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Another in a continuing series of posts about my new year's resolution to try new things in Chicago...

Yesterday, two new (to me) restaurants: Bittersweet Cafe and Tokyo Marina.

I've been enjoying the bakery side of Bittersweet for years -- even got a bunch of scones and muffins from them for the post-ceremony, pre-reception snacktime at our wedding -- but I've never had lunch in the adjoining cafe. So I sat down with my book and a pot of tea and enjoyed a lovely potato-cheddar quiche with fresh fruit on the side. This quiche was no dehydrated-looking greasy wedge, either. This was quiche the way the Baby Jesus intended it -- a buttery, flaky crust piled two inches deep with fluffy eggs, thick potato slices, and tangy cheddar. The restaurant itself was cozy and pleasant, all sunny windows and tiny marble tables and smart black chairs. Even though it was crowded, it wasn't noisy, and the mood among both patrons and servers was mellow and laid-back -- I was allowed to finish my lunch, two pots of tea, and my book without feeling rushed. Hooray for Bittersweet!

Last night, I volunteered at the theater and thought about going to one of my usual dinner places, but I found parking near Tokyo Marina and thought, what the hell -- two new restaurants today! And almost everyone in the dining room when I showed up was Japanese, which is always a good sign for a Japanese restaurant.

Tokyo Marina is crazy for the tempura, man -- lots and lots of deep-fried goodies on the menu. I thought about just getting some healthy little veggie makis with miso soup, but the ten don (deep-fried veggies and shrimp served in a bowl of rice with that yummy tempura dipping sauce on the side) just called out to me (not literally, of course. I don't eat food that talks. Except for the two shrimp among the veggies in this dish. I've been really good about not eating fish or seafood for the past couple of years -- the last vestige of my formerly omnivorous ways -- but I've just been craving shrimp for the past few weeks. Jim and I went out for Chinese on Christmas Night, and I got a shrimp and veg stirfry for the first time in years. Every time I popped a shrimp in my mouth, something deep within me was all like "That was awesome! Do it again!" But then I felt so bad about it afterwards that I couldn't eat the leftovers. I try not to be the kind of vegetarian who gets on other people's cases about what they eat, but I can be awfully hard on myself. I'm hoping the shrimp craving passes soon and never returns, just like the sausage gravy pangs of 1995. What was I talking about? Oh, right. The ten don.) Anyway, the shrimps were pounded so flat that under the tempura crisp, I couldn't really taste them. But the veggies were bursting with flavor.

So, I'd definitely go to Tokyo Marina again for the rice bowls. I have no idea if their sushi is any good because, of course, I don't eat fish. Except when I do.

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