We went to Thousand Cranes at The New Otani Hotel for dinner tonight. It was my brother-in-law's choice for his birthday. We had a private tatami room, which, much to my relief, had a hole in the ground for our legs to dangle, so we didn't have to kneel uncomfortably as traditional tatami rooms dictate.
The food was good but not outstanding. Mr. Monkey and I each had the kaiseki (懐石), which is basically a Japanese version of a tasting menu. Kaiseki is lighter than Western tasting menus, though. The kaiseki at Thousand Cranes purports to be "celebration of foods consisting of nine courses presented on small dishes: steamed, simmered, grilled, vinegared, sliced raw fish and crisp tempura."
What actually comprised this "celebration"? Agedashi tofu/egg custard, thick seaweed-wrapped fish with roe, sashimi (two each of toro, maguro, hamachi, and whitefish), grilled black cod, cold soba, hot "special" miso soup with a slight tang, tempura (shrimp, fish, eggplant), two slices of sweet rice cake (which were not mochi) doused in a sweet brown sugar syrup and sprinkled with peanut sugar, and ice cream (Mr. Monkey had green tea, and I opted for red bean). Mr. Monkey's dad, brother, and sister-in-law took the shabu shabu route, dining on do-it-yourself boiled thin slices of beef and vegetables accompanied by various condiments and salad, rice, pickles, and miso soup. [Side note: The Monkeys hate shabu shabu. It is a combination of our laziness and disdain for eating something that's just boiled and dipped in sauce. ] Mr. Monkey's family also ended with ice cream.
So now you've read about our Japanese dinner. What the hell does this have to do with the title of this entry?
Li'l Monkey Niece ("LMN") is about 1.5 years old. She knows how to say "Auntie" and loves to scream "Auntie, Auntie, Auntie, Auntie, Auntie!" until the Monkey acknowledges her. She is not as proficient with "Uncle," which is rather disappointing to Mr. Monkey. She is small and boisterous and likes to laugh.
She is a tiny terror.
Now, don't get me wrong. LMN is not a bad baby, certainly no worse than other babies. I'm told that LMN is actually a pretty good baby. The bottom lime is that she's a baby. There's a reason why Thousand Cranes doesn't have a changing table in the restroom. Babies don't belong in fine dining establishments.
Thankfully, we had the private tatami room. LMN ran 'round and 'round and 'round us in her socks. She "combed" our hair. She giggled and yanked at our ears. She shrieked. She hurled her little Elmo figurine across the room. Several times. She carried my purse back and forth and back and forth. She gave us unsolicited extraordinarily drippy drool-laden kisses. She banged on the table with her hands.
It took us 2.5 hours to get through that meal. During that entire 2.5 hours, not one word of adult conversation was uttered. The whole 2.5 hours was devoted to corralling LMN.
Having children really does change your life, and not in a way I care to experience any time soon.