While this past weekend was filled with bracket busting games including Butler and VCU in the NCAA tournament, the weekend was jam packed for John Lee with a myriad of events with friends and family. Those aforementioned events included trying out the newest addition of Boston’s ramen establishments, an evening of some Texas Hold Em poker, multiple birthday dinners, and of course the Korean dice game in which it’s still a mystery what it’s called.
The weekends tend to be a time of rest and reflection for John as he’s getting quite up there in age. There’s very few things that John cherishes more than quality time with friends and family, except maybe for his latest addiction: Dominion. With that being said, let’s recap John Lee’s weekend…
Dinner @ Pikaichi
John started his weekend by joining some friends in trying out this new ramen place by the Super 88 food court in Allston, MA. Now it has only been a few weeks since word broke that Ken of Kens Ramen House had decided to close up shop. With his departure, John was basically left with Sapporo Ramen in Porter Square, Men Tei between Boylston St and Newbury St. It looked like there would be dark days in the future for John with such a limited ramen selection in the Boston area. However, his prayers were answered as a couple of email threads with friends and a couple of Chowhound forums later, he was informed of the replacement to Kens Ramen House, Pikaichi, would be none other than the owner of his usual weekly Peach Pit-like hangout joint(note the 90210 reference), Cafe Mami. Apparently that owner is somewhat expanding as he his bringing over his savory curry dishes to this new Allston establishment, but had also purchased Kens old ramen recipes. Could you really ask for anything better than curry or ramen at a restaurant?
Place was busy as expected. John decided to go with the Miso Ramen a boiled egg, while others in his group went with the Shoyu(soy sauce) or Shio(salt) Ramens with options, like egg, corn, butter, etc. Only one who shall not be named, decided to go with the curry. It was reassuring to hear that the curry here was up to par with the Porter Square establishment. So now people essentially in the BU area won’t have to make the long trip over to Porter for some delicious curry. At the same time, at least from John’s point of view, the ramen was up to snuff. It seemed to be just like Kens, although he hadn’t been there in a while. John’s takeaway was a mixed bag. On one hand, he now had this place right by BU that joined Kens tasty and brothy ramen with the savory and saucy Cafe Mami curry dishes. On the other hand, that is basically it, nothing else really to add, which can be deemed good. Do a couple dishes, and do those right. There was one other thing that Pikaichi had against them… no extra noodles!?! When asking for extra noodles, John was surprised to hear they don’t offer the option. Now again, the ramen there was pretty good… for Boston, but definitely not on the level of New York joints. They sadly just don’t compare.
So every now and then, John and a group of friends will congregate at one of their places and play some friendly Texas Hold Em poker until the late hours of the night. Games are usually light hearted and fun. For John, it tends to be more about the social aspect than the actual quality of the poker. He tends to excel at Sit n Go style tournaments with a buy-in for chips, and if you’re eliminated, you’re gone. However, the play of these games are typically cash games, which means your play chips = the amount you buy in for. So, people tend to be more tighter with their chips for the most part, and game play can be lackadaisical at times. Because of this, John tends to play extremely loose, and fish(going to the river hoping to draw a hand) an abundant amount. Sometimes this works in his favor… and sometimes it does not. More often though, he does instill the Heart of the Cards via Yu-Gi-Oh and tends to get lucky on the river. Not too uncommon to hear people call him the Riverdancer. Michael Flatley got nothing on John Lee. Although despite some of his ridiculous card catchings on the river, the highlight for him was when the only girl there that night was heads up with one of the Danny, one of the better poker players in the game. The flop was something like 2 – 3 – 6, and Danny had 9’s. Turn was a 3, the girl bet, and Danny re-raised, others folded while she called. Danny didn’t seem sure he was good in this hand. It appeared he had concerns about continuing this hand. The river was maybe a king, but she bet, and he reluctantly called. When they flipped, the best comment of the night… She says,”Oh whatever, I bet your cards are bigger than mine” She said it with no malcontent at all, but proceeded to flip over two 2’s, giving her a full house, and the winning hand. Fortunately, Danny did not appear quite salty at all, and took his beating well, possibly because it was to a girl. Easily, John’s favorite moment of the night.
John ended about 1 buy-in down where at times he might have been almost two buy-ins up. These volatile swings are expected due to the loose and aggressive his play style. However, the real highlight of the night for most if not all, is divvying up the loose dollars and change after everyone cashes in. Since no one tends to carry many singles to break change for anyone, the ingenious way that was developed to split loose change is a complex game called Find the Ace. So basically the goal is to, find the ace. Play starts with participants throwing in a dollar into the pot, then everyone draws a card, highest card goes first. Then, all cards are flipped face down, and the high card person goes first by flipping over a card. Play continues by going clockwise until someone flips over an ace. If someone does flip over an ace, there is one more rotation of turns to see if anyone can find an ace and tie. All those who tie, continue; the rest are eliminated. The most epic moment occurred when someone grabbed an ace, and the next two consecutive turns were aces as well. This may seem like a straight forward game, but rest assured, the game can be quite addicting and quite epic.
Dad and Grandmother Birthday
While their American birthdays were almost a month ago, this past Saturday, John celebrated his father and Grandmother’s Chinese calendar birthdays. Both birthdays were especially special this particular year because his father retired this year and it was his grandmother’s 88th birthday. 8 is a lucky number in Chinese culture, so double 8 is even better. The evening was filled with family and fun. The evening included delicious homemade Chinese food cooked up by John’s parents. In addition, there was some tasty Nonni’s Pizza Groupon.
After a gluttonous amount of Chinese food, the entire family gathered in the living room to look at some old photos of Johns father and Grandmother from over 40 years ago. Some photos were as far back as 60ish years ago when Johns father was just a little tike. Many photos were in black and white from China. There was also a bunch from the 70s in which everyone lightly heckled his father for some of the clothes and styles during those times. In addition to these two birthdays, it was actually his nephew Lucas’s 5 Month birthday. He was obviously the center of attention as everyone wanted to play with him and hold him. It’s quite rare with everyone’s busy schedules that the extended family can gather over a meal and have a good time. The last time might possibly have been during the holiday season. John definitely cherishes these times as he gets older and makes every effort to make time for these gatherings. He can’t wait until the next one.
Dice and Drinking @ Kayuga
While the nice and quiet family time had ended, the loud and rowdy sounds of drinking and dice games would commence at Kayuga on Commonwealth Ave. One of John’s good friends, Hobin, would occasionally visit his hometown of Boston. It has been somewhat of a tradition, a couple years running now, that one evening over that weekend would be dedicated to many Sapporos being devoured over the course of hours playing “the dice game”. The game is a somewhat similar to the card game called “Bullshit”. You basically have these cups with 5 dice and you shake them. Now everyone looks at their dice. Each number represents that number, but 1’s are wild. So the person that lost last game goes first and he/she might say Six 5’s. Now the next person, looks at his/her dice and depending on the composition, decides what to announce. The stipulation is that you have to increase the first or second number or both. One could say Seven 5’s or now Six 6’s. One other rule is that if someone decides to announce One’s, they are no longer wild for that turn. Play continues until someone calls another on their BS, and everyone flips over their cups, loser has to drink a gulp of beer. Now, depending on what kind of person you are, this game may seem simple, but apparently this version is considered the “easy” way!
So again, another night of fun, drinking, socializing, and catching up made for a nice way to end John’s Saturday. Everyone should give the dice game a try, almost guaranteed to be a night of laughs, surprises, and of course drinking.
Cousin Walt’s Birthday @ Cheesecake Factory
A bittersweet ending to an incredible weekend. John is extremely close with his family. Most of his family and extended family know that they can come to him for anything. And with that said, this birthday dinner for his cousin Walt was great to see cousins he hadn’t seen in a while, but at the same time it also reminded him that it has been so long that he hasn’t seen these same cousins. A couple of factors are at fault. John has simply gotten a lot busier recently with a lot of projects and work, but also he started to realize, his “little” cousins are all grown up busy with new responsibilities and such. At the same time this never ending cold in New England could be at fault because John and his cousins would actively throw the football around, shoot hoops, hit the driving range, or even hit the tennis courts during the warmer part of the year. So we will see what the status is in a couple of months.
John used to actually work in the Cambridgeside Galleria at Banana Republic, and then J Crew. During those stints, he was never a huge fan of the Cheesecake Factory, and still to this day isn’t. Franchise and chain restaurants don’t appeal to John usually as a new find or a hidden gem. With that being said, he hadn’t been to the Cheesecake Factory in so long, this it would be like going to a new place after all. He did remember one thing about the place though… the never ending menu. He attempted to do something he usually doesn’t, look at the menu in advance. He ended up giving up after only a couple of minutes. this left him with flipping through the spiral bound menu over and over again while bobbing his head and rubbing his chin with his finger while continuing to narrow down from 15 -> 10 ->6 ->3 -> 2 ->1 and finally settled on Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta. Lots of yummy vegetables that John likes such as artichokes, brocoli, and olives, but nothing out of this world. Everyone else’s dishes looked much yummier.
Weekend over, back to the weekday grind.
View the rest of the photos from my entire weekend in this photo album: Weekend in Review 3/25 – 3/27: Friends & Family