Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tokyo Ramen Tower

Dreamy yolk of the aji-tsuke tamago.
     There are places in every city that look otherwise habitable but lack truly good food. The area around New York's Lincoln Center in the afternoon always struck me as a black hole--though maybe Bloomberg has fixed that quality of life issue. Or maybe it's only a quality of life issue if you need good food within arm's reach at all times. Here in Tokyo, I dread going to the city offices over by Hamamatsucho because there is just nothing interesting to eat. Sure, there's a gorgeous temple with a view of Tokyo Tower, but you can't eat scenery.

Tokyo Ramen Tower. I know. But that's the name.
     So I was thrilled when the Professor found a ramen joint, Tokyo Ramen Tower, just down a little side street. We were running errands there early on a truly hot day and ended up standing outside waiting for the shop to open at 11. Very hot. You skin feels like it's shrinking hot. And yet I ordered the hot ramen, which was actually lovely and weirdly refreshing, thanks to the fresh mitsuba on top. It has that fresh cut, bright herbiness that makes the cilantro on pho so perfect. A thick soup might have killed me after I roasted on the sidewalk, and thankfully the soup was not heavy at all, with a very smoky katsuo-bushi (dried bonito) flavor and some fried leeks in there. The pork was roasted, then char-grilled, which really brings out the flavor of the meat--and, let's be honest, the wonderful, melty fat.
Note the char-grilled stripe of fat trembling and threatening to fall away.
Look! They give you a little rice ball stuffed with pork while you wait! EVERY business should do this, including doctors' offices and the DMV.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pick Up Sticks

     I hold my chopsticks wrong. There. I don't grip them in my fist like Early Man, or stab at my food with them, but I hold the lower chopstick against my middle finger, not my ring finger. This is how I did it throughout my childhood, and attempts to change to the more genteel fashion illustrated in the sign above ended, like all my forays into sports, in cramping and failure. The only option is to throw pretty at the problem, by which I mean distractingly pretty chopsticks.

Handmade glass chopsticks
    Ginza Natsuno stocks something around a zillion different chopsticks, from bamboo to glass. The shop, like the branch in the Marunouchi building near Tokyo, is tiny and packed to the brim. A quick stop turns easily into a long browse.

     Not only are they suitcase/post friendly, but the materials and the craft vary so wildly that you could pick up a souvenir, a set for daily use, or a wedding gift. And really, everything is a little better with real ohashi instead of the break apart kind that always splinter off into jagged little fence posts. Even when you're standing in front of the fridge in your jammies, picking at last night's kung pao, a nice pair of sticks could salvage that last little bit of dignity.

These screw together like a pool cue. Just because you're on the road doesn't mean you need to eat like an animal.
Trains and shinkansens for the kiddies. Son of Z has a set of these from Grandma and Grandpa.
Fancy inlay His and Hers sets for around $90 US.
     Of course, you're also going to need a place to set these lovelies down. If the chopstick selection didn't give you vertigo, the chopstick rests will. I know, it seems as superfluous as the napkin holder, but with so much more potential--they run elegant, witty, and seizure-inducingly cute. 

Bullet train/Tokyo Tower rests
Wooden lotus root slices! And dig the little silk potted clover.
Summer fun--beetle and watermelon rests. The kids love them, but living in New York turned me off to bugs on the table.
Sweets! The perfect reminder to save room for dessert. It's like they are in my brain.