Thursday, December 8, 2011

A little slice of Japan. In Midtown.

Tuesday evening I attended Live at the NYPL to hear three musicians turned novelists: Steve Earle, Josh Ritter and Wesley Stace, better known as John Wesley Harding. Sitting in the second row I was close enough to see what their shoes looked like and what they were drinking. Josh drank water. Wesley drank wine and Steve alternated between a Diet Coke and water. The three men are as different musically as their writing is, or rather seems to be. I haven't read any of their novels yet, maybe over Winter break? I'm always interested in how people write, how they actually tackle a daunting task like stringing together enough words to fill up a novel. They talked about their transition from writing songs to writing books, which I hadn't really thought about till that night. A song, they all concurred, was a bit like a mini-novel. These guys just decided it was time to take a song a little further.

Are you ready for the reading list?
Steve Earle I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
Wesley Stace Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer
Josh Ritter's Bright's Passage

After the event my friend Blyth and I went off in search of dinner possibilities. In Midtown Manhattan that's no easy feat. You have to be sure to avoid Times Square, steer clear of tourist traps and sidestep the trashy happy hour bar scenes. What are two healthy, downward dog leaning girls from California supposed to do? One push of an app and I found dozens of Japanese restaurants nearby. Pointing to my top choice I showed the screen to Blyth. "Um, that's like the most expensive Japanese restaurant in the city," she said. With a crinkle of my nose and a "Hmmm," she followed it up with this little tidbit, "They actually measure the inside of your mouth to determine how big to make the sushi." Measuring my mouth? When can we go?

Wandering in the rain, up Park Avenue, down Madison, over 46th, down 45th, no luck hooking the first fish. Moving to the next one on the list we made our way, successfully, over to Hatsuhana on East 48th Street. Walking in the door we were greeted by an Asian man with a walkee-talkee. "Two for dinner," I said. With a radio message up to an invisible man, we were quickly escorted upstairs and shown to a table, not too far from a long, nice looking sushi counter.

You ever look at a menu and wish that you were still a kid and someone else would order for you? I do. All the time. Sadly I would have to work my way through the six pages of plastic, hoping for the best. Ten minutes later, Blyth and I were still turning the pages back and forth, weighing the options of getting a mysterious "chef's choice" dinner or going out on our own. Finally, orders in, wine in front of us, we could relax.

Twisting around in my chair I took a closer look at the chefs. There were five men behind the sushi desk, all eager to be put to work cupping rice and slicing fish. The man closest to me had a headband on along with Dad glasses. You know the kind: black plastic frames–oblong ovally things that looked more at home in a polaroid. He wore his glasses connected to his head, with a Croakie which made me imagine them playing basketball, in some king of Harlem Globetrotters vs Men of Sushi face-off. If only.

The food arrived and it was delicious. Nothing earth shattering, just very good. Fresh fish, nice portions and well put together. My only complaint was their hand roll. It looked like a lost roll from someone else's plate. Not the hand rolls I'm used to in Califonia. But that's ok, I can handle change.

1 comment:

  1. What a good re-cap of our adventures in midtown. I love the paragraph on our athletically-prepared sushi chefs.

    By the way, I'm also picturing a waiter at Yasuda asking customers to open their mouths each in turn so he can slide in his smooth-edged ruler of the style that make all Japanese objects seem like they were meant for a child. While it's really more of a legend than a regular practice anyhow, I don't know that Yasuda "measures" your mouth so much as takes note from a distance and adapts the size accordingly.