On Thursday evening, I had dinner with a foodie friend of mine, Ariel, who doesn’t like tofu at all. He considers tofu as food from “the dark side.” I told him tofu isn’t disgusting at all, he just had awful tofu from various eating establishments. So in ways for me to
force encourage him to like tofu, I ended up making a deal with him that I’ll pay for dinner at Kyotofu.
I’ve told my dilemma with one of the co-owners of Kyotofu, Nicole and after several conversations, we’ve agreed to a menu for the evening in hopes to convert a tofu skeptic. Here’s the evening’s menu:
Chicken and Tofu Tsukune
Original Sweet Tofu
Sancho Pepper Tofu Cheesecake, Tahitian Vanilla Parfait, and Mini Miso Chocolate Cake on the Prix Fixe
Warm Chocolate Raspberry Mochi Cake
Chocolate Okara Cupcake (to take home)
I just left it a surprise of sorts for Ariel to find out for the evening. I know it’s a bit devious of me to do that but I trust my instincts with this place, the chef, Ritsuko Yamaguchi, as well as Nicole’s knowledge of the menu.
Here’s the actual menu for the month of May, for the curious.
On to the food…(just be warned that the food photos are going to be generally grainy due to the dim lighting)
The first course of the evening, the chicken and tofu tsukune meatballs, was generally good. The meatball was a bit dry for my liking but I did enjoy the refreshing flavors of the crisp cucumber and the minty shiso herb.
The onigiri, which were warm Japanese rice balls, were something memorable to eat since it had a slightly unusual flavors. One of them was flavored with purple shiso (on the left side of the photo) and the other is brown rice mixed with red aduzki beans. The latter rice ball seemed to appeal Ariel since he affiliates this with Middle Eastern cuisine. In ways, I can understand his perception since beans are common in Middle Eastern food. He also liked the tsukemono (pickled vegetables), especially the takuwan (pickled daikon).
Then came the desserts. We started off with a tasting portion of the Original Sweet Tofu.
It’s creamy, custardy goodness topped with the kuromitsu black sugar sauce.
Ariel’s argument was that it’s practically a knock-off of flan. We’ve debated about this subject for a while but at least he liked the tofu. He was surprised that it tasted good and it was creamy.
For the real dessert course, the prix fixe plate. For those of you who have been following my blog for a while are a bit familiar with this plate. The only difference is that in exchange for the Japanese Okyau rice pudding, we had the Sancho Pepper Cheesecake instead.
To those of you who recalled my previous visit, the decadent Miso Choco Cake and the insanely rich vanilla parfait are particular favorites of mine.
The Sancho Pepper Cheesecake was quite interesting, since I never had it before. This thick, rich slice of cake delicately flavored with the lemony, peppery flavor of the sancho pepper (which is also known as the Szechuan peppercorn). It’s layered on top of a thin, sesame cake absorbing the spicy sweet heat of the plum’s carpaccio’s marinade. The only drawback was that I didn’t taste any plum flavor from the fruit itself.
After the plates were cleared, the Warm Chocolate Raspberry Mochi Cake with a small hemisphere of blackberry-pomegranate yokan was served. At this particular time, Ariel was in the mood for some booze, requesting the drink menu. Here’s the drink menu and the man himself.
He kindly offered to buy me a drink since I’m paying for the food. Since the sake menu lacked descriptions, we just went for a cocktail. He opted for a Tropical Rokku and I ordered a Harujuku Martini.
Ariel said his drink was not too sweet and it’s smooth; he liked it.
My drink was a bit too pulpy for my taste but it was good. It had just enough sweetness, nice balance of the sweet lychee and tart apple. The cocktail was not as potent as the “Coming Up Roses” from the Modern’s Bar Room; this martini just gave me a buzz, thankfully.
After a few sips of our own cocktails, we ate the cake that was brought in earlier.
The chocolate cake was still warm and gooey by the time we actually ate it. He loved the cake and the yokan was something new and unusual for him since he never had it before. His analogy for the yokan would be similar to Jell-O but more thicker.
Then we were served our own plate of Okara cookies…
and were presented with the NY Magazine accoladed, Chocolate Soufflé cupcake to take home; it’s on Nicole. (There’ll be better photos of the cupcake in a few moments…)
When the check was brought over, they also gave us a small dish of cassis jelly cubes.
After we paid, we chatted briefly with the co-owners and bid farewell. When it comes to the fate of my chocolate cupcake, it didn’t last too long since I ate it yesterday for lunch. I don’t really have to tell you that it was awesome…you can just tell by the photos.
To answer Nicole’s (one of Kyotofu’s co-owners) question and my own little mission, did Ariel become a tofu convert? Well, after talking to him for a while after that evening’s dinner, he did enjoyed the food and the atmosphere (which reminded him of being in a futuristic spaceship of sorts) but it didn’t necessarily made him a total tofu convert. His argument was that he wanted a control group of dairy based desserts with the experimental (Kyotofu’s desserts) and make a better judgment from there. At least he thinks tofu are now in “the twilight zone.” Those were his words, not mine.
Edited (5/13/07): After recently IMing Ariel, he thought, “The place was marvellous” and the chocolate cupcake was “delicious.” So there you have it, we have a semi-tofu convert or at least a Kyotofu convert.
705 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
Funny… I think dairy as a control group for tofu is a totally wrongheaded way of evaluating tofu… I’d rather consider them in isolation, because I don’t think I could say “I prefer this to that” unless the tofu is just past its prime.
For Japanese, and in everyday thinking in most of the rest of Asia, tofu isn’t a meat or dairy substitute… sometimes they even go together.
Jason: Before I reply to your argument, my friend just likes sweet tofu after this meal.
I understand the Asian philosophy of tofu going together with meat or dairy, since I am Chinese and my parents usually make dishes involving with those ingredients.
For my friend’s thought of comparing the desserts, it works in ways since they can be of the made of dairy. He’s not exposed to good tofu, only mediocre ones.
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