Some days I want to eat chicken feet. I want tripe and trotters, crispy fried intestine and all the assorted culinary weirdness that makes the world go 'round. I would be just as bored with cheeseburgers every day as someone living in, say, Addis Ababa would be with nothing but white tibs and kitfo.
But then there are the days when my heart and my gut need soothing, when I — like any other mortal man -- need comfort foods to get me through. Sometimes this means barbecue, sometimes it means nothing but cold cereal and Coke from the can. And sometimes it means the very simplest of Asian foods: a little rice, a little fish, a little beef fresh from the grill and served with only a sprinkling of sesame seeds and maybe a shot of sriracha.
Last week, after my adventurous exertions at Sae Jong Kwan, I was craving just such simplicity, and found it at Uoki Restaurant, which last year took over the former home of Seoul Food. This combination Korean/Japanese restaurant and compact sushi bar is a perfect refuge for the overserved, overfed, overexcited gastronaut, with a menu that covers virtually all of my Asian comfort-food desires. Here I can make a meal of tekka maki, yellowtail and maguro sushi, a pot of green tea and a bowl of excellent, thick and spicy green-curry soup with potatoes and carrots. I can have a wakame salad with sesame oil, and if I'm feeling frisky, I can try the fish casserole soup that the menu explains is only meant to be eaten on very cold or very hot days, or the sang choo sam with marinated beef, onions and rice just made for wrapping in chilled lettuce leaves. But my favorite dish is the most basic of Korean offerings, the bulgogi. It's nothing more than delicately, sweetly marinated shreds of ribeye, cooked quickly in a hot wok and served beside a mound of excellent, fluffy rice with two kinds of hot sauce: the basic sriracha and a smoky, earthy, sweet-hot sauce the color of crushed brick, served in an old ketchup squeeze bottle.
At my recent Uoki meal, I enjoyed excellent, well-cut and surprisingly artistic sushi as well as a full spread of other lunch items. Unfortunately, I was the only customer in the small, bright dining room during what should have been the height of the lunch rush — and I could take little comfort in that.