>I’m naming my kid Tenzan Lalo. Or Lalo Tenzan. Or maybe I should just name my next pet after two of my new favorite foodie haunts in NYC: Cafe Lalo and the Japanese restaurant Tenzan.

Cafe Lalo is a gorgeous little French bistro of a cafe on the Upper West near Vonnie. I wanted to take Vonnie out to dinner, but she very kindly brought me some from an event she was attending, and so instead we decided to get dressed up and go out for a little something drink-y, a little something sweet. The key was that it be close (it was late and we are lazy) and not a chain because you don’t go all the way to NYC to hang out at Starbucks.

The line at Cafe Lalo was long on a Saturday night, and with good reason! It was a warm, light-filled port on a cool winter’s night. Christmas lights abounded and softly illuminated the French subway posters on the walls and ads for cigarettes, etc. The menu is dominated by desserts and drinks, the pastry case full of delights. The tables are close together and the feeling is crowded a bit, but the service is good. It reminded me of a cafe I went to in Paris years ago except with more people and no smoking.

There are entrees, but the real draw is the dessert selection which is wide with a little something to accomodate every taste- fruit pies and tortes, chocolate cakes, cookies, and more. I was in the mood for something sweet but not overpowering and settled on a Raspberry Pear torte and a Rose Petal (champagne and Chambord). The champagne and torte complemented each other- not too sweet as a chocolate dessert might have been.

Vonnie went for tea and a cannoli. The teapot she had is indicative of the eclectic dishes and random cutlery the place has. The perfect after dinner something.

On the way out we ran into a digital camera enthusiast who taught me more about my camera, which is nice. Have to love the holidays in NYC.

The Monday after New Year’s required a bit of planning. Robyn, of The Girl Who Ate Everything, was up for an ‘eeting (meeting with eating- ooh, I coined a word) so we met… and et. Being a fan of Japanese food and not eating it often, I am up for a hunt of same, so we hunted. Robyn had a list, so we wandered down Amsterdam in search of quarry and found, oh boy did we found, a great place.

Tenzan is, at least for me as a former resident of ol’ Nippon, like going home. Keep in mind I’m talking about Japan: a home where everyone treats you like a freak because you aren’t Japanese, etc. From the etched glass windows in front, to the dishes it’s like going to my favorite sushi-ya in Japan. Except that the chefs didn’t look up and yell “Irrashaimase!” (ie “Welcomesiddownandenjoy!”) but that’s another story.

This is Robyn capturing her meal for posterity.

The food was well prepared and beautiful, like good Nihon-riyori should be. The salad was dressed with a carrot and ginger dressing with flavors that balanced well- the texture and taste jibbed- and darned if it wasn’t tastier than the typical Thousand Island nonsense. The tonnkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) was insanely tasty. Robyn inspired me to order it with her post on tonnkatsu (No link for you! Go her site and hunt. It’s worth it!) and I was not disappointed.

My lunch was very large and a great deal- $12.50 for sushi, spring rolls, gyoza, tonnkatsu, salad, rice, with an order of seaweed salad on the side (because silly me I hadn’t had brekkie and was afraid I’d starve on Manhattan portions). Robyn had unagi-don and the eel was like buddah! I channelled Barbra. Really- it was more than fork tender it was spread on toast-able. If I were being a heretic I would suggest that this was wrong, but it was so… right.

After this astounding meal we went on a hunt for cupcakes, which is another post altogether.

Robyn kvetched that she has no friends who will do this stuff with her (Liar!I’ve read about your adventures!), but in fact she, like me, doesn’t know a lot of people who like Japanese food. Let me tell you something folks: if you call yourself a foodie and you give this a miss you are less a foodie than a fool.

Japanese food is not just raw fish. It is quite simply quite simple and is everything Western cuisine wants to be but just plain ain’t. Namely they invented healthy, beautifully presented meals that are a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Anyway, it was a great way to spend that final day in the city. I rolled back home for an early dinner with Von before cruising to Penn Station to catch the bus.

I must say it is so nice to have friends that one can call upon to enjoy a meal with… one. Because food always tastes better with good company.


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