Hungry for a little something after work last night, I popped my head into a new place that the very enterprising people at Urban Daddy alerted me to, Soba Totto (211 East 43rd Street, between Second and Third avenues, 212-557-8200. For more descriptions of the place, please take a look at this entry and this one. Thank you).
Not surprisingly, the restaurant’s specialty is Japanese buckwheat noodles, called soba. Also not surprisingly, sitting with the owner and some guy from Chicago, was Grub Street’s Josh Ozersky.
Josh seemed, oh, I don’t know, maybe just a tiny bit troubled that I, too, had heard of Soba Totto, which had just opened a couple of days earlier. Maybe he doesn’t subscribe to Urban Daddy, or maybe it’s his week off and he hasn’t been reading his e-newsletters. People do need a week off from time to time, you know.
Josh is probably best known for his job as editor of New York magazine’s food blog, but what he really is is a meat expert — hence his nickname, Mr. Cutlets — and he was gracious enough to send me a galley of his soon-to-be-published book, The Hamburger: A History, for an article I’m working on. It’s a terrific read, clever and witty, informative and sometimes strident in that way that Josh can be with regard to subjects pertaining to meat (I think we amused casual listeners with our conversation about deckle at the reopening-party of Picholine).
To wit (from his book):
"To admit ground beef on toast as a hamburger is to make the idea of a ‘hamburger’ so loose, so abstract, so semiotically promiscuous as to have no meaning."
Because hamburgers come on a bun, you see.
He's right, of course.
Anyway, I ate at Soba Totto’s bar, which is sleek and decked out in earth and wood tones. Behind it are young, hip-looking Japanese chefs, heads covered with urbane-Japanese-looking versions of do-rags, grilling things with a sort of casual earnestness.
Soba Totto is owned by the same people as Yakitori Totto, and so grilled meats are another restaurant specialty.
I had two draft beers (Kirin, I believe) assorted Japanese pickles, a skewer of chicken oysters (the “oyster” is the bit of meat on the chicken’s lower back, just above the thigh, that is highly prized by certain meat aficionados, maybe including Josh, although I can’t say for sure) and a bowl of hot soba with "poached egg” although really it was more of a swirled egg in the style of egg drop soup.