Friday, December 21, 2018

Pardon Another Interruption

We had a free few days, so we decided to go to the Big Apple, or whatever it's called nowadays.  Trumpville?  

Who am I kidding?  We don't have free days.  We're just greedy gluttons who want a good meal (or five) and don't mind being stressed with time.  First World issues, I readily admit. Guilty.

I had some $$$ for educational expenses to use before YE 2018, so, found a really nice conference on Endocrinology/Pulmonology/Neurology to attend.  It was an excellent conference, from 730 AM Fri/Sat/Sun to about noon, then the rest of the day/night to play.  Sammie had been to NYC twice in the last few weeks (yes, she gets around), so we told her she should devote some time to work and forego this trip.  Connie and I left on a plane Thursday afternoon (I had a conference to lead that AM, so I actually worked Thursday) that arrived Friday night at 1230 AM.  I had to get to the conference at 730 AM Friday (430 AM pacific time), so I knew I would be tired.  Emily finished her last final at about 6 PM on Thursday and caught a direct flight on jetBlue at about midnight, arriving in NYC at about 8 AM Friday, when I was just getting into the management of hard to control Diabetics. I know, TMI.  I do that.

Actually, this was an excuse, too, to go see Shigeyuki-san.  He was the Sous-chef at Iwa in Ginza.  You can read about him in some of my past posts.  He was recruited to go to the Waikiki Sushi Sho, about a year ago.  He was there only for a few weeks; he wasn't really forthcoming on details when I asked him about this. Then, some rich American venture capitalists wanted a high end sushi place in NYC.  They enticed him to be the head guy at Noda (short for Shigeyuki Tsunoda).  It opened a year ago, and it's been pretty much sold out since then. Just earned a Michelin star.  I hate that.  It means either too busy and/or more expensive.  More about our meal later.  Connie thinks this is the only reason I wanted to come to NYC, and honestly, if not for this restaurant, you wouldn't be reading this. He is, by far, my food hero of all time.

OK, we get to our hotel at about 145 AM Friday (kudos to the aggressive cabbie who got us from JFK to Grand Central Terminal in 30 minutes).  I have to wake up at 630 AM to get ready for my conference.  I hadn't even registered yet -- I think most sane folks had arrived and registered the night before, but I never claimed to be sane.  Connie insists on going out to eat.  NYC is the city that never sleeps and I think that is true.  I had previously found on Yelp, two places near our hotel (the Grand Hyatt, adjacent to Grand Central Terminal) which might be good.  There are numerous eateries open nearly all night, and these fit the bill.  Connie wanted pizza, but I insisted we get some Udon (it was chilly), knowing we didn't get enough Udon in Japan (ha!).  Just two blocks from our hotel, there is Udon Midtown West.  Open from 11 AM to 3 AM.  It's actually an Izakaya with an extensive menu.  I had Tenzaru soba, and Connie got the vegetable udon.  Em was still in the air, probably in Colorado.

I'd go back there again.  Connie said the same.  And she did!  The next night she went back for her same veggie udon, while I stayed back in my room.  Em accompanied the party girl. My soba was really good, with excellent dipping sauce which included enough wasabi.  The Tempura was only so so.  Doughy.  

OK, now it is about 3 AM, and I have to wake up in just a couple of hours, and someone insists on stopping at the $0.99 pizza slice place (they're ubiquitous in NYC).

Not too bad.  Connie really liked it.  Comparable to Little Ceasars, I think. But Connie scoffs at the comparison.

The next AM, after my conference, which was excellent by the way, Connie and Em wanted to meet at Chloe, a vegan place, for lunch.  They had already gone all over, walking to St Patrick's Cathedral, shopping at numerous stores in Midtown, Times Square, below. Em had no trouble navigating from JFK to Manhattan.

They see the Xmas tree at Rockefeller Center.  I went there to look for them, and all I see are a bunch of Santas (are there really more than one?), and the big tree which everyone wants to stand by with their picture.

Chloe. There are several in NYC, and they're probably all crowded.  This one, right around the corner from Rock Center, was quite crowded.  Vegan food. Bah humbug. They said it was ok.  Sorry, no pics.  

We then went down to Greenwich Village to roam around. Had some "discussions" about our Metrocards and how to use them. Upon arrival down there (Manhattan is called uptown, midtown and downtown), walked past NYU, around Washington Square park, then to Keste's pizza.  Best pizza of the trip, but far from the best I've had in my life.  I guess you have to be a NY pizza fan to like this stuff.  These two pizzas below (marghareta and vegan) were $5 each, believe it or not.  This place is famous.  We got out of there really cheap.

Sammie told us about Keste's and she said we should go there and also to Joe's, which is a couple of blocks away.

Limp, and the sauce wasn't to my liking.  Keste's is better.  Sam also said to go to Van Leeuwen for ice cream.  I was already so full, all I had was a bit from theirs.  It was good.  Nuf said.

Afterwards, we take the subway back to Times Square, walk through Bryant Park, and all their shops.  We go to the obligatory Muji (they seem to be everywhere now, outside of Japan), and by that time, I am dead.  I go back to the hotel and let them wander.  I'm in bed when they return, and they decide to go back to Udon Midtown West for more Udon!  I have to rest. Something to be said about youthful energy.

Saturday, I had the usual AM conference breakfast, standard fare, bagel, cream cheese, fruit, and eighteen cups of coffee.  Shoulda had twenty.

This Bagel was quite good.  Chewy, still moist, and very tender. Almost had another.

Studious conference-goers.

By the way, I think I had only thirteen cups Friday AM.  Anyway, Saturday, Em and Connie went out to the Empire State Building, then to Cinnamon Snail at Madison Square Garden for vegan doughnuts and pastries.   They said it was ok.  NY isn't Japan, I'm telling ya.

I meet them at Chelsea Market about 1 PM, and we walk to Union Square.  We have lunch at Sweet Greens (there is one in San Mateo), a light lunch because we're going to have a huge dinner later.  We get to Soho and do a little shopping before I insist we go back to the hotel to rest a little bit before dinner.

The next morning, they go out in the rain, to find a pizza to bring home on the plane.  They do a bit of shopping too.  Here's their Joe's pizza that was brought back on the plane for Sammie.

At the airport, before we board, we see a couple of Shake Shack's.  I think there is going to be one soon in the city (SF).  There is one in Stanford Shopping center.  It was very good.  Below is my standard ShackBurger.  Greasy.  Fries aren't a bargain, portion small.  But tasted very good! Better than In & Out.

OK, we had a good time this trip...

Oh, I forgot.  There are some photos of our dinner at Noda the night before we left.

On our way there, on 28th St, we see an unusual corner shop.  We arrived about 30 minutes before our resy, so we were walking around the neighborhood.

Interesting.  I would have gone in, but I was with Em and Connie, and we only had a few minutes, and the entrance was crowded, and they wanted to walk back to the restaurant, and they saw a storefront that looked inviting for a picture.

OK, you NEVER show up late for a Sushi reservation.  We were told to come at 8:30 for our 8:45 reservation, so we get there right at about 8:29:57.  Enough time for Em to snap an obligatory picture at the entrance.  You better know where this is, because there are NO signs on the street. This picture is in the foyer, well inside the sidewalk.

Connie looks much better than her husband.

Once inside, we see a really cozy bar.  There are numerous VERY nice bottles.  A 2 oz pour of 25 year old Yamazaki will set you back 1190.  That's not ¥.   It's $.  Even a 1 oz pour of Yamazaki 12 is $24.  Ugh.  Times have changed.  

I felt bad.  The staff here is extremely professional and I can tell that they are unsure of how to handle street people like us.  I plan to get the Sake pairing with my meal, so I choose to have nothing at the bar, pre meal.  Not even water.  Only eight people per seating, so this is a very intimate setting.  It is awkward sitting there in the bar, waiting for our table.  There are six of us in the bar (2 bozo's show up 45 minutes late, but more on them later), and it's very quiet.  There is an eclectic mix of music on the juke, from New Wave to classic rock to old and new Jazz.  I even hear Kid Charlemagne from Steely Dan in the mix.  That's in my current playlist.

While we were waiting in the bar, Shigeyuki san met us in the bar to greet us like long lost friends.  It was really nice.  I noted everyone in the bar watching us while I said my "hisashiburi des" and my bowing...

We're seated.  I order the Sake pairing and Sparkling water for the three of us.

Mushroom soup. Renkon chips.  The soup was great, but the chips lacked flavor but had good crispness.

Doing his thing.

I'm not going to post each of the 56 selections of Sake that I had.  If you really have the need to know, then contact me.  I have pictures.  The pours were substantial, and Connie was a lightweight; she only had a small sip of each, so I had to take one 56 for the Gipper.

I actually voice recorded the whole 2.5 hours on my iphone, because I didn't want to bother to write down every single description of what sake was being served with what fish.  If I was a professional blogger, I would go back and listen, but I'm content just having it archived in case I need.  This post may not be 100% accurate.  << I actually went back and listened in real time, all 2.7 hours of this to re-experience this evening and get more details, which I have added on>>

1st sake, sparkling, not traditional, but really nice.

Chawanmushi with Uni and Caviar. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Oh, this I would have over and over again.  Connie and Em said they weren't going to eat this when I described this dish earlier in the day, before we even got here.  I was pretty sure we would get this dish.  Shigeyuki-san alters the menu depending on what he could get from Tsukiji Toyosu, but uni and caviar, c'mon. Seasonal by quality but not availability.  I knew we'd have this. Anyway, I am so glad he was able to get really nice Hokkaido Uni.

In the end, Em and Connie wouldn't give me any of theirs. I begged them to, but no.  Just kidding. Seriously, they both said they weren't eating this before we got there.

This isn't vegan, by the way.  

The Chawanmushi was very delicate.  I could hardly taste the dashi (I asked Shigeyuki-san if there was Katsuo dashi, and he said yes), but the umami was there. There is Uni broth in there too. That's why.

It was like dessert at the beginning of the meal.  One of the best dishes I've ever had.

Here's a sake brewed in Brooklyn, using rice from the upper midwest, according to the Sommelier. Same folks who make Dassai.

This is Sawara, or Japanese Spanish Mackerel.  Fresh, with a little bit of salt.

Shime-saba,  "pickeled mackerel."  Mackerel is very oily and fishy, and hard to eat, raw.  Usually pressed after a ferment with salt, sugar and vinegar.  Sammie loved this in Vancouver, torched, at Miku. This fish came from West Japan, or the Sea of Japan.

Sous chef, didn't seem too busy.  Shigeyuki's show.

Seared Scallop

Ankimo.  Really rich, but not like Foie gras.  I like this more.

Braised sea perch, in sake broth, with Kabu underneath (not Daikon).

Maestro at work.



Wakame.  I thought it had too much sourness in the Ponzu, but not enough to say it was bad.

In the interest of time, I am not going back to my audio transcript to find what all these fish are.  Suffice it to say that these are all really good.  I remember some, and I will label.  <<  I have actually gone back to edit this transcript, adding some names, after listening to the stalker audio>>

Amazing, it was only now that the couple across from us came in.  At least 45 minutes late.  The way Tock works, you pay up front for the meal, so the restaurant doesn't care.  But c'mon.  Show some respect.  They ended up not even paying attention to the meal... ugh. Connie says the woman was UI (like DUI).

This was Kinmedai.



Ikura, barely colored, with extremely thin membranes. Bursts in your mouth with zero effort. Fresh.



Large tray of Hokkaido uni

Miso soup

Kuruma Ebi, this was really really good


Cane sugar ice cream

Giant shark fish eggs

Just kidding. Sake (actually Sake no kasu) truffles with Dassai and white chocolate ganache.

OK, I'll be back!

Without doubt, the best sushi I have ever had.  The best sushi meal I have ever had.  Fun too!