Three Squares for Christmas.

Those of you who bore with me through my adventures in getting a new left knee this past year deserve an update, whether you want one or not.  Anne Mei and I took the train into New York yesterday.  Our main goal was to have lunch at TsuroTonTan, a new udon restaurant on 16th Street just off Union Square.  We walked from Penn Station down Broadway to Union Square, stopping on the way to drool through an Eataly, seemingly smaller than the one we shopped in Chicago this summer, but expanding into one food marvel after another as we walked farther and farther into the back.  We vowed to pick up a chocolate panettone on our way back, but as you will read, we took the subway later.  We had time to check out most of the stalls in the Union Square Market before TsuroTonTan opened at noon.  Again planning to come back for treats we passed up not to spoil our appetites for lunch.

Luckily we arrived at TsuroTonTan a few minutes before opening.  A couple were already waiting outside the door.  When Anne Mei followed someone in, signaling that the door was open, the couple quickly followed.  By the time they started seating people without reservations about 15 minutes later, we were at the head of a line of about five groups cramped into the small waiting area near the bar.  A number of groups with reservations were seated before us.

We were seated side-by-side on a narrow bench before a narrow table that ran down the room.  There was a similar table with benches facing ours.  Because of my joint problems I was concerned about being able to get in and out of the bench, which was fixed close to the table.  I managed that ok, but it is difficult for me to keep my legs folded up under a narrow table.  Fortunately I only stretched them once into the space of the man sitting across from me.  There was a slatted screen between the diners facing each other, but it really only provided a symbol of separation.  We could hear each other’s conversations quite clearly, even through the increasing noise level as the restaurant filled up.

I don’t have the words to describe the food.  Just that it was delicious.  Familiar dishes like the tatsuta fried chicken appetizer and the sukiyaki udon were fresh and delicate.  New experiences were the dip accompanying the chicken and the hojicha tea.  Even though we were both quite hungry after our walk, we could not finish all that we ordered.  Unfortunately there are no take-home boxes at TsuroTonTan.

By the time we left every seat in the place was occupied, and there was a line of people without reservations going out the door.  We were really pleased with ourselves for getting there before the rush.

After lunch we meandered through Chelsea over to 7th Avenue and then back through the West Village to Washington Square, where one clown on a unicycle was trying unsuccessfully to juggle three hoops.  As we walked farther south through Soho, Anne Mei requested that we go up to Times Square.  I had wanted to avoid that madness, but she had an agenda: checking out the American Eagle store up there for some pants that she had not been able to find in New Jersey. Even though my knee was holding up fine, I knew that my turning-73-next-week body would not make it on foot.  So we caught the R line at Prince Street to get to Times Square.  No luck with the pants, but the crowds were not packed shoulder-to-shoulder, allowing us to enjoy the hubbub.

After finding that Times Square has lost one of its major attractions for Anne Mei, Jamba Juice, we walked down 7th to Penn Station.  All in all we had walked about 5 miles.  Even though I was feeling stiff and tired by the time we reached Penn Station, my knee was not the problem.  On a similar walk through Manhattan with Gale a few years ago I had to stop and take a taxi back to the station because I hurt so much.  That’s when I decided that I had to get the knee done.  This time the new knee proved that it was worth it, even though I was not able to move fast enough to catch the train that was being called as we entered the NJ Transit waiting area.  Anne Mei was quite frustrated as we watched the train pull away from the platform at its scheduled time.  A nap on the train back to Princeton and passion fruit bubble tea when we got there smoothed out her mood.

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