Tonight Satchel finally got to eat at "Kai's dad's restaurant," better known as Umai. Owner/chef Ken Lumpkin hosted a special prix fixe dinner as a fundraiser for our children's school.
I've been to Umai several times and have even written about it for the Flyer, but hadn't had a chance to take the kids. The menu is French/Japanese fusion and I was somewhat concerned that it might be a bit too sophisticated for them. (The Sunday brunch is actually more Japanese/American fusion and probably the best bet for kids.)
Since Warren is out in the field, I invited my mom to join us for tonight's festivities. We pulled into the parking lot at 5:45pm and discovered that we were the only ones there. "Do I have the right day?" I wondered aloud as Satchel started to worry that he might not get to eat at Kai's dad's restaurant afterall.
"Let's just go in," I said and we set off. Kai greeted us at the door and soon he, Satchel, and Jiro were all snuggled up in front of Ken's laptop watching something on cartoonnetwork.com. I told the monkeys that they could hang out, but that once the food arrived they would need to come sit down. I asked Kai if he wanted to sit with us, but he happily replied, "I'm going to help serve!"
My mom and I said hi to Ken and then sat at a nearby table. The waiter came by, explained the menu, took our drink order and left us alone to chat. It was actually quite nice to have the kids occupied for a minute.
Soon we had four piping hot bowls of potato ginger soup in front of us and I went to fetch the monkeys. By now another student had arrived and was also lost to cartoonnetwork.com. Thankfully Ken came over and pulled the plug so we could commence eating.
Jiro, who became crankly while vying for a primo spot in front of the laptop, refused to even try his soup. Satchel was apprehensive until I mixed the splash of spicy sauce and black sesame seeds in. He had several bites before politely pushing it aside. My mom's bowl was gone lickety split and I finished mine and Jiro's with no problem. It was yummy.
While we were eating soup one family after another came in and soon the restaurant was packed. All of the kids had gathered around the bar to watch Kai cut the sushi.
"I know who the most popular kid in school is going to be tomorrow," I said.
Having gotten there first was starting to pay off as we were the first to receive our sushi--expertly delivered by Kai. From afar I thought I was going to get to increase my dangerously low mercury levels with some raw tuna, but up close I saw that the sushi consisted of thinly sliced carrots and red bell peppers. After assuring Jiro that it wasn't spicy and removing the offending vegetables, he ate all of his sushi (a.k.a. rice rolls).
Satchel ate all but one of his, which I was happy to polish off for him. Even though the sushi was fairly simple, it was quite flavorful. When I interviewed Ken for my Flyer article he told me that in Japan chefs will spend up to a year just learning how to make sushi rice. His rice was very sweet and perfectly sticky.
By the end of our second course, the crowd was getting pretty rowdy. Kids were running around, climbing on chairs, spilling drinks, and breaking soy sauce dishes while their parents desperately tried to keep up.
"Ken is a brave man," I said. "I hope we don't trash his restaurant!"
I'm exaggerating of course, but it was a sight to behold. The adults were definitely outnumbered! However, Ken was perfectly calm and seemed to be enjoying himself. The waiter--yes there was only one--was doing an excellent job and I was very glad about that. The bus boy--a midtown staple who's name I won't mention but if you saw him you would definitely know him by the crazy look in his eye--was soon working up a sweat himself.
Our final course of 48 hour marinated flank steak, mashed potatoes, and peas was delicious. Satchel inhaled his as did my mom and I. Jiro took one bite of his meat and spit it out. He was definitely not being a team player. He spent the majority of the third course dangling from his stool, yelling at me, and fondling his knife and fork. Luckily, there was so much kid activity in the restaurant no one noticed his less than stellar behavior. In fact, there were several kids who were making him look good.
We made the rounds and chatted up some of our friends and teachers before paying our check and leaving. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and they were clearly jealous that we already had full bellies.
Or so I thought.
Upon returning home (and after attempting to try out our knife collection!), Satchel ate THREE eggs and a cheese quesadilla! Jiro ate a breakfast burrito and two yogurts. I watched in amazement and wondered what dinner would be like when they were 15 and 17.
In closing, I have to say that it was totally awesome--and a little crazy--for Ken to host such an evening. I hope the school made lots of money and that many of the families will return again and again to support Umai. It's really special and unlike any other restaurant in town.
I also hope that our other midtown restaurant owning parents will do a similar dinner! Colleen, I'm talking to you!