Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ending a night with slimy noodles

February 5

I think Sloan “Allergic Girl” Miller gets up earlier in the morning than I do. She certainly wrote her blog entry about Padre Figlio earlier than I wrote this one. It was nice to meet her in person; we had merely e-corresponded before. She’s pretty, and looks a lot healthier than I’d imagined. We spoke about allergies, but also about other things, like Firefly, which I think was the best TV series of all time, although I just got turned onto it a few weeks ago. She has a friend who worked with its creator, Joss Whedon, who is my hero.
Padre Figlio is a brand new Italian restaurant by the people who owned Da Antonio. For their opening party they had a buffet spread that I picked at, but mostly I drank Chianti and Cabernet Sauvignon and chatted with Arlyn Blake, Francine Cohen, Joe DiStefano — a Queens expert who works for Gothamist and others — and a few other regulars of the New York restaurant opening world, and Allergic Girl. It was a good time.
I didn’t eat much, though, so I walked around the corner to Soba Totto. The full menu is in place now, and I snacked on cucumbers with red miso and a skewer of grilled shishito peppers before diving into a hot bowl of yamakake soba.
Yamakake soba has a root in it that the Japanese call nagaimo or yamaimo, and that often is translated into English as mountain yam or Japanese yam. It's a tuber, but more like a watery potato than a yam, with one big difference: It has a slimy, slippery texture that the Japanese think is just a wonderful quality in food and that Americans think is, uh, slimy and slippery. And viscous. Like saliva, but a little thicker. Or mucous.
But really, if you know that's what you’re getting, you can steel yourself and be ready for it. Or at least I can.
So they brought what I think was a raw quail egg to the table, along with a cup of puréed nagaimo and a bowl of hot soba. I was to add the egg to the purée and pour it into the bowl. Which I did.
The soba had little bits of yuzu zest in it, which I didn't expect. The broth with the added nagaimo was a little slimy, which I did expect, and I figured I’d mention it again so you know what to expect when ordering yamakake soba. No one wants that kind of a surprise in noodles.

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