The delicate art of the Japanese noodle bowl

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September 9, 2010

12:50 PM

Being stationed in Jamestown South, the Sadler Center has been my de facto home base for chowing down, BUT there has been quite a buzz around campus that the Caf is where the real goods are at this semester. After a 10 a.m. in Morton I figured there was no time like the present to venture outside my home zone. For those of you keeping track: September 8 around noon.

Expecting to be treated to Marvin and company’s take on classical Italian at the pasta station, I was shocked to see chopped sticks, those weird little crunchy brown things that look like gerbil poop and the word “Japanese”. The baby corn was crisp, the noodles (obviously fettuccine, but who really cares?) were lightly coated in a not too sweet teriyaki and the pork was tender and flavorful. I was shocked to see a dish taken straight out of the SC’s playbook and executed better than I’ve ever seen at any school cafeteria. I was told the Caf was good this semester and after this delicate appetizer I was ready for more.

For my main course, I skipped the massive line for bacon cheeseburgers (if our cooking staff can ruin a bacon cheeseburger, I don’t want to know) and went straight for a turkey wing with cornbread stuffing. In an attempt to save the best for last I ate the stuffing first as I have had this stuffing countless times, always with the hope that it would be better than the last. It still has that puzzling graininess that I’m sure the cornbread had the day before, gravy helps. To its credit, it did seem a bit crunchier than I remember as well as having a bit more spice, which if nothing else confused my taste buds enough to keep eating. While not the revelation that my Japanese noodles were, the turkey wing had a crisp skin and wasn’t completely overloaded with Cajun seasoning. Once again, gravy helps. Even though I was already full and it was far too early for this gigantic meal, I pressed on.

For my third course I mistakenly paired a BBQ chicken Panini with an unnamed combination of yellow rice and chicken stewed in tomato sauce. At first I thought the Panini just smelled like leftovers (perfectly acceptable), but as its funk resonated in my pallet I was reminded of the dreaded McRib. There is something about McDonald’s, where all of the food they put out tastes like old paprika mixed with old mayonnaise. I don’t know why, it just does and this Panini was permeated with that delightful aroma. It could have been the greatest plate of yellow rice and stewed chicken in cafeteria history and it would have tasted like McDonald’s. It tasted like week old rice and chicken cooked in ketchup and hot sauce which didn’t help.

I was contemplating a caramel blondie for desert, but after it took me a few minutes to gain the strength to get out of my chair I changed my mind. Kitchen secret of the week: It’s way too hot and I’m too fat to eat these kinds of meals within a few hours of waking up.

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