Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kyotofu: Quest for Pumpkin Ice Cream, Part II

Sometimes restaurants have an off day.

Sometimes you can't trust your first impression.

Sometimes you've spent the day dining at midtown, omni establishments that don't have any vegan dessert offerings and the vegan health bar you excitedly picked up at Fresh & Co. (it actually says vegan on wrapper!) was too much like an Odwalla bar to count as dessert and then it occurs to you that there is the slightest possibility that Kyotofu might redeem its having run out of pumpkin ice cream at Halloween time by having it at Thanksgiving time so you call them to check and lo and behold they tell you that they do indeed have pumpkin ice cream, so you ask them to repeat themselves because you can hardly believe your ears and then you call them periodically throughout the day just in case they run out before you can get there, the last time being fifteen minutes before you step through the door.

This is why I revisited Kyotofu.

I was exhausted from all of my phone calls and so too were my companions since they made some of them (different voices, different caller ID numbers: duh), so, when we walked in and saw an empty table in the front we decided to park ourselves and enjoy dessert we all of us reclined rather than gulping out of a plastic bowl walking down 9th.

I confirmed with the waitress that it would be okay to take up a table just for dessert and she was completely sweet and said it was fine. I coyly asked what flavor soft serve they had (surprise: pumpkin!) and then asked her what other desserts were vegan. Without missing a beat she pointed out the other two options from the dessert bar: the signature sweet tofu and the black sesame sweet tofu. I took the liberty of ordering the ice cream and the sweet tofu, which had me intrigued (but not so much to try the black sesame version). When she repeated the order she referred to my ice cream as a "soft ice cream sundae" and, seeing as she had been so obviously vegan-friendly already, I decided to roll the dice and suppress the urge to reply, "What do you mean, sundae, crazy lady? Can you prove that all of the accoutrements will be vegan?"

That there on the left of the pic is my "sundae". While it's certainly no Lula's creation, it was a surpisingly pleasant mix of tastes and textures that were presented beautifully in separate dishes (yay! I hate when food touches!). I don't know why my ice cream appears mint green in the photo; it was actually a pale orange. Those small, green blobs are matcha green tea mochi that tasted like a cross between a nut-less Turkish delight and a gumdrop dusted in green tea powder. The sticks to the left are cookies with some kind of candy/chocolate coating. The small dish in the lower left corner is filled with red raspberries in sssweet sauce. As anyone at Lula's Sweet Apothecary can tell you, I don't "do" fruit and ice cream; fruit is not dessert. However, these raspberries were ridiculously sweet and I while I didn't dare mix them with my ice cream, I did enjoy them on the sweet tofu. Thusly, I feel I should partially take back my reference to the "mixed fruit garbage" that was offered to me upon my first visit. In my defense, though, besides not liking to mix healthy and dessert, the waitress at the time had referred to the topping she was offering as "compote"- blech.

Ultimately, I'm glad that I was able to finally try Kyotofu's pumpkin ice cream. It wasn't as pumpkiny as I had been expecting, but that seemed to be par for the course for me this fall. I somehow missed any and all fall-related items at Lula's and Vegan Treats throughout the season, so it seems fitting that I should happen upon only one pumpkin dessert and have it wind up being pumpkin "light".

As for the signature sweet tofu, it was definitely pleasant and refreshing: much sweeter than I expected. Cream in color and also presented beautifully, the texture was kind of like flan (but not). It was served with a shot of kuromitso black sugar syrup (sweet!), a dried apricot, and this crazy little thing I think they call "tuile" that tasted like the holey, caramely cookie from a florentine. Having enjoyed it, I think I would be daring enough to try the black sesame sweet tofu on my next visit (?*).

That drink you can barely see in the back hiding out behind my not-really-green ice cream was the "Kyotofu", a DELICIOUS mixture of raspberry, fresh mint, and a white sesame shochu (rice based, Japanese alcoholic beverage). I am not a drinker, but this was good: exactly sweet, minty, bubbly, and strong enough; this puts Kyotofu on my list of places to go to grab a cocktail I will actually enjoy. Oh! They also have those fun glass bottles of fruit flavored Japanese sodas that have a glass ball floating around in it. Yes, I know these were meant to entertain children but I think they're cool and may possibly also keep an empty bottle of one in my fridge because I feel like it.

One more thing to note: for once, my reading about the waitress had been spot-on. Not only was she terrific, but she was also so accomodating to this sole vegan at the table that when she brought the check it was accompanied by mini chocolate souffle muffins that she quickly clarified were not vegan. She further explained in the nicest way possible that she wanted to bring over a vegan item, but that I had already had all of them (ouch). For all you non-vegans, my companions said they were very good.

* Yes, I'm on the fence about returning. On the one hand, this experience at Kyotofu was incredible. The waitress was wonderful, everything was served elegantly, and I tried and enjoyed a few new things. However, when I really think about it, wouldn't I be better off cabbing it over to Lula's to enjoy something truly decadent?

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