Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gluttony Saves The Day

I went on an eating rampage yesterday. I really think I hurt myself. This was a very food-intensive day the likes of which haven’t been seen since my trip to Texas. The day started innocently enough, a normal breakfast and tea, as every morning. And then it all went downhill. A giant experiment blew up in my face (not literally. Not this time, anyway), the head of the lab was out of town, and I needed a drink. Note the needed. Not wanted, but needed. That’s probably a bad sign.

We had decided on Pizzeria Regina prior to the experiment blowing up – now it looked even more attractive. I cannot believe that I have lived in Boston for 5 years and had never been to Pizzeria Regina until yesterday. It’s a disgrace, really. Pizzeria Regina is a North End establishment – has been there for ages (since 1926) – and is said to have some of the best pizza in the city. Their pitchers of beer aren’t half bad either.

After taking an absurdly long time to decide on a pizza – this is not a trivial matter, the final vote was: sausage, mushrooms, half eggplant and half cherry tomatoes. The crust really made this pizza. It was crunchy but chewy enough, with a good balance of cheese and sauce. I did not feel my usual compulsion to blot the grease off the pizza with a napkin – such an unattractive thing to do but I can’t help it. Fresh tomatoes on a pizza are so great – sweet, acidic, and juicy all at the same time.

The beer calmed me down and the pizza put me in a food coma, thus making the rest of the lab day a little easier to swallow (ha). Oh if only the eating had stopped there. But no. I had plans to meet Gopi and Girish at one of Girish’s favorite restaurants in the city, Shabu Zen in Chinatown. [I am all kinds of multi-culti, by the way: lunch in Little Italy, dinner in Chinatown…].

My first shabu-shabu experience was definitely worth the 40 minute wait for a table – the place is insanely busy. As soon as we were seated, I ordered a watermelon smoothie that I had been eyeing from the entryway for about 38 minutes of the 40 minute wait. The smoothie was made with fresh watermelon (melons were piled up on the bar) and ice. I think that may have been it. It tasted like watermelon on crack – as though 10 melons were squeezed together into one glass and chilled. Very smooth, not too sweet, fresh and perfect. The second thing we ordered was a gigantic bottle of hot sake. Apparently, at Shabu Zen, when they say bottle of sake, they actually mean a bottle, not those dainty carafes I was expecting. Sooo much sake. Together with the green tea and ice water, I probably had enough for a liquid dinner. This was only a sign of excesses to come.

Each diner gets their own bowl of broth boiling over a hotplate and a choice of thinly sliced meat (chicken, pork, lamb, seafood, various cuts of beef, or Kobe beef (!)).

The meat is slightly frozen and sliced on a deli slicer to make super thin slices that can cook quickly in the boiling broth. [That’s the whole kitchen! A bunch of deli slicers. A brilliant business plan.]

The combo dinner includes and vegetables (enoki mushrooms, napa cabbage, carrot, corn, watercress, tofu, tomatoes) which are dipped into the boiling broth to cook quickly, dipped in soy sauce with various flavorings (garlic, hot chili, scallion) and eaten with either rice or noodles. I had the surf and turf which consisted of mixed seafood (scallop, squid, salmon, and some variety of white fish), and sirloin. Combined with the vegetables, it was a truly obscene amount of food. Ridiculous, even.

The salmon was the star of the show. I actually don’t like salmon very much (one of two foods on this planet I am not crazy about – the other being anything anise flavored, excluding fennel, in case anyone was curious) but this was extraordinary – cooked only lightly in the spicy broth, with the interior of the salmon slice still raw, it melted in the mouth. Just melted, leaving some of the soy sauce and chili behind, along with a perfectly subtle flavor of the salmon.

The beef I ordered didn’t do a whole lot for me – there was an awful lot of fat on every piece. I simply cannot justify chewing a plain piece of fat, straight up. I may be alone in this. Girish, however, is a clever, clever man. He ordered Wagyu beef (variety of Kobe beef). Oy. These cows have a better life than I do – they are fed beer and sake and massaged. Yes, massaged, to distribute the fat and improve marbling. I have to distribute my fat all by my sad self. No fair. Wagyu beef was like meat crossed with butter. The texture had nothing in common with the beef I am used to – there was nothing to chew. It dissolved, leaving a very smooth and intense taste of beef behind. It was unbelievable. Should I one day win the lottery, I will 1) buy an SLR McLaren (and pretend I don’t know that Paris Hilton has one) and 2) eat only Wagyu beef for the rest of my life. That life is likely to be rather short due to my driving at 150 miles an hour and eating fatty beef, but it sure will be short and sweet.

As if all that wasn't enough... The meal ended with red bean dessert soup – well-chilled and sweet, with a barley tea flavor, it went remarkably well with the rest of the meal.

Shabu-shabu may not be the best first date place (or fourth, for that matter) since you leave a little smelly. Although some people may find the scent of boiled beef alluring, I do not. Shabu Zen in particular, is loud and in constant motion – great fun for a group, but not the most intimate of settings. The food was great - fresh, and certainly plentiful.

A long walk to the car was deemed mandatory for our continuing cardiovascular health, following which I was kindly dropped off by my apartment. Incidentally, my neighborhood is currently overrun by newly returned college students. Why do they think everything is automatically funnier if it is yelled? I don’t understand. Regardless, I am on food lock down for the next 2 days. As if I will even be hungry before next week. Nothing like gluttony to salvage a perfectly crappy day.

Pizzeria Regina
11 1/2 Thacher St
Boston MA 02113

Shabu Zen
16 Tyler St
Boston MA 02111

1 comment:

ben said...

Wow Boston has a lot of good food. But, does it have a wide assortment of Mexican and Mexican like foods? You know where I am going with this ;-)