand Harmony.  Now instead of feeding handfuls of starving children in third world countries, I stockpile a complete set of McDonald’s Minions at Prima’s apartment, along with new postcards from Xi’an and Yangshou on her refrigerator collection.  I harbor ambitions to travel the world with a Chun Li toy too, to represent Prima, as I photographically document the adventures of my yellow rubber duck and Captain America Munny.  This world is in a greater need for hope than sustenance.

And I am the greatest hope of all, because even I can love.

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

Tacos Y Quesadillas Mexico

[July 31, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

Once again proving that this is only a food blog in disguise, I am using my work lunch to blog about my movie date with Janet and our ever-expanding toy collection.  Before the fun and games though, it is a normal work day that requires a lunch break.  One of my favorites is a food cart not far away from the office building, Tacos Y Quesadillas Mexico, on 53rd Street & 7th Avenue.  Guess what they serve.

Well, you would be wrong.  Yes, the chica y chico working the cart do serve tacos and quesadillas, along with burritos and rice platters with the same choice of ingredients.  But the reason to come here is their Tortas Cubanas.  This Mexican food cart does a mean Cuban sandwich!  On a round burger bun, they manage to cram a food pyramid in your stomach, which includes lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, mozzarella, ham, a fried egg, pork cubes, and crispy shreds of pulled pork.  Their specialty green sauce unites the proteins in a friendly spiciness for general consumption.

Tortas Cubanas

Mozzarella is my favorite cheese.  While this is not the fresh cold cuts of Italian variety, it is gooey joy on the sandwich.  The fried egg is an inexpensive commodity that adds a layer of luxury to the combination.  And lastly, the breaded strings of crispy pork differentiates this Mexican interpretation from the Cuban counterparts in the neighborhood (such as Tina’s, Morgon, and Cafe Cello).  Its texture stands out, which reserves judgment for the sandwich-eater, because it is neither a plus nor minus on me.

Food: C
Drinks: N/A
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: N/A
Final: C

Empowered with a full and pleasing meal, I have the energy to endure the afternoon demands of a labor force, until the corporate walls released me to reunite with the toymaker of my life.  Fluttering through the clueless air of tourists mobbing around Times Square as if their personal lavatory, I meet with Janet on the third floor of Midtown Comics.  Destined selector of my toys, she lucked out two blind boxes from a double decked case.  We believed them to be Captain America and Venom, but both unmasked to be the responsible Peter Parker.

If I continued to collect for all eight Marvel Munnies, I knew I would surely get dupes.  However, as I only had the Hulk so far, I thought my chances of buying two would simply be acquiring those less desirable – Iron Man and Thor.  Yet here I am, fated to have two Spider-Men.  Honey can now bring the dupe with her to Greece and around the world, with Spider-Man representing yours truly.

Climbing over the initial hill of disappointment, I still manage to be happy with the outcome.  If I chose and built the toys myself, I would obsess over why I chose the wrong box and the ugliness in the detailed imperfections on each toy.  Yet when a pretty girl does the deed, I am only appreciative of her heart to me, because the choice and workmanship of the toy is her time, effort, and thoughtfulness gifted upon the ever fortunate me.

We meet our people – Mandy and Xu – waiting on line at AMC Loews 34th Street 14 for the advanced screening of 2 Guns.  They came early to hold our spot, so that we could justifiably cut the sea of losers behind us.  With time as our sidekick, Janet exercises her heart through the hands and sticks together two distinctive Spider-Men to bottle her tender thoughts of me in 3-inch Munny figurines.

The first Spider-Man has the big white eyes, blue shirt and pants, a giant black spider in neon green highlights as his chest piece, and two white spider nets in his hands.  Meanwhile, the doppelganger has Spidey-glasses, blue pants, an adorable pink tie with a grey clip, and a pink heart with the letters “MJ”.  The signature DIY touch is the camera on his left eye, in which Janet rips away the extraneous black camera string to the right, signifying that this Spider-Man is in the midst of taking pictures!

As delighted as I am with my toys, I am ever more so because Janet is willing to come out to the movies with just me.  Escaping from the smothering shelter of her older sister, Honey, Janet has now raced forward to arm me with her Gmail yesterday and her cell phone number today.  Newly possessing all that was restricted from me before, I voice my concern to Janet that our relationship might be going too fast.  Too much happiness at once might not be a good thing.  Next, she will soon spread her Facebook open for my conquest as well.

With a dab of sincerity, two spoons of determination, and three swirls of persistence, I am closer to undressing the bajingo secrets of why Janet hates me.  If anything, the ice mountain separating us is collapsing in itself.  She warms to the thought of eloping with me to London and Paris for a week.  Licensed to have fun for only three weeks a year as a Dental Assistant, her vacation days are already two weeks spent on Florida and Las Vegas this year.  Meanwhile, I am rampaging through China, with Yunnan and Xiamen on the map for September.  Keeping the dream alive though, I disclose the legendary 18-year vacation schedule, on which she can find and reschedule London and Paris to her lobster pot whims.

Living out another dream come true, Janet watches a movie with me.  2 Guns is a continuing trend of comic book-based summer blockbusters, except there are no adamantium claws, iron suits, or superheroics.  Denzel Washington is an undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Mark Wahlberg is the same from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).  (Yeah, I have no idea what NCIS is either.  Its Wiki is no help.)  Not knowing the true identities of each other, Washington and Wahlberg team-up to rob a bank, misled to think that the money belongs to a Mexican drug cartel, and then try to kill each other to tie-up loose ends for their respective agencies.  This is when poop hits the fan.

This is when Washington and Wahlberg find out that both of them are on the side of angels, while the money actually belongs to an even more ruthless organization – the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  All four parties want to kill them and take the money, so the atypical buddy-cop story is about staying alive and clearing their names, with busloads of action and humor along the ride.

The chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg is a laughing riot.  Wahlberg steals the show though.  With every wise he cracks, his character moves beyond the two-dimensional screen.  Paula Patton is the obligatory sex appeal.  Thanks to her, the rule of thumb on a first date is to go see nudity.  Janet got the hint.  I do not only want to play with two Marvel Munny Spider-Men.

Janet really enjoyed 2 Guns and my companionship.  (How can you not?)  Surprisingly though, my biggest takeaway is the horror of animal cruelty on the chickens.  They truly deserved better.  Otherwise, 2 Guns is a good movie, one that I will share with my father when it becomes available for household audiences.  He likes action comedies.  The other conspirators in our Movie Club were on a downward feedback loop.  Mandy found 2 Guns borderline acceptable, while Xu experienced continued disinterest in this genre of films.

After the movie, Janet and I were finally able to get rid of the lightbulbs, with Mandy and Xu departing for Red Mango in Korea Town.  To maximize our two-person world, Janet and I took an evening stroll back uptown to Midtown Comics in Times Square.  She lucks out another two Marvel Munny blind boxes for me.

Marvel Munnies

The first opening was a Saturday night party, welcoming the addition of the much beloved Captain America Munny to our toy kingdom.  The following surprise was a disappointing “oh” from my Silly Janet.  It was the second dupe of the night with another Hulk.  Kid Robot is truly maximizing their profits, by multiples of bank vaults, when every other toy is a dupe!

Nevertheless, I am still fascinated with the building of a relationship where every time I see her, she makes me a new toy.  On this night, we cheat and skip to four toys.  Fortunately, I only follow rules when it benefits me.  Eager to satisfy the one and only me, Janet rips open the sealed bag and starts piecing together wonder and awe with her hands.  Soon thereafter, Janet awards me with the bravest Captain America Munny to bring along my world tours!

Saving an excuse to see me again (and again), Janet confiscates all of the outstanding stickers.  Although it is a dupe, she will build me a one-of-a-kind Hulk, from the sweetest roast buns of her heart.  There is only one way to travel the world, and that is with customized toys that are unique and individualized by pretty girls!

Aflame with excitement in our hearts, we retire for the night.  We must ready ourselves for the next toy selection ceremony, when Janet will luck out her favorite Doctor Octopus Munny for me.  She will be my Octo-Girl, with all eight of her “arms” wrapped around me, endearing this world to the age of softrice!

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice

Hasaki

[July 28, 2013]

Dear softrice fan:

Sometimes, you have to go backwards in order to move forward.  Early in the morning, I revisit old grounds and print an extra ticket for Janet at the Computer Lab of Pace University.  Suppressed memories of bittersweet heartbreaks upset the tranquil environment, suffered through in the name of expanding the Movie Club.  Paper key in hand, I desperately escape the clutches of the past and whoosh to greet the present at Regal Union Square Stadium 14.

The puppet master of our Movie Club, Stephen, is an early bird, protecting our place in line from other awaiting audiences of the advance screening to Smurfs 2 in 3D.  Guaranteed of our strategic position, I wander into Forbidden Planet and make an accidental find.  Kid Robot teamed up with Marvel to create a new line of Do-It-Yourself Munnies.  The big and medium toys, at 7-inch and 4-inch respectively, are available for your choice of four characters – Iron Man, Spider-Man, Venom, and Wolverine.  Their smaller 3-inch toys, which are easier to carry around the world, are blind boxes with an additional roster of four – Thor, Doctor Octopus, Captain America, and Hulk.

Doctor Octopus is a strange candidate.  He looks more like a nameless Hydra agent in all that green and without his four robot arms.  Along with Thor, their character designs are both plain and ugly.  Spider-Man is my favorite superhero and he can represent me on my world travels, but Venom is the most badass villain ever!  The latter can carry my rage and cool in one toy.  And so I began to brew intentions to bring a 4-inch Venom on future trips.

Indecisive until I arrive to a decision, I return to the line for a second opinion.  Fellow conspirator, Mandy, replaces Stephen as our placeholder in the crowd, while I take the latter with me to Forbidden Planet.  I tour him through the choices, in return for a useless answer – Buy everything.

Mandy calls for our return.  The line is migrating inside the theater.  I release Mandy and Stephen to reserve seats, while I await the others.  Xu soon arrives and journeys within the magical cinematic box.  The Cheng Sisters – Honey and Janet – arrives casually late for the queue, but just in time for my toy kingdom.  If everything happens for a reason, then the cumulative events of this morning was for Honey to make an executive decision and luck out a 3-inch blind box for me, while the new assembler in Janet to our team was to grant me a toymaker.

How I feel about something can certainly fluctuate depending on the pretty girl that I am with.  On this day, is it the “H8er” Doctor Octopus.  Somehow, he manages to snatch onto her heart.  Because she likes him, the villain that usurped the body of Peter Parker becomes easier on the eye.  I hatch and grow onto the idea that this toy can represent her as I travel around the world with it.

Alas, the “H8er” was not meant to be.  The Cheng Sisters open the box inside the theater to discover the world-smasher, Hulk.  Janet carefully selects and peels adhesive stickers from two sheets, and artistically positions them on a dark green Munny.  The final product is an adorably angry Hulk in purple pants and a polka dot bowtie, holding a “Smash” sign.  Originally doubtful if I want any, now I only want more!

The Hulk Munny

Reverting to toys might seem childish and immature, but it is a key catalyst in my formula for growth and advancement.  Other than drawing attention to its cuteness and showing tenacity in bringing a toy along my wanderlust adventures, I want lover to feel comfort and pride.  With each picture, she will be able to appreciate my ability to make friends and how much of a difference I make in their worlds.  In this particular instance, I am worthy of the time and efforts of a pretty girl to make a toy just for me.

If it takes immaturity to create happiness, so be it.  I will gladly be a brat and endure the ridicule of inconsequential onlookers, in exchange for the laughter of my people with each vacation picture featuring my army of toys.  The only headache is that I may have too many qualified candidates.  My plan was to bring Beijing the Rubber Duck (the constant), a miniature Iron Man (that Prima selected and Honey loves), and the Banana Minion (the recent Facebook popularity king, with Mandy and Xu as his most loyal cheerleaders).  Adding the Hulk Munny would be a logistical overload, but this toy would also bring a different layer of meaning to the game – a one of a kind toy made for me by a pretty girl.  This is the message that best resonates with lover.  I just have to solve the details.

While strategically planning my photographic love letters to lover, my attention is temporarily distracted to watch the Smurfs 2 in 3D.  Maple is the only one in my life that is a crazy obsessive Smurf fan.  I never watched the cartoon or saw the first movie.  Honey did not see the precedent either, which was why she surprised me with the desire to go for this one.

To my understanding, Smurfs are the equivalent of little blue elves, living in a magical wonderland with mushroom houses.  An evil human wizard discovers their world and requires their essence (aka life force) to perform magic spells (and eventually conquer the world, I suppose).  In this sequel, aside from his villainous cat, he makes clay copycats of the Smurfs called the Naughties, which are little grey elves.  Basically, the story is that the Naughties kidnap Smurfette (a blonde female Smurf that was once an evil Naughty turned good and blue), so the Smurfs return to our dimension and fight alongside their human friends to save the girl.

Unlike Despicable Me 2, which is a cartoon movie that gives me the feeling that lover must see, Smurfs 2 is indifferently disinteresting.  Some moments did get Janet to laugh though, as did I.  However, the story lacks ambition, while the characters are mostly not annoying enough for me to hate.  A great distance is involved before I can actually invest emotions on them.  Overall, the movie was not a waste of time, but even for undiscerning young children nowadays, I suspect the material will be unintelligible.  Then again, without applying judgment, you will always have the diehard fans like Maple.

After the movie, the club disperses into separate standalone adventures.  Honey journeys into Queens for a BBQ.  (I will forever remember that she chose a BBQ over waiting eight hours on line to do the Rain Room with me!)  Janet painfully tears herself away from my divine presence to momentarily entertain her previous social circle.  And Stephen plays the role of a filial son that will have lunch with his parents.  I gather the remaining troops – Mandy and Xu – to lunch in the East Village.

Hasaki
210 East 9th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.473.3327
www.hasakinyc.com

Hasaki

Hasaki, a basement Japanese restaurant (if you cannot tell from its name), caught our attention with its pink neon sign.  The name is actually legendary in my social circle, because it is Jane’s favorite sashimi restaurant and her special spot.  Lover may have gotten me into seafood, but it was Jane’s egging that got me into eating raw seafood.  Now I have all the more reason to anticipate a chirashi that is excelsior!

The simple Japanese restaurant has a white ceiling, a wooden sushi bar, and a rectangular room of wooden tables and chairs.  The paradox of Japanese culture can be found in their bathroom, which sports a luxury toilet bowl.  The complicated piece of machinery has so many fancy buttons that I required a bit of time to figure out how to flush.  The girls tell me that the toilet bowl is also equipped to slow rinse and blow dry interested passengers.

Ceramic Figurine

Relationships is about chemistry, dependent on timing and fate.  One incarnation of such in my day was my finding of a brown ceramic figurine, similar to Stitch, hidden next to a larger calligraphy paper fan.  Both were decorations in the last wall window in the room.  It is another qualified candidate to come along my world tours.

The toy reminds me of fate.  You may not know what you are looking for, but you will eventually find it.  And vice versa, you may know what are you looking for, but it does not mean you will find it.  Most of the paying customers will not find or notice this clay figurine of a Japanese creature.  Yet I did, because of fate.  I see something that others do not see, which is my selling point as the ruler of the world, and as her window to the world for lover.  I am in these details.

Mandy and Xu misguide me to the lunch sets, on the basis of economics.  Each meal comes with a house salad, a choice of hot or cold soba, and an entree.  Wishful thinking convinced me that the salad and soba might just be extras on the side, while entrees would still be in normal portions.  Positivity lost the day, because Hasaki needs to make a profit.

Teriyaki Fried Chicken

Xu ordered what I would probably get on a return visit, the Teriyaki Fried Chicken.  You can usually only get either the teriyaki or the fried chicken.  Hasaki combines the two for your tasting pleasures.  And yet it loses the original appeal of both.  Their marriage is healthy rather than decadent.

Garlic Beef

Mandy’s entrée is a dull and boring Garlic Beef.  It is the Japanese equivalent of beef and broccoli; an Eastern dish tamed for Western palates.  Thick slices of garlic cling onto beef merely twice its size.  Vampires beware.  For mortal day-walkers though, the taste fails to amaze Mandy.  And lover does not eat beef, so the dish was irrelevant before it was ordered, and remained as such after it was consumed.

Cold Soba

Soba preparation is a choice between hot or cold servings.  The noodles are prized for their simplicity, disappointingly akin to a plain tasting of clean Earth.  Since I am already paying for an overpriced culinary cleansing anyway, I usually have my soba cold to enjoy the noodles at its most natural state.  Xu follows suit with her virgin experience, easily apparent as she muddles through confusion with the accompanying dipping broth.  Mandy stands apart with her bowl of hot soba, slowly recuperating bodily warmth from the drizzling rain outside.

The two girls are also new to oshinko, the Japanese yellow and purple pickles, served on the side.  Both are edible to me, while they prefer the crunchy yellow medallions over the shreds of sour purple pickles.

Chirashi

The usual suspects appear in my Chirashi – tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, and Japanese sweet eggrolls.  The soba set minimizes my raw fish bowl to smaller portions, which I still begrudge.  I would much rather have more raw fish than cold soba.  The seafood is noticeably fresh; vibrant colors radiated off their flesh like a rainbow.  Its texture is a healthy amount of chewiness to set things in motion, followed by a smooth transition towards melting in your mouth.

Hasaki offers a respectable chirashi, but my heart remains where it began.  My favorite chirashi is still at Jukai, which offers a greater variety of seafood in its classy, elongated light blue bowl.  It has octopus and sea eel!  And the ingredients are organizationally diced into perfect cubes, for a better mixture of taste in every bite.  Jane has her special spot; I have a benchmark to keep searching.

A decade ago, I would not be able to eat raw seafood at all.  Since then though, Prima nudged me towards sashimi, and Jane subsequently pushed me over the cliff to fall for chirashi.  Now my palate is well-adjusted to bring lover to ravage all the seafood that Japan has to offer!

Food: C
Drinks: N/A
Dessert: N/A
Ambiance: C
Final: C

To expand my window to lover, I move my chess pieces to further corners of the globe.  We close our meal with a bitter green tea (served in distinctive cups with 33 generations of sumo-wrestlers as its wraparound design), make a stop at Muji to purchase a sturdier container to traverse with my Hulk Munny, and trek to Fei Yang Travel in Chinatown.  Interested to see what the Taiwan itinerary offers, I am sending Mandy and Xu to perform an intelligence mission, before Honey and I commit to the same trip next October.

The plan going in was a combined two weeks in Taiwan and Thailand.  Mandy and Xu are metropolis-hoppers, so they were hopeful for economical options to swap out Thailand for either South Korea or Japan.  (I prefer the remote wilderness.)  As their strategy consultant, I help my logistics expert – Mandy – flip and flop around the various tours, to try different combinations of dates and prices.

Japan was beyond their price point, as was South Korea combined with Jeju Island.  South Korea, by itself, fell within an acceptable amount of wealth to part ways with.  After noting that the itinerary includes a Teddy Bear Museum, Mandy no longer cared what else was offered on the tour, as long as they went there.  Being a superior planner over the travel agents, I worked out the dates and scheduled for the two girls to first see South Korea and then Taiwan, on the first two weeks of November.

And as lover says, success attracts success.  During the strategic vacation planning process, a pretty girl disguising as a travel agent calls me out.  She confirms that I am the one and only Prince of Heaven.  Having no interest in other girls after knowing lover though, I had to ask how we knew each other.  Did we date?  Was she a one night stand?  Is she a fan?  (Everyone is a softrice fan!)  What was her name?

Heartbroken from being unremembered, Betty reintroduces herself in my life.  I promise that I would redo my research on Facebook and bring her back into my life of awesomeness.  Maybe I will start by inviting her to the Movie Club.

I end the day knowing that lover will be happy with me; I am in a better place than I left off.  I will see more of the world.  I am expanding my social circle.  And I will continue to add more toys.  I am a superior me.  For someone that is wheels within wheels, everything will come together soon too – Aonvergence 2014.

Always in a puff of smoke,

softrice