Saturday, December 11, 2010

the logic of each man under his own vine and fig tree

After the better part of two decades spent working in a restaurant of some sort, I have developed a logical rule about "specials of the day." Let me show you it proceeds.

If the number of people dining in a specific restaurant on a given evening is greater than 30 in number

and the restaurant has both an a la carte menu as well as available "specials"

and if the number of people dining in that restaurant who would ask for one of the available "specials" on their own

and in that specific style of preparation

and without looking at the menu or being notified of the availability of that dish beforehand

is equal to 0

THEN that "special" MUST BY DEFAULT be amazingly delicious

and SHOULD NOT be missed

So if you were to follow this rule, as I do, and you were to find yourself at Soba Koh on 5th St., as I was recently, then you would be compelled, no questions asked, to order the "Tempura Figs with Salt" from the list of handwritten specials. Because no one, and I mean no one, would go to a Japanese Soba place and think to themselves ahead of time: you know what I think I'll get tonight? I think it will be Tempura Figs. But only if they have it with the Salt.

Doesn't happen that way.

People would presume uni. They would presume anago. They might presume saba. Or hamachi. Or ikura. But nobody is presuming Fig Tempura at a Soba place, even a very good one that has the best Inaka Soba available in the City of New York. So Fig Tempura would probably be a hard sell. Like a server would have to try to really convince somebody that yes, you can get to the octopus and nori in a moment, but you really must try these figs first. And Fig Tempura would probably ONLY be on the menu because the chef liked it himself. Because he believed in that dish. Because he thought you should try it. After all, it isn't like the chef would be holding that space on the menu as a favor to his favorite fig distributor. This isn't major label pinot grigio we are talking about.

So I ordered the aforementioned Tempura Figs with Salt, and you know what? They were DELICIOUS.

if you look closely, you'll notice that I ate one of the figs (to the far left) before snapping this photo, because it was like,
Whooooooooooah!!, this is good! I have to get me a picture of this!

What came to my space of countertop was 4 quite warm figs, swaddled in a light tempura batter, with the side of salt the menu had described, and a tempura shisho leaf for good measure.

Even with a closeup you can't see the salt that I sprinkled on these because it disolved on contact with the warm fig flesh.

Who does this sort of presentation better than the Japanese? Com'on, this is cute.
I used a lot of this salt.

One of the things that I really appreciated about these warm figs is that they seemed to be the perfect antidote to one of those New York gloomy winter evenings. You know the kind, where it is cold, and the air is dark and thick, and where you think you might see Perceval the Gallois riding by with a broken lance after a long battle with an errant dragon or somesuch. That kind of night. Cold. Inhospitable. Anyway, those figs were warm, and succulent, and crucially, they were battered.

I am trying to figure out how soon I can get back there to try them again. There was a certain logic to it, after all.


vinosseur said...

Awesome! why not?! Gotta try and make those.

Thank you!

Joe Manekin said...

That's some very sound logic, Levi. Sounds delicious. I especially dig the tempura shiso leaf accompaniment.