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Shopsin's


ahr
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The new Shopsin’s is larger and more comfortable than its predecessor, with two real bathrooms. Though the new place still betrays traces of its diner origins, there are enough familiar fixtures and junk from the old place to make it feel instantly homey and comfortable, and it will grow even more idiosyncratic with time. Eve seemed more voluble and Kenny more restrained than previously, but that’s based on only one data point.

I ordered from the specials board, specifically shrimp lahksa, a spectacular main-course “soup” that may or may not be related to a Malaysian dish of similar spelling. Populating a complex, reddish-orange broth -- unthickened but for (maybe) coconut milk -- of stock, garlic, hot pepper (ordered 8 on a spice scale of 10), and Southeast Asian curry-like spices with a just a hint of sweetness, were fresh, plump shrimp, snow peas, onion (or maybe shallot?), Chinese cabbage, bean sprouts, possibly other unrecalled vegetables, and vermicelli.

I also collected my prizes in their limerick contest: a frameable certificate complete with ribbon, a “y” coupon cleverly offering to turn my limerick into a lime rick[e]y, and a Shopsin’s Frisbee. The contest was to explain, in limerick form, whether the new store was in fact two blocks or three blocks from the old. In the true spirit of egalitarianism, every entry was awarded a prize.

Pay a visit. The food’s just as interesting, and with a higher monthly nut, even Kenny’s being polite.

"To Serve Man"

-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook

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  • 3 weeks later...

“I am hungry,” said Toby after arriving on time (at 1:30 p.m.) and a short introduction. AHR, Toby and I were waiting for Jaybee to complete our maximum-allowed party of four. “Go ahead, grab a couple of chairs in the back while you are waiting,” suggested Eve. A half hour later a call from Jaybee warned us that he was detained uptown and is setting his foot out of the door now. “Would you like to order now or continue to wait?” asked Eve after delivering the message from Jaybee. With a great effort, we were able to suppress our primordial feeling of hunger and chose to follow the high standards of human behavior. “We’ll wait,” was our answer. In despair, however, we decided to relocate to a large booth in the main area as if being closer to people who were actually consuming their food would ease our growing hunger. We entertained ourselves by walking to the board with the specials located right inside the entrance, examining with enthusiasm the regular menu and deciding on what we were going to order. The intervals between Toby’s hunger contractions became shorter and shorter; my blood sugar level scaled below the usual low level, and AHR…apparently had a good breakfast. At the time when our human dignity dissolved in our famine, and we were about to start without Jaybee, he showed up in a black leather jacket and cool sunglasses.

Our order included two Shrimp Lahksa (specials), one Mexican cassoulet (specials) and Jaybee's chili.

I don’t know what else Jaybee said to Eve on the phone when passing the message about his delay, but he was the first one to be served. I am not quite sure, however, he felt very lucky as 6 pairs of hungry merciless eyes were piercing him and his chili with the message that could be interpreted only as “You are going to share with us now or else…” Jaybee put aside his fork and very quietly asked “Would you like a taste?” I think before he finished his question three spoons were plunging into the dish.

The chili was Kenny's ground beef, augmented by a sausage "extension" served with tortilla chips. At the time, at least, I thought it was the best I'd ever eaten.

Shrimp Lahksa, described by AHR previously, didn’t disappoint. It was a little sweeter and the broth was thicker then the time I tried it previously, but still chock full of plump shrimp, vegetables, and vermicelli. Jaybee made an observation that the broth vaguely reminded him of Tom Yom Gung but with no lemon grass.

Mexican cassoulet (Lamb cubes, ham, sausage, beans (two kinds) with smoked chili peppers) was absolutely delicious. Toby observed that though each element of the cassoulet stood on its own and was distinguishable, they all complemented one another wonderfully and comprised one harmonic dish.

Finally the time of long-waited pancakes came. But no! It was past three and Kenny had left the kitchen. “Well, you can have our bread pudding,” suggested Eve. Considering that she was so sweet to us and didn’t seem to shoo us away (the place closes for a siesta at 3:00 p.m.), we felt sort of obliged to order a bread pudding. When the dessert finally came, it looked just spectacular. A big portion of warm, tender, fluffy and jiggly pudding with butterscotch on top and whipped cream around it. Though we were quite full, our eyes lit with the expectation of incoming pleasure. I must say none of us was disappointed. It exceeded all our hopes. The pudding was just lightly sweet so that in combination with the butterscotch it wasn’t cloying. I thought that the whipped cream was commercial but as it melted, it added this rich whippy flavor. We actually had to fight for the last spoon by “deliberately” asking each other questions so that the opponent would be out of the game. I was smart. I filled my spoon first and then answered all questions while holding it. :smile:

Wonderful food, wonderful time, wonderful company.

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Little did I know the torture my tablemates were enduring waiting for the tardy Jaybee. Well, I didn't get fruitcup, according the wishes of nurse diesel, but I did have a very tasty meal. The chili, as LXT wrote, was exemplary. Chorizo chonks added richness to the beef. The other dishes, as LXT so well described, were totally finishable. The bread pudding is something I would make a journey for. The taste of the butterscotch, warm creamy bread and whipped cream was totally yum. The four spoons decended onthe plate with such speed and accuracy that it was gone in a lick and a flash. The Lady Eve was charming and super nice. They let us sit and talk until nearly 4 pm, long after Kenny and Eve left. I will add Shopsin's to my list of places to go on whims and take my out-of-town guests. I had a very good red birch beer with it all.

AGTWHBA.

:biggrin:

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Thank you Liza. And you were with us in our hearts and discussions.:shock:

Jaybee, seeing you in your cool leather jacket and sunglasses made up for all our torments. :cool:

Sandra, there is always the next time. :wink:

Cakewalk, “helping yourself” was one of the reasons I had to compromise and order an iced tea instead of a hot one. Though the booth we were occupying was quite comfortable, it was big enough only for a one-time squeeze to position ourselves around the table for four full-sized people. Unsqueezing presented a challenge. One look at the face of Jaybee, who would’ve had to go through this exercise in order to let me out, and I realized that if I did go along with the hot tea, I’d have to crawl under the table to get it. :smile:

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I note that publicity-shy, don't-put-me-in-your-guide Shopsin is prominently featured in Time Out's cover story this week ("Main Street, New York" - no, it's not online).

Kenny's political ramblings are described as mainly right-wing. I had previously seen them described as anarchist. Not that all anarchism is left wing (of course, of course). I must say, if it wasn't for the warm encomia on eGullet, this is a place I would avoid like the plague.

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  • 3 months later...

Four members of the Egullet cabal lunched at Shopsin's today. After consuming Sloppy Joe, Malasian shrimp soup (I forgot its real name), a soup of sweet potato, and another dish the name of which escapes me, a dish of freshly baked cinnamon jelly donuts and a bowl of bread pudding were placed on front of us. A milkshake made with white chocolate was also slurped down by one of our number.

The jelly donuts and bread pudding are worth the trip to Carmine Street.

Please note that the former was a "special" so may not be available on any given day. The pudding is a standard. It is covered in a perfect caramel,with just the right level of sweetness, and has the consistency of noodle pudding. The cream melts from the warmth of the bread making a wonderfully rich soup.

I will leave it to others in the cabal to describe the meal.

This is a fun and tasty place to lunch. It is a wonderful place to bring out of town guests.

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Here's what I remember:

The Malaysian shrimp soup was called Shrimp Laksuh (?)

The other dish was Pupusas, a Salvadoran taco-type dish with a smashed fried green plantain

The sweet potato soup ( more like a bisque) was to die for and came with rice with pecans and currants cooked in about a pound of butter

We had their homemade (I think) birch beer, very good

The desserts, as J. said, were best of all- the cinnamon jelly donuts were like football-shaped golf balls- pop them in your mouth and start singing with pleasure

Cliche though it is, the company was at least as good- and laughing, arguing and eating is far and away the best combo save one.

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That's "laksa," Stefany (though I can't answer for how a non-Malaysian place might misspell it).

Asam laksa has fish and shrimp paste (belacan) in it, but no shrimp.

Just out of curiosity, what ingredients could you pick out in Shopsin's version of laksa? Did it have tamarind or lime juice in it? Was it full of hot pepper? Did it have coconut milk in it? (asam laksa doesn't) Was it very salty? What vegetables were in it? Any cucumber slices? Any pineapple slices? Any fish? Was it very fatty?

And what type of cuisine does Shopsin's say it cooks?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Tha laaksa had lime juice. I didn't notice any tamarind. It was really delicious though. I had a Yin Yang plate which was half a bowl of Sweet Potato Curry Cream Soup and the other half of the bowl (same bowl with a wavy partition) of Date Nut Raisin Rice. It was fantastic. We also had Papusas with Beef. They were not authentic, though they weren't bad. I was disappointed to hear that they don't serve Johnnycakes anymore. But I was also proud of myself for finding a dish they don't serve on my first attempt :wink:. The sloppy Joe was well, sloppy.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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I ate quite a lot of everything. The Lahksa is especially good; while it and the pupusas aren't all that authentic, they're very fresh and tasty. The doughnuts were great. Then I ate a lot of Jamaican food for dinner.

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  • 10 months later...

A narrow door squeaked as I entered a small dining room with just a few tables, booths and a counter (unused for seating) right opposite the door separating the kitchen from the dining area. I was preoccupied with some problem from work, and before my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of the room, my cell phone rang. "She's new here," said my dining companion jestingly as the hostess, Eve, gave me a firm look manifesting disapproval in a manner free of tolerance toward any disagreement. I had no doubts that if not for my immediate submission, I had little chance to stay and, therefore, I turned off my phone right away without answering it and finally took a look around.

A strong sense of the surreal penetrated my thoughts, transporting me more than half a century back in time to a desolate ghost diner somewhere in the middle of nowhere, with the golden orange glow in the distance of a desert where even a thought of those marvelously ugly, lonely, round sticker bushes tumbling with the burning wind makes you want to stay inside the only island of dusty, barren, outdated civilization, with period music playing lightly in the background and shelves filled to the ceiling with canned food silently witnessing the history of the place for untold decades.

The outburst of energy pouring from every word and movement of a large man behind the counter, Kenny, and the soft manners of his assistant, José, were balanced by the authoritative calmness of Eve, who, in a quiet and confident manner managed to set the tone and a main leitmotif of the whole place. She'd be the one who'd greet you, take your order and make you feel at home. She'd be the one who'd keep you in line with the strict rules of the "household" in exchange for a chance to have a sumptuous bowl of soup or some wonderful chili infused with the smoke of chipotle peppers. Even when Shopsin's moved to larger, brighter, more contemporary quarters later, Eve was the one who made it all just as cozy and homey.

I wasn't at Shopsin's for several months. As friends and I made ourselves comfortable at a table, I saw someone, bearing a tremendous similarity in look and even voice to Eve but about 30 years younger, moving around perkily and briskly. "Is Eve OK?" I asked genially as the girl approached our table. "My mom passed away several months ago," she answered. For a moment, my eyes wandered and stopped at a painting with Eve smiling right at me and all of a sudden I was stricken with a very acute realization that people like Eve, those who don't take over our lives, but rather represent short passing moments of our comfort and happiness, those silent friends whom we never really know, but who become symbols of our joy, bring such a tremendous importance into our existence that when they are gone, a little part of us is gone with them.

This post is in memory of a wonderful person who made me feel so comfortable, warm and welcomed in her "home." This post is for Eve.

P.S.

The food was very good, as usual, and even though the spirit of the place stayed the same and was filled with the smiles and kindness of Eve's children, we left with yet another reminder that we should treasure every single moment in our lives, even the ones that don't seem important at the time.

Earlier thread: A visit to Shopsin's

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