Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tofu for you: Medicine Eatstation

Medicine Eatstation. It sounds like a place organized by the Salvation Army for sick children to congregate in a 1940’s war film. I'd rather take Dimetapp than eat here again.

Why are all the foodies in San Francisco lining up to eat at Medicine? This restaurant, which has overhauled its menu about four times, provides a Buddhist vegan dining experience — provided you're not impatient due to the meditative service. And provided that a chunk o' tofu is your idea of a tasty treat.

One dish we got was a block of soft tofu in a small teacup filled with what Brad called dishwater. I prefer to describe it as a very very very very very delicately truffle-essenced rainwater collected from a monk’s 100-year old stone bowl in Tibet. The goal of the dish is to create a flavor that won’t overpower the natural boldness of the soft tofu. Thus, this is a very successful dish for those of us who enjoy plain tofu in its purest form for under $20.

Another dish we had: Jade Nuggets. These are described as “tempura-fried shiso leaves with a filling of mustard flavored natto, a suprise favorite among medicine aficionados.” [I did not correct spelling in that quote from their menu because I am trying to exercise Zen acceptance ever since my last meal here, but figure it must be a surprise to many diners that some dishes actually have more flavor than the tofu in dishwater described above].

The miso soup was artfully fermented using more dishwater and a set of mismatched unwashed socks belonging to an 11-year old boy from Modesto. It speaks to the innocence of youth. The rich flavor can hardly be described, but comes from the foot. The broth contained five perfectly cubed carrots, the squares representing the secret weird Japanese candy we each long for in our broth.

We opted out of the sweetened lima bean dessert. We ate Japanese candy when we got home.

Sorry. I don’t like to sound overly negative. I’m just wary of any supposed Asian restaurant without Asian waiters or chefs. I guess that shouldn’t be a sign, but it often is. I’ve always thought that if I wanted to eat good Thai noodles, I should go to a good Thai restaurant rather than a “Pan Asian” noodle joint where white people create dishes with Asian-inspired ingredients.

At $90, the meal was unsatisfying, unseasoned, and did not provide my body with the sensation of purity and wholeness that is touted by Medicine. A 17 percent service charge is added to the bill so you don’t have to trouble your mind to figure out what gratuity you should leave. I presume wait staff must not receive any of these tips because they are certainly unmotivated to provide the level of service that would warrant a gratuity.

But again, perhaps that’s part of the lesson of Medicine Eatstation. Take your time. Don’t worry about service. Breathe deeply.

Don’t worry that you’re sitting on long uncomfortable benches aside long dining-hall tables for long expanses of time waiting for someone to serve you medicine-flavored food. Enjoy mindful eating. It’s miso soup for the soul.

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