I had a big lunch yesterday. A really big lunch. An Indian buffet lunch to be exact. And as the coworker who ate with me said, “You can’t just get one plate at a buffet.” So two very large plates were had, and one enormous puppy belly afterward. Back at my desk, all I wanted to do was go into a deep food coma and dream about digestion.
When dinnertime came around later that night and Flaneur suggested going out for Indian, I almost cried.
“Please no,” I whimpered, clutching my still-full belly. “I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Well what about that Japanese place up the block?”
Hmm. Japenese eh? I could do something like that, I thought to myself. Something light. A seaweed salad perhaps.
Momokawa, the small and cleanly decorated Japanese restaurant a block away from our apartment, was the best place for a follow up dinner to a heavy lunch. As I looked around, people, many who looked like Japanese bankers and business types, worked on small plates of rice, bowls of soup and dishes with veggies and fish. They sipped hot tea or cold sake. I could do this.
Flaneur wanted an appetizer. (I wanted a stomach pump.) He ordered hijiki-ni, or braised hijiki seaweed, which I was expecting to look like long leafy, slimy strips of seaweed but was totally different. The dark brown, almost black seaweed, was thin and spiky looking, but not sharp or pointy. The soft, grassy fibers were heaped together with tuna in a small bowl. The couple of chunks I ate were light and fresh tasting.
Because I was still too full and lethargic to do much chewing, I went for nabe, a traditional Japanese soup. The small clay pot of spicy pork nabe was brimming with thinly sliced (thank God!) Berkshire pork, scallions, mushrooms, cabbage leaves and tofu in a zesty and spicy miso broth. Tofu, which normally irks me with its gelatinous alien consistency, was delicious and soft in the nabe. Its subtle flavor and smooth texture balanced the spiciness of the broth and the slightly thicker ingredients in the soup. Though pork might conjure up thoughts of heavy, fatty meat, the pork nabe was comfortably filling, flavorful and warming… without being a total bomb in my stomach.
Mostly because he wasn’t sure what a lot of the other things on the menu were (and either did I), Flaneur went with nabe too. Thin strips of duck meat bobbed around with onion and watercress in a dark brown, orange flavored soy sauce broth. Each slurp (no spoon, just mouth-to-bowl action) was tangy and exotic, a burst of warm flavors that seemed to just fill your whole head.
I was so impressed by the tastiness of the nabe, that even though I was really well beyond the point of needing any more food (possibly ever) I got curious about dessert at Momokawa. I was sure it would be good and positive it wouldn’t involve hot fudge or caramel, so why not go for it? And when our sweet portion of the dinner came, I was right. It looked interesting, like it could be a savory dish, or maybe just something foreign and exotic: a tapered glass full of creamy green tea ice cream topped with red sweet beans and marble-zized lychee fruits, and then one similarly sized fruit that tasted something like a yam. Beans and ice cream don’t necessarily sound like a good combo to me but when these two came together, their result was nutty and chocolatey in flavor, sweet but not cloying. The lychees had their typical gummy consistency, always a bit of a shock if you’re not expecting it, but were a fun mix of textures with the rest of the dessert.
I started out full and ended up even fuller, but with such clean, simple, delicious food, it’s hard to feel guilty about that.