Wednesday, September 28, 2011


The biggest problem with eating in New York is that there are so many restaurants, both high and low, and so little time.  And certainly when you hit on a bad one you feel doubly resentful; not only are you eating terrible food, but there are thousands of restaurants serving better.

Knowing that I didn’t have world enough or time, and since a great many restaurants have a little stash of takeout menus hanging outside, I found myself starting a collection.  I realize that in some ways this is an absurd thing to do, like the two soldiers in Jean Luc Godard’s Les Carabiniers who go off to war expecting to bring back a fortune in looted treasures, but in fact return with a collection of postcards.  Still, absurd or not, I picked up dozens of these menus and they are now part of the Nicholson Gustatory Archive.

Some of the menus are rough and ready, done cheaply and inelegantly, but some take a real pride in their design and, I think, compete with each other both for form and content.  I guess the idea is that if a restaurant puts a lot of effort into its printed menu then it’ll put a lot of effort into its food, though admittedly there may be a flaw in this logic.

Here is very small sample of restaurants offering sushi on 2nd and 3rd Avenues.  My favorite, design wise, is definitely Jing Bo Sushi (above).  Nothing says good Japanese food like a fish wearing a toque. And I rather like the bubbles on Aquamarine (below).

But in fact it’s the contents that really draw me.  What all these restaurants have in common is a section on their menus offering special sushi rolls.  This is where invention can run wild. The Jing Bo is probably the most modest, but even they feature the Dynamite Roll and the White Christmas Roll. 

Iron Sushi (above) ups the ante a little with the Mexican Roll and the Beat Box (Hako Sushi).  Aquamarine starts to get a little wild with the Galapagos  Roll (no, it doesn’t contain turtle), the Sea Dragon Roll (ditto, no dragon), and the Fantasy Roll.  But for sheer inventiveness it’s hard to beat Aji Sushi.

The Aji serves rolls named the Kiss of Fire, the Mango Submarine, the Better Future Roll, the Greenly Green Roll, and It’s a Shocker Roll.  Whether any of these rolls are actually as exciting as the names, is hard to tell, though now that I’m home I’m kicking myself that I didn’t go into Aji and order the Sex on the Beach Roll: “shrimp tempura, spicy tuna inside top of white tune, avocado and caviar.”

Ah well, there’s always next time.  The chances are I’ll probably be in New York sometime in the next twelve months, although as we know, a year can be a very long time in the life of a restaurant.

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