Monday, June 06, 2005

Restaurant 32: Menkui-Tei

LOCATION: 60 W. 56th St.
DATE: May 30, 2005
FOOD: Menkui Ramen (Seaweed broth flavored house special noodle soup – 3 pieces of roast pork, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and scallion).
PRICE: $10.00

An homage to Tampopo, the ultimate film guide to proper noodle(wo)manship

First, I admired the soup - how the surface of the broth glittered with beads of oil; how the pieces of roast pork floated in the embrace of the golden noodles and bean sprouts like floatsam and jetsam from a wrecked ship moored atop seaweed; how the noodles lurked enticingly beneath the surface; how the green of the scallion reflected against the white ceramic bowl.

Second, I tried the noodles. I delicately slid my chopsticks into the steaming liquid in a gesture with enough vague sexuality to make Goro proud. I wrapped the seemingly endless strand around the wooden chopstick, forming coils with as much conduciveness as electrical wire. Then I brought the noodles to my lips, using a few breaths to reduce the soup’s scald. I slurped the noodles in the American fashion the Ms. Manners in Tampopo claims Americans find obnoxious – for a brief moment, I was George Costanza without the paunch and receding hairline.

Third, I savored the flavors. The noodles were delicious – soft but chewy, completely fresh and utterly filling. The broth was a Tokyo rhapsody of seafood and vegetable accents, served at Tampopo’s avowed degree of heat reached right before the liquid begins to boil. The bamboo shoots provided a contrasting crunch, while the scallions a needed pungent sting. It was a reinvigorating stew, light but surprisingly filling – I dreamt of eating the dish in the dead of winter surrounded by the mythical unicorns of Murikami’s snowscape Hard-boiled wonderland.

Fourth, I ate the first of three pieces of roast pork, savoring the meat’s tenderness and the how the seafood broth practically marinated the pork post-roasting, enhancing an already succulent ensemble of flavors. I even closed my eyes, as the enjoyment of this meal was definitely not lost in translation.

And then finally, noodles, pork, and vegetables consumed, I drank the remaining broth. As heartwarming as mom’s chicken soup during a case of the flu, I felt fortified and restored, ready to face the night ahead, even if I was a bit thirsty from the rampant use of sodium in the soup’s base. But one complaint is not enough to dissatisfy. My first experience with Japanese ramen concluded, I was ready to travel East and hone my noodle technique in the home of noodles – and slurping.

RATING: 7.4/10

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