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Oh! Taisho

Almost as soon as I wrote the last post on my bad food luck as of late and poor appetite, I found myself in the Upper East Village searching for something to eat. Where to go, solo. I ended up at The Dumpling Man, which is basically a cross between chinatown dumpling shop and a trendy east village eatery. In other words, it is the kind of place where you pay $9 for 10 “specialty” dumplings, a price many times what you would pay in Chinatown. What do you get for this extra money? Well, you get a clean, non-fluorescently lit shop with specialty colas and weird dumpling flavors prepared by 3 Chinese women who are literally on display. The whole thing is a bit odd, but I was happy to see that after eating a few dumplings and NOT feeling sick that my appetite was back. Sweeeeet. Personally, I wouldn’t go back to this place. The dumpling skins are too thick, though the pumpkin dessert dumplings sound interesting…

The next day, walking through Chinatown on the way to The French Culinary Institute, I decided I needed a little dumpling and scallion pancake snack. I used my phone to search for a local dumpling spot and ended up at The Excellent Dumpling House on Lafayette, just south of Canal. I ordered to-go and ate a couple bits of my pancake on the way to class. There I shared with a friend, classmate and owner of local pizzeria Schmook’s Pizza (which is maybe the best slice place we’ve found) who agreed that their dumplings were indeed excellent. The secret to their crispiness seems to be a light coating of flour before frying. These were good enough to drag Kelly back a few days later while walking around the lower-half of Manhattan. Literally. Cut through soho to Ground Zero and to the water, tracing the outline back to Battery park and the Staton Island Ferry. We walked like 5 miles yesterday.

On Friday night, with International visitors from out of town, we were on the hunt for something Asian. Calling the glamorous Asian hot-spots like Buddakahn told us we’d not get reservations anywhere “nice” and did we really want to schlep way over to the West Village anyway? So we hit Yelp and discovered many, many glowing reviews of a yakitori spot up by Union Square with a long wait. We walked the 20 minutes or so there and found Oh! Taisho & Taisho Yakitori, which seemed to have the same menu and long waits. We put our name on both lists an d headed across the street to grab a Guinness and a nacho appetizer while watching some March Madness.

About 45 minutes later our name had come up. Now six of us, including Seno, Bea and two girls from El Salvador (ok, they live in Savannah and Houston now, but that doesn’t sound as cool) we took to our tiny table in the den of young Asians taking down large quantities of sake and beer. We joined in, ordering some Asahi and Onigoroshi, the only sake I know by name and then putting in our first order for a couple skewers of chicken skin and beef tongue along with potato salad, tuna carpaccio, noodle soup, fries with roe-mayo and bacon-wrapped okra.

A few minutes later and it started rolling out as it was finished, making it a very communal meal. The beef tongue was a little tougher than my other experience with it, but all in all, it was delicious. The roe-mayo was especially interesting, giving the mayo a bit of a salty bite. More was needed! We ordered scallion skewers, bacon wrapped quail egg skewers, more tuna carpaccio, tuna tartare,  some glazed-fried pork rice dish and maybe something else that I didn’t remember. And more beer. It was a great meal and I was happy that the restaurant drought was over. Thank you, Yelp.
Afterwards, we stopped by Max Brenner Chocolate as the girls were craving something sweet. Even at midnight, this place was packed with maybe a 30 minute wait. We grabbed some stuff to go, including an espresso for myself and walked about 25 minutes back to the Delancey bar on Delancey and Clinton, a few blocks from our apt, to meet up with some friend of the El Salvadorian women. I tell ya, this corner looks a bit rough but I liked the bar itself. It was trying hard to be a hip dance club and while not particularly succeeding, was still fun. I liekd the music. Kelly hated it, so I don’t know what that means.

We had a couple drinks there, maybe stayed for an hour or so and then people started to drop off. Seno was first to go, then the girls and then B, K and I decided to head somewhere else. Having recently been shutout of the Back Room on Suffolk for lack of women in the party, I decided now was the time to check it out. The entrance to the Back Room is a stairway in the ground guarded by a single bouncer. A check of the IDs and a descent down these stairs into an exposed corridor  makes you wonder where exactly you’re going. It feels like you’re going to a house party.

Up some more stairs (are we at ground level now?) and you walk through a small doorway into what would appear to be the lobby of an old theater. It reminds me of the The Big Picture in Belltown, only bigger and much more lively. It was crowded but not packed to the point where it was difficult to move around and there was no line for the bar. All drinks were served in coffee cups with saucers and coffee straws. Beers by the bottle come wrapped in paper bags and draught beers are poured into ceramic mugs. The crowd was decadently sprawled out on old-world furniture next to fireplaces. Bottles of open champagne, visual intimacy among couples and scantily clad women seemed to have been poured onto the raised level. And yet it was all unpretentious. I really liked this place.

After a couple drinks it was time to head home and get some sleep. The streets were still vibrant with party-goers, but we were done. Even the club at thor didn’t bother me tonight. I closed my eyes in bed and instantly fell asleep.

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