February 23, 2016
…this raw, marinated crab at Soban, a small, homely Korean restaurant on the outskirts of Koreatown.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t linked to their website, it’s because when you go to the Soban website you find yourself scanning kitchen equipment. Which tells you a lot about this restaurant; it has a decidedly old-fashioned feel. This is not one of your loud, glitzy restaurants, nor one of your hip, edgy ones. It’s a small place with a single waitress and a t.v. tuned to the latest golf tournament. Eating here feels like stopping in at your elderly aunt’s place for a home-cooked meal and a cup of tea. (Alcohol is not only not served, it’s decidedly frowned upon.) People tend to keep their conversations to a polite hush.
No aunt I’ve ever known, however, serves anything like that marinated crab. It’s sweet and salty, rich and funky with silken meat. You try to dig the gorgeous orange roe out with your metal chopsticks, but end up attacking it with your fingers; it is one of the best things you’ll ever taste. If you like uni….. Afterward the perfume lingers on your fingers for hours, teasing you into wanting to go back and have another one. (A decidedly expensive proposition; the crab is not large and costs $35.)
But first you’ll get a table full of panchan, the little salad-like side dishes that are the hallmark of Korean restaurants. Here you get more than the usual handful; we had at least 15. I liked this one a lot.
The bean sprouts were lovely. So was the spinach. But my favorite was the braised celery – a sort of lovely teal green – sprinkled with ground nuts.
The famous dish here, other than the crab, is galbi jjim, the classic Korean short rib stew. This one is rich, garlicky and sweet, with just a hint of chile heat. The waitress will cut the meat up with scissors and then leave it to fall from the bone in a particularly wonderful way.
There are braised fish dishes – a rich one with black cod, tofu and turnips that seems very much like a home-cooked meal:
And a simpler, equally unassuming version featuring long, tender strands of squid:
And then, if you’re me, you’ll opt to order another one of those wonderful crabs. After all, who knows how long it will be until you get back again?
February 20, 2016
That’s a laarb slider from Lukshon – and truly delicious it is. Hiding behind it, however, are the ludicrously addictive taro chips. Honestly – I’ve alway hated taro chips but these are…. terrific.
Chinese eggplant with a fennel raita. tomato sambal and matchstick eggplant fries.
Dan dan noodles. The noodles, in particular, were impressive: chewy, they kept their integrity. And the scent of Sichuan peppercorns drifted up in the most enticing manner.
And when you’re eating outside on the patio, and the sun is shining down – well, it’s good to be out of the polar vortex!
February 19, 2016
And now, an “every-day dish” from the famous ancient Roman gastronome Apicius. Just a little something to put on the table when you’re too tired to attempt a serious culinary effort! Its from his book, De Re Coquinaria (“On the Subject of Cooking”).
Nobody knows who Apicius really was, but it’s believed he lived around the year 100. The texts we have were all written a few centuries later.
It’s a fascinating group of recipes that offer serious insights into what life for the wealthy Roman of the time must have been like.
See for yourself:
Cooked sow’s udder? Pancake? A water bath? All in a Roman slave’s day’s work. Parse this dish carefully, and you’ll see that it’s for something quite close to lasagna.
Apicius considered that an “everyday dish.” Want to see the special occasion version?
A few notes on the ingredients:
Origany, I imagine, is oregano
Mallows are a foraged wild green.
Pullum raptum: fowl plucked while still living.
Lucanian sausages continue to be popular in Rome. Here’s a recipe
Tarantinian sausage, cooked in the ashes: I can find no reference for this exact name, but I’m supposing that it refers to sausage from Taranto, in Puglia. Which is interesting, as this is a sausage made from tuna belly.
February 17, 2016
Dinner last night at the counter at Le Pigeon was… insanely delicious. I’m going to let the photographs speak for themselves. Well, except for that dish above, which hit every single pleasure point in my brain. It’s a wild rice pancake topped with a slab of seared foie gras, sea urchin and sour cream. What gilds this lily is the salty maple syrup, which makes every bite zoom around your mouth in a completely seductive fashion. I’ve never encountered anything remotely like it – and I look forward to doing so again.
The bay scallop crudo was a wonderful contrast: cool, clean, totally refreshing. It’s the yin to the yang of that mad pancake, all icy sorbet, celery root, apple, with the tang of mezcal and the zing of jalapeno. Pure pleasure.
I liked the “Rip City stir fry” – although it couldn’t begin to compete with the other two dishes. It’s basically strips of onion tangled into pieces of heart: robust and fascinating food, all crunch and texture.
Grilled pigeon, with couscous, cauliflower, onion raisin relish and pinenuts.
Truffle parmesan risotto with orange-drenched carrots, squash and peanuts.
And for dessert….. Pigeon leg: deep-fried and spiced until it turned into a kind of avian cruller. Chewy, sweet and savory, all at the same time. And then, finally, this madly wonderful ice cream sandwich. What a meal!
February 14, 2016
Of course I love this book!
It was published right around the time that I was born, in the place that I was born – and it captures the Village I grew up in. It was a friendly place; PS 41 (the old building, a pre-civil war monster, stood on the site of the current playground), was so small the principal knew every one of us by name. Sutter’s Bakery, on the corner of tenth street and Greenwich Avenue perfumed the entire street with the scent of butter and sugar, and we’d stand there, listening to the women in the House of Detention across the street, shouting down to their boyfriends who stood on the sidewalks below. We’d linger, hoping that e.e. cummings, who lived in Patchen Place, the little mews behind the school, might come out.
It really was a place of artists, writers and musicians; nobody had much money (I don’t think I ever met anyone who actually owned their own apartment), but the proximity to Little Italy, Chinatown and the old Jewish Lower East Side meant that we ate interesting food.
As for the Old Lafayette Hotel on Ninth Street and University Place – it was pretty sad by the time I knew it.
Strange, isn’t it, to think of “Peter” Seeger as a “young voice on the radio”?
I love the directive half-way through Morris’ Ernst’s Potato Eleventh Street. (Mr. Ernst, incidentally, co-founded the Civil Liberties Union) : “Sprinkle with paprika, which has no taste but looks pretty.” Tells you how long that particular spice sat forlornly on the shelf. (Were he still alive, I’d advise Mr. Ernst to go uptown to Paprikas Weiss to buy fresh paprika.