Infinite Ascent.

by CJ Quineson

overly subjective restaurant reviews

imagine reviewing restaurants based on food lol

getting lunches or dinners with friends is my primary irl social activity these days. i’ve scheduled around three meals every week for what’s been six weeks now, and most of these have been one-on-one meals. i guess i’m also trying to sharpen my one-on-one social skills too.

one of the fun things about living in new york so far is the variety of places available when eating out, whereas in boston i felt like i was going to the same five or so places. which in theory isn’t that big of a deal, because i’d be content eating the same thing forever, and my ceiling for appreciating food is low. but in practice i like the variety, maybe because of the different atmospheres.

anyway, because i don’t have high standards for food, i’m gonna review the restaurants i’ve been to based on everything that isn’t food:

raku. raku’s theme is returning to something after being apart from it for a while, whether it’s a city, a job, or a lover. after the meal, tompkins square park is right there.

udon st marks. the noodles in udon st marks will trade your desires. they’ll satisfy your stomach’s hunger and leave your feet itching for a walk. you’ll walk through gramercy and kips bay and midtown and murray hill. your feet will grow tired, and then your stomach will grow hungry again.

szechuan gourmet. it’s not special, and that’s what makes it special. it’s like the dozen other chinese restaurants you’ve been to, like five spices or dumpling house. it’s a place to eat with long-time friends while talking about long-term plans.

let’s meat bbq. the music’s on the loud side. why talk when you can tend to the grill? not that that’s going to be an issue, though, as the staff can do all the grilling for you. if you were hoping to bail on a conversation by going to a kbbq place, go to another one.

grace street. the store has a magnetic quality. you’ll see people you haven’t seen in months, maybe years. the desserts are sweet and palatable. the music choice, all chart songs, are popular and predictable. the appropriate conversation topics, then, are things like sports, weekend plans, or the weather.

beatnic. if a dessert shop is a place to talk about trivialities, then wouldn’t a vegan restaurant be a place to talk about deep things? or maybe beatnic is the place to talk about your tech job, the design docs you have to write, the tech stack you’re frustrated about, and hobbies like climbing or pickleball.

adrienne’s pizzabar. a place to confess your love to someone who won’t ever love you back. the pizza will distract you from your sadness.

soba noodle azuma. there’s something about the tables here. sit on one end of a two-person table, and the other end will be ten feet away. eat a little and look again: now it’s twenty feet away. distance yourself. hold back a little. the air conditioning’s a little too cold.

singapura. if i had a nickel for every time i ate lunch at singapura with a friend i met at a math camp who’s now doing a math phd in columbia, i would have two nickels. that’s not a lot, but it’s funny that it happened twice.

five senses. it’s called five senses because each of your five senses will be overwhelmed by your surroundings. the place is packed, and warm, and loud. i’m not sure how anyone enjoys this kind of thing, but i’m also not sure how anyone enjoys things like, i dunno, bars.

salt & ginger. you’ll order a conversation so comfortable that you’ll forget about how off the beef and broccoli tastes. uh, this may be the only place on the list that i didn’t actually like the food i got lol.

bcd tofu house. the tofu soup can warm your heartbroken friend. a place to arrange your life story into the numerous little metallic bowls they serve the appetizers in. count how many times you get your glass of water refilled from all the saliva you have to replace from talking about your feelings.

kings of kobe. when i was young my stereotype of new york was dominated by wall street. all the important, million-dollar decisions would be made by suits in a meeting room on the fiftieth floor of a glass building. kings of kobe isn’t a meeting room, but it has that aura, so it’s a good place to talk about million-dollar decisions.

zaza. sometimes pleasant surprises roll your way, like how a friend you thought was in sf was actually here, or how there’s a place in financial district that’s better when you dine in than when you take out. five years from now, will you remember that standup meeting? no, but you’ll remember skipping one to eat lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, and isn’t that more important?

mughlai. the move is to pick somewhere near your apartment, so that after you eat dinner, you can chill in your place and continue that nice conversation you’re having about larping and onboarding tasks and how the path sucks, and steer it into talking about identity, romance, and how little hope you have for the future.

ippudo. it’s a chain restaurant. you’ve been to the ippudo in manila, and now you’re in the ippudo here. one nice thing about chains is how they’re the same everywhere. you don’t have to worry about the ippudo here being super different. and you’ll be reminded that good friendships are like that too. so you hit up your friend, one you haven’t talked to in-person since the both of you were in manila, and now life has put you both in new york, and you’ve started talking again, and you think about how life has drawn you apart and then together, and you’re not worried if life drives you apart again, because you know that the nice thing about chains is how they’re the same everywhere.

jackson hole burgers. it’s sad, because you’ll look for a deep conversation, like the ones you had a few months ago, in east bay, sitting in the grass and looking at the lack of stars on the midnight sky, and instead you’ll have a nice casual conversation, which is fine. there’s nothing wrong with that. none of this is related to the burgers, which are fine. there’s nothing wrong with them.