Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Rainy Sunday - MoMA - Japanese food in the East Village

After talking to Leena on the phone, then preparing some papers for the apartment broker, I got dressed and decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art.  I'd purchased a membership in October or November, but the only previous time I went the lobby was crowded I left immediately.  Knowing I was going there, I didn't take my backpack, since those have to be checked, nor my camera, since I wasn't fully clear on the camera policy from their website.

I took the R train, and at 36th Street transferred to an N express train to get there faster.  The MoMA is near (or maybe part of the complex) Rockefeller Center, having been founded by Rockefeller's wife.

I got off the train at 49th Street, near the top of Times Square.  Walking to the MoMA, across from Radio City Music Hall an Indian fellow all by himself stopped me to ask me to take his photo, with his camera.  I asked him what he wanted for a background and he said "the tall buildings" so I did that, and had him move a little over so I could get the Radio City Music Hall sign behind him in a couple as well, as that's a major landmark in the city.

When I got to the MoMA it was jam packed.  I had to go around the revolving door twice because the woman before me stopped right inside and didn't give me room to enter the lobby while she fiddled with her dripping umbrella.  The second time she'd moved away enough I could squeeze past her, but still got splashed slightly by water from her umbrella.

I found my way through the lobby to the entrance to the museum proper, where I gave the attendant my membership card, which she scanned, and I went through.  The other side was pretty packed, too...

I explored all five floors of exhibits.  I liked some of the art and didn't like some of it.  The exhibit on photographs used to prepare for filming action scenes, for instance, just wasn't very interesting.  Some paintings here and there were interesting.  I was more fascinated by an exhibit of industrial designs, like chairs and tables and what-not, most of which were designed by architects.

A few galleries had exhibits that I never would've associated with the term modern art, like Picasso, Cezanne and Monet?  I thought modern art started as sort of a rebellion against those, but now that I'm looking it up online after going there I see my impression was wrong.  There were some works by a famous modern artist, Marcell Duchamp, whose works I'd seen before were mostly kind of silly, but they had some that were actually kind of nice.

Another gallery was full of just Jackson Pollack paintings, some of which I'd seen in art books before.  But none of which I actually liked.  I mean, sure I remember in junior high, it was fun to splatter paint like Pollack, but the end result isn't much to bother looking at…

The single largest crowd of people was standing in front of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night painting.  Although there were a tremendous number of people sitting on the benches across from the room-wide Monet triptych, Water Lilies, so many I was uncomfortable walking between them and the painting to get to the other side of room...

It was fun, but super crowded.  In places it felt like trying to walk through Times Square or something.  Lots and lots of people were taking photos, so almost everywhere I tried to walk I stepped in between a photographer and their subject, "oops, sorry, excuse me".  And people reading the little explanations next to paintings would step back without paying any attention to whether someone, like me, was behind them, "oops, sorry, excuse me..."

I don't think I saw it all.  The galleries have lots of entrances and exits between them, so I'm sure I missed something.  But there's also things I'd go back and see again.

Back out on the street I was thinking about sushi again for lunch, down on 12th Street in the East Village, since I quite like a Japanese restaurant I found there.  At the moment it wasn't raining so I sort of considered grabbing a knish near Bryant Park and then walking 30 blocks down and being hungry enough for a full lunch.

But while I was walking from 53rd Street down to 42nd it started raining pretty heavy...  Too heavy to eat a hot, fried snack outside without it getting wet, cold and soggy...  So, I went into Grand Central Terminal, used the bathroom and contemplated getting sushi in the food court there.  However theirs was all packaged and I figured it'd be better to go to a real restaurant and get it fresh.

I grabbed a subway train from Grand Central.  First I got to a platform with one train on either side, so I dashed into the one with an open door closest to the staircase, which turned out to be a 6 local.  The other train, a 5 left, while the 6 just sat there, with the conductor playing the "we're being held momentarily by the train's dispatcher, please be patient" message every couple of minutes, but without going anywhere.  Then a 4 pulled up across the platform, so I went over to that, and immediately the 6 train left, while the 4 I just got into played the same delay message...  Fortunately it didn't play it long, and we were soon underway, with that one being an express train, so the next stop was 14th Street Union Square, exactly where I wanted to go.

At Union Square I got out and got wet in the rain walking a few blocks over to 2nd Avenue and 12th Street, where Shima is located.

Shima was virtually empty, with the only other customers being a Japanese couple at the corner window.  The hostess told me to sit where I wanted so I took a seat looking out the window onto 2nd Avenue.  I ordered the sushi lunch and asked if they had sunomono salad, which is a Japanese salad made with thin sliced cucumber, a little thing sliced carrot, vinegar, sugar and salt that I like.  I didn't see it on the lunch menu anywhere, but she said they had "sunomono mix" on their dinner menu and that it wasn't included with the lunch, but they could "mix it" if I wanted.  I agreed, since I hadn't had it for a long time...

I got my miso soup first and burned my tongue on it as it was piping hot.  When I finished that she brought the sunomono mix, and it was not at all what I expected...  I expected a small bowl of salad, but this was a large square plate with sashimi, slices of fish, mushroom (I think?), crab, a prawn, some things I couldn't identify, and two slices of octopus tentacle.

I never really wanted to try octopus before, and I always wondered what I would do if it ended up on a plate in front of me.  Now I know.  It doesn't have much flavor, and its texture is very, very rubbery, like it was a rubber octopus toy or something...  It was easier to eat it while I was by myself, without someone else watching to see what I do.  I ate both pieces and I wouldn't say they were really bad, but there's so many better things available I definitely wouldn't go out of my way to get it again.

The things I couldn't identify also had a rubbery texture, and I actually don't know if they were animal or vegetable.

Underneath the other stuff there was a bed of sunomono salad that was what I actually thought I was ordering...  And once I found that under there, it went great in combination with the other items as a single mouthful.

I definitely enjoyed the fish, prawn and crab pieces, delicious!

As I was nearly finished with the sunomono mix my plate of sushi came.  This time for the roll I picked spicy salmon, and now that I've had it, I prefer the regular salmon or tuna rolls...  Not that it was bad, but the spicy flavor from it stayed in my mouth and overpowered some of the rest of the subtle sushi flavors, which is quite subtle indeed...  And the fish on the sushi pieces was fresh and tender, melt-in-your-mouth...  Mmmm...

All in all, a delectable meal...

When I finished and paid I grabbed my jacket off the chair back, and the earlier rain had had time to soak through it at the shoulders, so it was kind of cold putting it on.

Back out on the street it was raining harder again and I got wetter on my way to Union Square.  There's a Whole Foods store across the street from Union Square so I figured I'd pop in and see if they had chocolate bars with bacon in them, something I saw a few years ago at a Whole Foods in Los Angeles, which seemed gross at the time but I've been thinking of it since then and would like to satisfy my curiosity...  The store was jam packed with people, although not as crowded as the MoMA.  I passed a truly overwhelming tea selection before finding the chocolate bars.  They didn't have what I wanted, so I didn't buy anything.  And when I returned to the front of the store where the checkouts were, I was glad I didn't find it, or I would've been stuck in that insane line for the checkouts and I have no idea how much longer I would've been there...

So, I got the train home and here I am...

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