Thursday, December 13, 2007

Best Soup in the World

Sunday night we went into the City to play for a Yiddish Dance Symposium party at the Ukrainian Restaurant on 2nd Ave. in the east Village, right in the heart of the old Yiddish theater district. Zev Feldman, Michael Alpert, Toronto's Helen Winkler, and most of the heavy guns of the Yiddish dance revival were in attendance, alongside klezmer tsimbl master Pete Rushevsky, Klezmer clarinet prodigy Mike Winograd (order his new CD here... worth every shekel! Klezmer tradition meets the 21st... errr... 58th century!) and Raoul Rothenblatt on bass - Raoul was around Budapest during the early 1990s, and was a denizen of the old Tilos Az A scene at its height.Getting into the city from Teaneck usually means taking the $2 "Spanish bus" into the George Washingtion bridge bus terminal, and just up the street lives one of the world's best fish soups... at the Mid Atlantic Fish Market on Broadway near 181st St.This neighborhood is an outpost of the Dominican Republic - at any given time, about a quarter of the Dominican Republic lives in New York City - and possibly one of the least English-speaking nabes in Manhatten after Chinatown. No matter. Point and pay. Fried and steamed (al vapor!) fish galore at prices below McDonald's.The last time Fumie was in New York she claimed this place served the best fish soup in the universe, so we had to try it again. the fish soup had changed a bit - not bad, but not the Champion del Mundo it once was, but at $5 it was packed with huge hunks of fish, shrimp, and mussels in a thick yam-based broth.Just behind the fish soup are two deep fried stuffed clams - chopped clams mixed with herbs and breading and deep fried in the shell at $1.50 a piece. As good as any I ever had in any New England clam shack. I went for the fried flounder and shrimp combo with "spanish rice" and salad- $7.Almost as good as the tempura plate I had eaten in Japanese lunch joint the day before. At the Fish Market you share your table.Last time we were there there were no tables, so this is a step up. For cheap fresh fish in Manhatten, we can share tables. You want to spend $50 on a fish dinner downtown, you can have your own table and a snooty waiter to boot. I prefer company at $7 a meal.The fellow eating next to us didn't speak a word of English, but he was accomodating enough when Fumie decided to ask if she could photograph his fried fish - a whole grouper chosen from the fresh fish laying out on ice on the other side of the fish shop. This is a proper Caribbean meal for a wet and wintery New York day.Next stop was to get downtown so Fumie could hit the 50% off sale at the Japanese language Kinokuniya books store, which is moving a few blocks to Bryant Park from Rockefeller center. The area was packed with tourists drawn by the famed Christmas tree in front of the NBC building.A slice of strawberry cheesecake stood us well for an afternoon pick us up.A midtown delicatessen had cheesecakes galore, but after adding a coffe and taxes - New York City loves its taxes - this cost us almost as much as lunch. Still... good New York cheesecake does not travel well, and this is the real deal. A meal in itself.Grand Central station has an hourly holographic kaleidescope show, which stopped everybody in their commuting mode tracks for five minutes. It is at time like this that New Yorkers will turn to the unknown person next to them and say "Hey - dontcha just love New Yawk?"People would lie down on their backs on the floor to watch the images projected on the roof of the Grand Hall. For five minutes this huge public space morphed into one big amusement park for commuters.Back down into the bowels of the 6 train to the Village. And here's a taste of Yiddish dancing... first off, a Maramures Hutsulka as played in Ieud, leading into a nice fast Jewish sirba. Then... playing for tables, in which the musicians park next to your dinner and try to get you to pry open your own wallet and transfer the contents into our musicians' pockets. And guess what? It works. Actually, as you can see, the proper method is to string your twenty EU bill into the horse hairs of the primas' bow. This, my friends, is the true context of traditional music!

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