Sunday, February 25, 2007

Comfort me with soba

New Yorkers know they live in a transient city. Friends come and go; it's just a fact of life. People leave New York City for all sorts of reasons. Some can no longer justify spending 75% of their paycheck on their shoebox of a studio. Investment Banking analysts leave the city for their rite of passage - business school. Many of my friends have migrated back home to Asia, feeling the familiar tug of family obligations.

To some extent, it's the constant influx and outflux of people that make this city so vibrant and exciting. But the constant changes can also leave you feeling alone and isolated, causing you to cling to anything warm and familiar like a safety blanket. And what is more comforting than food?

Sadly, New Yorkers can no longer find comfort in a bowl of soba noodles at Honmura An. This past Saturday, I was devastated to learn that one of my favourite restaurants in the city, my safe haven, had closed it's doors for good. All that was left of the restaurant was a hand-written note taped to the door that read: Happy New Year. See you in Tokyo (where the original restaurant is located).

I personally find nothing more satisfying than a hot bowl of noodles on a cold winter's night. Similarly, I also find nothing more satisfying than a cold bowl of noodles on a hot summer's night. It really just hits the spot. The thought of never again being able to eat the delicate hand-made noodles, accompanied with the sweetest, largest, and most succulent piece of tempura, finished off with the lightest, most delicious mille feuille, nearly brought me to tears. And like a child who dreads bringing home a report card full of C's, I dreaded breaking the tragic news to my family, who make their pilgrimage to Honmura An whenever they are in town.

A friend who I shared the news with stared at me in disbelief, saying that perhaps they were going to Tokyo for the new year, but would be back afterwards. The whole situation was just unfathomable to us. Why had they closed? Had the greedy Soho landlords hiked up their rent? Why hadn't their famous and influential patrons like Yoko Ono, who I saw during my last visit in November, and Jean-Georges, who I'm told dines there every Sunday, persuaded them to stay? And was it too late for us to submit a petition?

Seeking some hard evidence before allowing ourselves to spiral into depression, we decided to call up the restaurant. I choked up when I heard the calm, wistful voice on the answering machine say that the restaurant was closing permanently, and thank customers for their patronage over the years. Their decision was final and there was nothing we could do about it.

Just like past friends in New York City, Honmura An has come and gone. I don't know what will comfort me now.