Anyway, what better night to dive back into the New York scene than Halloween? And of all the neighborhoods to choose from, why not torture ourselves with the West Village, home to New York City's most decorated (and possibly most obnoxious) seasonal parade. I don't go to Times Square on New Year's Eve and I sure as hell don't stand on Fifth Avenue on Thanksgiving morning, so my lack of cohesive thought when T. and H. and I decided on a trip to Takashi (Hudson and Barrow) was out-of-character and very non-New Yorker of me. Also, between the three of us, we had over thirty years of New York living, and we still needed a iphone map to figure out the geography of the West Village.
I won't get into the crowds, the costumes, or the overburdened subway that stopped so frequently that we were forced to take a cab home from the 20s. I will get into Takashi, the Japanese steak joint I have been meaning to eat at since June or July. Normally, this small restaurant requires great patience. They are always full and the wait usually exceeds an hour. There was our one gleaming prize in all of this Hallow's Eve madness: No one had gone out to eat. And so we were seated instantly, at a wooden table designed for four and outfitted with a grill top for our own personal use. First came the candy-sweet plum wine (on ice), which the generous waitress decorated with a whole cured green plum. Next, a series of delicate wonders. Here, a scallion salad demonstrating admirable knife skills and a confident condiment hand in the application of sesame oil and soy sauce. There, thick swaths of cucumber bathed in something that rose to a warm spiciness on the back palate. Finally, the appetizer piece d' resistance: four squares of raw and marbled meat, topped with shiso leaves and a spoonful of uni. We were instructed to top the uni with wasabi and roll everything on the underlying nori sheet, dip in soy sauce, put in mouth. The meat was a faint note, earthy and creamy, almost overpowered by the herbal shiso, the briny uni. Almost.
Next came a crispy achilles tendon salad, served cold. Tendon takes some getting used to, but this was one of its finest hours, cut into pieces small enough to render it chewy but not inedible. And then the meats began. We started with a tongue tasting, three different sections of cow tongue, each adorned with a simple seasoning. We were told by our waitress about cooking times (certain parts of the tongue needed as much as one minute per side) and began our grilling session. The tongue was not tough, but supple, meaty, filled with the flavor of beef that beef itself so rarely provides. The short rib did not disappoint, either. It was more like eating a piece of grilled butter. Sweetbreads required the most patience, four minutes per side, but we were rewarded with generous, clean, and silky thymus glands with a well-earned grill crust. Beef cheeks were not the version we were accustomed to seeing in a fine restaurant, stewed to oblivion and dark in pallor. No, these beef cheeks were red and white and thin and we kissed them to the grill, flipped, and ate. They, like the short ribs, came in the house marinade with a side dipping sauce that was just light and fragrant enough to stand up to the meat without subverting its subtlety.
Takashi serves any part of the cow you can think of, and that includes such delicacies as first stomach, second stomach, liver, and heart. We didn't venture too far into the weird, but then again, we've eaten a lot of this stuff before. Instead, we stuck to our favorites--fatty, marbled cuts of meat that could stand up to a hot grill. But if I make it back, braving the West Village and all its insanity, I may opt for a little beef liver and skirt steak, just to make things interesting.
465 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014