Ministerial Muses—3.19.17

Posted March 19th, 2017 by anna and filed in Ministerial Muses
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I spent last evening with good friends at a wonderful Japanese restaurant in Chelsea, OOTOYA!

The two friends I was with had told me that they loved to eat in this restaurant because it made them feel like they were eating in a restaurant in Japan. I was very happy to have been invited to share this special experience with them.

One of the first things that I noticed was a feeling of connectedness in the modern, but cozy space. Despite the fact that throughout the evening at least 30% of the dinners were non-Japanese, there was always a sense of a shared experience and not the feeling of isolated dinners that is common in most New York restaurants.

Next came the food, traditional Japanese fare served as is the custom in Japan. I asked my friends to order for me. We know each other really well and I knew they understood my likes and dislikes.

Each of our meals arrived on a large wooden tray. We all began with a savory custard topped with a drizzle of smoked fish sauce (their favorite appetizers and now mine as well). There was a small dish of lightly fermented vegetables and a bowl of the best miso soup I have ever had. Then it was time to deal with the large bowl that was the main event. Mine was deep-fried pork in a rich miso sauce which was still boiling when it arrived at the table. The bowl also contained an egg and a slightly-steamed floret of broccoli, and as I discovered as I ate, a bit of sweet cabbage on the bottom. I ate it all without embarrassment and then put some of the rice that was provided on the side into the sauce which was left in the bowl and ate it with chop sticks, savoring every grain.

We ordered a dessert bento box to share (after a discussion about the fact that traditional bento boxes are lunch boxes). The green tea ice cream was the unanimous favorite.

As we prepared to leave, I said: “Thank you so much! Now I know how to order something besides teriyaki when I go to a Japanese restaurant”. It was followed by a discussion of the glories of a really good cheeseburger and French fries.

A properly shared meal is a vanishing ritual no matter what country one is from. I was privileged to have shared last night’s meal with friends who value the experience as much as I do.

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