Despite the fact that I love food, I have some basic ground rules.
1. I don’t eat eel. Ever, no way, no how, not ever. Someday I’ll tell you why, but trust me. I have my reasons.
2. I don’t eat food with faces.
Number one is serious. Number two, my boundaries are much more pliable. For example, I love beef cheeks. And fish cheeks. And the “little fried fishes” from Great New York Noodle Town on the Bowery. They really resemble french fries more than fish, so its easy to rationalize.
Tongue was on my “never no how” list. I was influenced by the Cosby Show as a kid. Loosely, the dialogue goes like this:
Theo comes into the kitchen, Dr. Huxtable is cooking.
Theo: What are you making?
Dr. H: Tongue. Want to try some?
Theo: I don’t want to taste anything that can taste me.
That was pretty much my relationship with tongue until Friday. During the day, it came up twice. Weird, right? I’m just living my well-fed life and along comes tongue, into the conversational ether. Twice.
I imagined tongue to have the mouthfeel of well, my own tongue. I imagined it served tastebuds intact, and having the texture of biting… my own tongue. Ah, how wrong I was.
A Good Night in Midtown
Midtown is notoriously bereft of anything befitting a proper gourmet. There’s plenty of stuff with logos that tourists find comforting, exiting Penn Station and feeling like a salmon in spring. The knowledgeable however, head to 32nd Street. Its a little slice of Seoul.
We started with lots of friends at Mé Bar. Its totally hidden and don’t tell anybody because it will get overrun by those seeking a happy hour cocktail with a view of the Empire State Building from halfway up. To get there, find your way to Broadway and 32nd. Head east, towards 5th and look for La Quinta Hotel on the north side of the street. Its about halfway to 5th Ave and up a set of stone stairs. Walk through the lobby like you belong there (this isn’t difficult, it tends to be populated with over-toured tourists.) Go into the elevator and head to the 14th floor. When the doors open, turn right and go through the glass door. I was going to include a picture of the view but that would ruin the moment of awe. They have great cocktails, cheap beer and good wines by the glass. Best of all, they are reasonably priced.
After you’ve had your fill of drink, go back to the street and pick any one of the many Korean BBQ restaurants. Seriously, they are all awesome. More than that, I don’t know what any of them are called because all the signs are written in Korean. The joint we went to is, in our circle, affectionately called “The Piano Bar-BQ.” Its a few doors back towards Broadway from La Quinta, but seriously, it won’t matter. Especially if you’ve had a few at La Quinta.
Which, on Friday night, I had. So, when presented with the menu, and the gas-fired grill in the middle of a large booth filled with my closest friends, I decided to stretch my “no faces” rule. I decided to order #3 barbecue beef tongue. The waitress made sure I knew what I was in for by asking if I’d had this before. When I said no, she flinched. I told her I was ready and off we went.
You don’t get to cook your own food so your order of BBQ comes with a charming chef du table who tells you what sauces go with which dish. (We accidently ate the pickled radish as an appetizer, only to find out it was intended for the short rib bbq.)
Then, out comes the tongue. No taste buds. Instead, beautiful, paper thin slices reminicent of carpaccio. For all you skeptics, here’s a picture:
That’s it. And it was luscious. Each slice melted on my tongue and just rewrote history with every bite. When it was gone, I wanted another order.
I’ll have to wait for another gathering of awesome friends and this time, I won’t have to drink so many cocktails at Mé Bar to convince myself that tongue is a good idea.