Saturday, April 27, 2013

My 65th year, or, how I spent my first evening as a senior citizen

This past week has seen gorgeous weather here in Providence, our group at work making a change of space and Susie taking a much-needed break from retail. Aside from the ongoing transitions at work, the high point for me at any rate -- although I saw no mention of this in the New York Times -- was my 65th birthday on Thursday. That media miscalculation was rectified by the gorgeous flowers Susie had waiting for me when I got home from work. (Since our team's move to downtown Providence I pretty much walk or take my Razr to and from work.)

I now qualify, in this country and in many places overseas, as a genuine senior citizen. Every since turning 60 there have been hints this would happen; grocery stores would occasionally mistake me for being older, assuming I would want that Senior Tuesday discount.

It all sort of crystalized when I received my lifetime free pass to all US National Parks last September when Susie and I visited Mannie at Antietam National Battlefield.

Now there's no guesswork, no misplaced assumption or misunderstanding. I say to the world -- bring on your discounted coupons, your special senior passes for the train (I'm thinking TGV of course),

So I was truly pumped when Susie took over planning an evening out for my birthday dinner; the next best thing since I couldn't have Bern's Swiss Steak. All I knew was we were going to Atwells Avenue, not far from where we live, a place with a distinct cachet of old-time Italian eateries. I assumed we would be spending an evening over pasta and piatti, prosecco and bistecca.

I couldn't have been more wrong and so pleasantly so.

We parked on a side street a block off Atwells strolled up an alley and then turned east on Atwells, walking a block or so, stopping at Nami. Smack in the middle of Italian Federal Hill, Nami is one cool space.  Recently opened this is a place to sit, relax have a glass of prosecco or, if you're adventurous, a cocktail made with hot or cold sake before dinner

After being seated around a hibachi table -- you can choose to sit at a traditional table if you're not in to the tableside schtick -- we relaxed over a glass of sparkling wine in tall bud vases. They were so good we had a second round. Not long after we ordered drinks three young men, friends as it turned out, were also seated at our table. They were clearly locals and it was fascinating to see three seemingly stereotypical Federal Hill types love this place before the evening was out.

vegetable tempura appetizer

First up for us were the apps:  the vegetable tempura and beef Nagamaki rolls for appetizers. Both were scrumptious and the beef especially was very different  with a wonderful glazing sauce. Together they made for a very nice contrast: the crunchy smooth flavor of the veggies with the lusciousness of the beef.

no, really, I'm awake!
Beef Nagamaki appetizer

Miso soup, that and a small green salad comes with the Hibachi dinner
The hibachi portion of the evening was the real treat though.

We hadn't eaten this style for many years and over the wine we chatted about past experiences, our minds flooding back to the first time at a Benihana in Bethesda, Maryland and a favorite hibachi restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia. So, I ordered the filet and Susie had the mix of chicken and salmon; all with fried rice which was prepared right at the table as well.

Earlier in the day I happened to mention to Susie that I wanted beef for my 65th birthday and since I also love Asian cuisine, especially Japanese and Chinese, the hibachi was the best of both worlds. (And frankly, I really wouldn't have wanted a traditional beef meal with heavy sides and even heavier sauces.) 

The food was perfectly prepared, flavors spot on and the chef artistic and playful, shooting sake into the mouths of several other diners around our table, flipping shrimp in my direction to catch, that kind of thing. The hibachi portions were certainly enough for dinner so be prepared to take some home if you opt for an app or two.

making the fried rice

filet mignon


Oh, and on our way out the hostess-owner suggested that since we loved the Nagamaki rolls, next time (and there will be a next time to be sure) we should try the Crusted Salmon on the main menu. If I can stay away from the hibachi. . . 

Our server was very nice, friendly, helpful and around when we needed her and understanding of our privacy when we did not.

They have valet parking but when we go to Atwells we park on a side street and walk a block or two.

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