Tofu isn't as esoteric as it once was. Even if you're not vegetarian or vegan, you've probably had it a few times -- perhaps with berries in a protein smoothie or cubed and fried in lettuce wraps. But even card-carrying bean-curd fans might overlook the chilled tofu at Uncle, Tommy Lee's noodle shop in Highland that went from zero to sixty -- i.e., not yet open to always packed -- in less time than it would take a Bugatti Veyron. (That's 2.4 seconds, for you curious types.) Ramen, not tofu, is what people wait two-plus hours for, what people invoke the name of New York's famed Momofuku over, what people might desperately try (and fail) to re-create at home.
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And yet the tofu -- so simple, so delicious -- is just as eye-opening as the ramen. Cut in slices, the shiny white curd is slicked with soy, dark sesame oil, vinegar and ginger, then finished with scallions and wakame chazuke: rice balls and crispy dried seaweed. Strong flavors, to be sure, but because the tofu isn't marinated, you taste more than the dark-brown dressing, the way you taste more than cherries when you bite into cheesecake. Remember the first time you had Greek yogurt and couldn't get over how different it was from Yoplait? Your brain will make the same flip after one bite of this appetizer, so custard-like it could be a savory dessert.
Hungry to know more? Read Gretchen Kurtz's complete review of Uncle here. See also: - Tommy Lee's Highland noodle shop will bowl you over. - Behind the scenes at Uncle