Uncle Tetsu and Birthday Barnacles
Well some cooking blog this is turning out to be. I haven’t been cooking oddities lately, but you can bet I’ve been eating them.
A few weeks ago, my foodie friend Hong and I decided we finally needed to line up to try Uncle Tetsu’s.
That was me in that last one after having successfully acquired my fresh-from-the-oven, $10-cash-only, one-per-person-unless-you-intend-to-jump-someone, Japanese cheesecake.
Uncle Tetsu’s opened in Toronto in March at Bay and Dundas (downtown, downtown) in a teeny weeny closet of a shop. Think “no soup for you.”
It’s been in Japan for 25 years, and also has 70 stores in China and locations in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and Cambodia. Why do I feel like I’m always the last to know everything?
(That’s what she said)
Here’s me again, feeling weird taking pictures of strangers with my big fat SLR instead of a phone. Everything I do, I do for you, people.
Love this pic hanging inside. Very true.
They only have three little ovens, so they make twelve cakes every ten to fifteen minutes — they refuse to bake in advance because it’s not as good. I got mine after waiting about twenty minutes at 11:30, so I think the lines have slowed a bit. Apparently 5pm is the worst time. Here’s our cake.and my friend’s little one digging in (she’s even sweeter than the cake).
And how was it? Worth it. I’d love to see one of you find a recipe and try to duplicate it. It’s very eggy and fluffy, almost like a cheesy, moist version of an angel-food cake, and it wasn’t overly sweet. I ate the other half of it the following day and it sunk a bit harder in my stomach, more like a traditional cheesecake than it had been originally. Overall, it was a perfectly balanced cake, which must be why it’s a thing. I’ll wait again if in the neighbourhood.
So on to my next foodie experience. A few weeks ago again (geez, The Man, aka science editing, sure is keeping the blogging down), it was my birthday. We’ve been wanting to try Bar Isabel, which everyone in Toronto seems to be talking about, except that it always has a waiting list weeks long and we’re never good enough planners ahead of time to get in. By coincidence, though, we went wandering the streets of Little Italy after dinner (at a smokehouse that was nothing to write home about), and the doorman-guy at Bar Raval managed to get us in to the tiny patio after a short wait next door (where I drank white wine on tap for the first time, don’t judge, it was my birthday). And would you believe that Bar Raval is under the same chef as Bar Isabel? Score. I enjoyed sipping my squid-ink cocktail in the warm night air watching doorman-guy turn away countless droolers while Hong ordered everything weird on the menu for me, including:
– Squid in ink, that showed up in a can. At the time, I was like, “Whaa? This damn chef can’t even cook for us, we have to eat stuff he’s reselling?” Later I read that he’s trying to change the way we think about canned seafood and does it all in-house. Huh.
– “Pig’s head” (I was like, “Oh, I won’t write the descriptions down, I’ll just check the menu later” but of course Grant van Garmen is a REAL chef, so the menu has already changed). This was very tasty — thankfully, not a whole head, but a pate on toast.
– Sweetbreads, that came as a crispy slider. Lovely, and maybe my favourite.
– Gooseneck barnacles. I loved these too, and the phallic presentation was a big splash (with me and Hong, anyway, not quite as much with our husbands). Hey, and it turns out that all the jokes were justified. Allow me to quote from a Globe and Mail article on them:
“Gooseneck barnacles are actually famous for being the largest endowed species in the animal kingdom, relative to body size. Charles Darwin was so impressed with the size of the barnacle’s penis – which can grow up to eight times its body length – he devoted eight years of his life to studying the creatures and published a four-volume monograph on their biology. Because barnacles glue themselves to hard surfaces and do not move, they need the telescopic range to fertilize their neighbours. Interestingly, the Pacific gooseneck barnacle has a much smaller penis than that of its European kin. According to new research by scientists at the University of Alberta, the local barnacles compensate with their unique sperm-casting ability, allowing them to shoot and catch from a distance. Rest assured the barnacle muscle that is eaten is not the penis. That whiskery appendage shrinks back into the shell along with the feathery feeding legs.”
Ken and my husband will be SO happy to hear that they gobbled these well-endowed creatures up. Anyway, here are my dark-patio iPhone pictures of them, which came all the way from BC.
They tasted a bit like long clams or dense octopus. I’d order them again, and I would also totally schmooze with the doorman-waiter-guy to snag that Bar Raval patio seat in a heartbeat.
And one last weird thing to tell you about that has nothing to do with food. On our way out of the restaurant, this girl in line hugged me, and said, “Ann!! Comment ca va?? [I speak very, very little French, and would only give it a try if starving in a French desert somewhere. Or for a French dessert, whichever came first]. How are you??”
I hugged back and smiled, especially because my memory for faces ranks almost in the disability realm, so of course I thought I knew her and had forgotten. But then the girl she was with winked at me. I awkwardly said goodbye and my friends asked who she was. I think she heard them use my name as we were paying the bill. I don’t think I knew her at all.
So this is my question — what, exactly, was her strategy? Was she pretending she knew me to try to get into Bar Raval? If so, why would she schmooze with a girl on her way out?
Anyway, I felt all the more important for having just scarfed down as much weird food as my stomach could handle in a place where people were doing very odd things to try and get a table. Maybe I’ll pretend to know a nobody to get in and eat phallic barnacles again this weekend.