August 2007

Monthly Archive

September Book of the Month: The China Garden

Posted by on 30 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Book Review

A classic, mystical coming of age story, The China Garden by Liz Berry avoids the irksome clichés prevalent in its genre. It follows Clare, a young woman recently uprooted from London and dropped deep in the country, as she fights to save the home she has only just found, and discovers her soul mate, her destiny, and herself.

The is no pretense of a damsel in distress scenario, Clare is a strong protagonist, but she does not seem to need to prove this to the reader, as the heroines of so many books that are more propaganda piece than story do.

The China Garden is also a romance, and here again avoids the usual problems. Although it is Clare’s story, Mark, her love interest, is a far cry from the non-entity Disney prince charming, and the illustration of their mutual infatuation goes hand in hand with a tribute to the beauty of loving, symbiotic partnership.

 Magical, soulful, and intelligent, The China Garden is the perfect young adult romance, and can easily be enjoyed by older readers as well.

Gin Sushi

Posted by on 10 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

Given its uniqueness and narrow ethnic origin, it is impressive how widely spread and adapted sushi has become. In the states it can be found nearly everywhere in various forms, from the close cousin of Russian roulette that is the roadside sushi booth, to the lawyer-approved cooked version in the supermarket refrigerator.

It seems impossible to do sushi wrong in any non-health-related way. That is until one has tasted it done right. Gin Sushi has all the classics, such as rainbow rolls and California rolls, and several more obscure creations. All of them are fresh and flavorful.

Along with the standard uncooked fish, there are cooked shellfish dishes including rich, creamy dynamite. Appetizers include salted soybeans and soft, seasoned seaweed.

Not all options will appeal to everyone. Some people balk at the idea of eating eel, or find its natural teriyaki-esk flavor too strong, while others will find a few items too spicy. There is nothing on the menu, however, that is not an exquisite specimen of whatever it is.

Gin Sushi is best experienced in a group, so that each member can sample a wider range of things. Checklist menus allow for easy group ordering. I give it five stars out of five.

The Monrovian

Posted by on 10 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

The Monrovian can be described simply as a restaurant, with no preceding qualifiers. If more specificity is required, it is one of the thousands of American diners that run into one so easily in one’s memory.

It has established itself as a local favorite with its reasonable prices and sizeable menu, which emphasizes the deep-fried classics, but includes sandwiches and other lighter options. There is no official particular specialty, but breakfast is the nearest thing to one in effect.

The Monrovian does have atmosphere on its side. It is itself cheerfully old-fashioned and wholesome, and is set in the midst of Old Town Monrovia, a town that positively oozes this same sentiment, making for a dining experience that harkens back to a time that may never have existed, but that most people think they can or wish they could remember.

Despite its conventionality and consequential forgetability, it would border on unfair to call the quality of the food mediocre, so I give it three and a half stars out of five.

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Tokyo Lobby

Posted by on 03 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    Subdued lighting and dark wooden furniture carry with them, for some untold, mystical reason, the promise of excellent food.

    Tokyo Lobby builds on this atmosphere with a promisingly vast menu of sushi, tempura, and other Japanese delights. The prices that accompany them seem only natural given the classy feel of one’s surroundings.

    Apart from the sushi, which is served in traditionally sized rolls, the portions well exceed expectations, especially the “boats,” enormous assortments designed for groups but able to feed even more people than the menu recommends them for. This is fortunate, because all other attributes of the food are disappointing.

    The tempura and various sauce-smothered animal parts are greasy and flavorless. The sushi is just par and, as previously mentioned, does not have the quantity-to-money ratio on its side that the inferior dishes do. Part of the reason the boats feed more people that they appear to is that even the hardiest appetite could not last long in battle against such armies of oil.

    The light of the sun, if it is still shining, or the openness of the sky if it is not, is like a breath of life upon emerging from darkness of Tokyo Lobby, which slips almost imperceptibly during the meal from quaintly cozy to oppressively claustrophobic.

    In acknowledgement of the impressive array of passable traditional sushi and the absence of anything dangerous or instantly repulsive, I give it two stars out of five.

Hurry Curry of Tokyo

Posted by on 03 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    When Americans think of curry, we invariably think of India, and of accompanying naan bread and tandoori chicken. But curry is also a fast-food staple of Japan. Although far from a fast food restaurant in price, quality, and atmosphere, Hurry Curry of Tokyo specializes in the best of Japanese-style curry.

    There are many varieties including chicken, beef, pork, and many seafood and vegetarian options, all available in hot, medium, and mild. The sauces are rich and flavorful, and escape from the machine-made soup tradition of small, processed, perfectly cubical ingredients. They are instead tangibly fresh in flavor and texture.

    The mild version carries just enough of a kick to keep with the spirit of the place, and every curry dish is served with rice, but for those with more delicate palates there is an equally large selection of pastas.

    The appetizer menu alone is fairly impressive, and includes perfectly seasoned croquette and traditional Japanese salted soybeans. The only dessert is green tea ice cream, but those who try it will not find it disappointing. I give it five stars out of five.

Orean Health Express

Posted by on 01 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    For vegetarians and vegans who tire of finding one or two available options in each restaurant they visit when they are lucky, Orean Health Express is the perfect place to go for a little variety.

    Along with high quality meatless imitations of American fast food favorites, the menu includes original vegetarian dishes such as the African Tostada, similar to the Mexican version but with black-eyed peas instead of pinto beans and a unique African salsa.

    The fries are thick, not too greasy, and never burnt. There is also a Mexican menu, a small breakfast menu, and a variety of desserts including soy ice cream. Instead of traditional soft drinks there are several flavors of “natural soda,” which is very flavorful, but served with so much ice that there is hardly any of it.

    Orean Health Express is primarily a drive-thru. There is no indoor seating and very little outdoors. No meat is served whatsoever, so it is well suited to vegetarian purists, less so to groups of people with varying tastes and lifestyles, but it is everything it attempts to be, so I give it four stars out of four.