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MEDICINE: a surprisingly heartly lunch

nooodles | Dec 1, 200510:49 AM

After reading the descriptions here and on their own website, I was expecting Medicine to serve up nothing but bland cold food in a zen atmosphere. Instead, I got a hot comforting lunch that stuck to my ribs on a rather chilly day.

My friend and I each opted for one of the foudation sets. As appetizers, we each got a cube of tofu sprinkled with seaweed and ground ginger along with three pickled vegetables: lotus root, napa cabbage, and daikon. The tofu was extremely disappointing. I've had better firm tofu out of a plastic box. Oh well. The vegetables were good, there was literally one bite of each? But stay with me, the meal got better.

At this point I was half expecting the main courses to come out in little rice bowls. Instead, we were presented with enormous deep bowls (but only filled a little more than halfway) of steaming hot soup noodles.

I got the curry udon because it seemed appropriate for the cold weather. The curry was really nice: a little peppery but spicy, thick enough to stick to the noodles but watery enough to be sipped like soup. It had tiny grains of soft brown rice (I think) at the very bottom, which acted mostly as a thickener for the curry and added a little texture to the dish. The udon noodles were springy and tender with no flavor of their own. I hate vacuum packed udon from markets--they always have a slight sour smell and taste. The udon noodles were also nice and long; who likes butchered noodles?

The udon was topped with a batter-fried cake remniscent of the usual Japanese tempura. Now that I think of it, it looked a bit like those battered Korean oyster/vegetable cakes. But instead of meat or vegetables, it was made up of different shredded orange winter vegetables. I definitely tasted sweet potatoes and kabocha, and I'm sure there were a few others thrown in as well.

My friend's selection was more traditional: soba in hot broth with seaweed, mushrooms, and vegetables. From what I could see, there was a nice variety of plump fresh mushrooms.

By the end of the meal we were both pretty full. My one regret was not asking for a bowl 9-grain rice to go and pouring my leftover curry on it.

All in all, a surprisingly hearty and delicious meal in the Financial District. Next time, I would order a bowl of noodles a la carte and forego the tofu and pickled vegetables. That would leave me free to try another appetizer or get a bowl of rice (if I'm really hungry. The noodles really were enough for lunch).

Has anyone tried the sesame tofu? It looked intriguing. I know people are fans of the fried natto. What else is good there?

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