Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Italia by Nihon

This past week I had two friends in New York. Both visiting from Minnesota. Ski Girl was here on a conference, which so happened to coincide with her birthday, so we went out for dinner and drinks. As she doesn't know much about New York I was directed to choose the restaurant. We went to Basta Pasta - a Japanese run joint, serving Italian food.  I was recommended this place by a girl on a bus to Atlantic City in the summer, and now seemed as good as of time to try it as ever. However, one must stop and ponder the cuisine. Initially, I was fully prepared to have to buy consolation slices of pizza. Japanese Italian just seems conflicting and wrong. But, I got to thinking and was like hey - Japan loves noodles. In fact, Asia gave Mr. Marco Polo noodles, meaning the Italians essentially bogarted Asian food.

So, we walked in and found ourselves immediately standing in an open kitchen. I kid you not. Apparently, the idea is that they want you to see whats being made - Iron Chef style. A little weirded out, we got to our seats, and were served the usual bread, crisp bread sticks and this other strange thing. No folks, that is not a bad Instagram filter choice. #nofilter. bah. hashtags. Those little bread slices were covered in blue. Blue that smelt like nothing. Ski Girl put her brave face on, and immediately rejected it. Fish paste, right? No. It was blue cheese butter. She does not like blue cheese, but I do, so more for me. Nom nom nom.

We also ordered a starter, which I let Ski Girl choose. She opted for the pumpkin gnocchi. It was now my turn to be brave. I hate pumpkin. Pumpkin anything. That shit is gross. I hate when fall rolls around and people freak the eff out about pumpkin and start putting it in, or on, everything. Even clothes. You ever see someone generally rocking a pumpkin colored sweater? NO! Because that shit is ugly and only the seasonal pumpkin insanity that befalls the general population makes it socially acceptable. Then there are pumpkin pastries - why? It tastes like dirt. Then pumpkin coffees...ahh yes barista, I'll take the overpriced and over-sweetened venti cuppa mud water. YUM. So it came. I braced myself. was okay. I wouldn't order it again, but I imagine people succumbing to pumpkin fever would like it. It was very pretty though.

Ski Girl and I opted for the same main course, and I am SO, SO, SO, SO happy that we got it. The Spaghetti con Prosciutto e Parmigiano, which yes, is spaghetti with parmesan and fancy ham. But this dish is the show stopper. They wheel it out to you to serve it. And it comes in...A BIG HALF WHEEL OF PARMESAN. The heat from the pasta melts the cheese, they plop it on a plate, cover it with the prosciutto, and it is delightful. Reading the menu, we thought we were getting little mini wheels. We were pleasantly mistaken. And desperately tried to contain our semi-hysterical giggles during the spectacle.

When debating whether or not to get dessert, the waitress heard us rationalize with "it's your birthday, get dessert." We ordered tiramisu and cheesecake, which were not traditional.  The tiramisu was really strong flavored and delicious, and un-traditionally, very custardy.  The cheesecake was much more cake like, which meant I didn't like it, but the flavor was good.  When they brought out the desserts, there was a candle in one, and two other waitstaff came. They sang happy birthday! The best part was the very tall, wiry Japanese man with a deep baritone. Fantastic and everyone was staring. We were reduced to giggles. Again.

In all, it was a great brief meet up and and we learned the Japan really does have a handle on cooking Italian.

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