Illustrations

NYC Pizza I've Known: Martina

PizzaIveKnown_Martina Martina is a new fast Roman pizza place by the ever expanding Shake Shack crew. I eagerly awaited it's arrival as both a budget New York dining and pizza aficionado.

To start, they have a fried risotto suppli and a lemony arugula salad. I love simple dressed salads, call me a boring lady, but it's my favorite side dish to pizza. The pizzas here remind of Rome through and through: zucchini flowers, gooey mozzarella, spicy salami, and a cracker crust. Martina is a good mix of delicious and quick, a spot I can see myself stopping in before a cocktail date or post-movie in the neighorhood. True to the style, you can drink prosecco in plastic cups which is delightful.

Next time I've got to try the dessert of flor di latte soft serve gelato because it sounds amazing.

I love the illustration on the paper that lines their metal trays, of course. __

Martina 198 East 11th Street East Village, NYC

Favorite New York City Coffee

I like to pretend I'm on vacation most weekends by treating myself to espressos. During the week it's mostly french press at home or coffee cart dollar cups. But fancy coffee never tastes so good as when I'm lounging at 3pm in another neighborhood or just down the street on a Saturday afternoon.

Here's a current list of my favorites for the season of back to school and back indoors. Now, if the New York City heat would finally leave.

My New York City Coffee Geography

Toby's Third Estate because it's a tiny spot with a hidden Strand. Third Rail  for the Washington Square Park vibe. Sweatshop for Aussie Williamsburg espresso. Birch because of the cold brew I'd drink all year long. Joe as a classic from back when I moved to New York. 9th Street Espresso for a real space to work and think with your espresso and milk. Think because the old NYU undergrad heart only grows fonder! Blue Bottle in Carroll Gardens since it's got that South Brooklyn charm. Like, is this neighborhood even real?

 

A First Time Trip to Rome and Florence

Rome and Florence are tourist destinations unlike any other I've been to. They are in late May and early June also teeming with college kids finishing their semesters abroad, spilling into plazas at night. They are hot, crowded, and wonderful cities that I'd visit again in a heartbeat because sometimes being a typical tourist abroad is blissful. 

Maybe it was that we flew into Italy right as the season warmed, a welcome change from rainy spring, because the crowds didn't bother me in the least. Sure, there were moments of waiting in humid lines. And yes, we did watch a particularly intoxicated American fall asleep at a fountain around midnight, who thankfully awoke before we had to rescue him like awkward faux mom and dad Americans we are. And yet in both cities we ate really, really well. I know that's what everyone says about Italy but the food and the wine and the gelato and the coffee are really all I need to feel like I'd gotten away from home for a bit. Spending nights in plazas, sipping cheap peronis without needing a plan is exactly my kind of casual respite.

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We flew first to Milan on a good deal with Alitalia, hustling on a high speed train to Rome. We walked around Rome by day and night for several days,  hardly ever taking the metro.  We drank two, sometimes three cappuccinos a day always standing at the counter, speeding into the day but still crashing from heat and walking exhaustion. We rode a double bicycle through the Villa Borghese, which turned out to be less whimsical vacation and more hilariously difficult, battling Italian drivers and skidding down hills while I laughed unlike I've laughed in while.

Rome was graffitied, gritty, and pockmarked with with hot trash piling everywhere. Yet it was also beautiful, old, and differently dense than New York City, with quiet back street cobblestone neighborhoods right around the corner from literal Roman ruins. I was most impressed by the Rome of working Italian people living their lives despite the tourism facade, stopping at coffee counters in the morning because it's just a normal everyday ritual.

We left Rome for Florence by high speed train too, my burgeoning art history afficiando ready to lean into the tourism of such an amazing city. I stood like a child in front of so many larger than life paintings, trying to see right into the grain of the paint strokes, inspecting faces in early Renaissance frescos with amusement.

We waited in line for close to two hours, fending off so many line jumping Italian grandmas for the Uffizi.  Brian read me the entire Rick Steves walking guide to the galleries as we meandered around. I loved it thoroughly, like a kid.

We gazed upon Duomo everyday, staying right nearby. We sat in manicured parks as well as open church squares in the Oltrarno neighborhood after dark. We ate late after spending days walking up and down hills, staring at churches so much older than things I can imagine. We shared Florentine steak and pasta with house wine at a small Tuscan restaurant called Osteria Cinghale Bianco where we just happened to get a seat without a reservation.  It was absolutely one of the best simple meals I've had, the kind of serendipitous moment you can't repeat.

We flew back through Milan, a funny thing to be a little familiar now with this northern Italian city I've stopped over in twice. We too took a moment to gawk at its epic Duomo. More summer tourists arrived for Italy just as we departed, feeling a little like we were temporarily studying abroad in our thirties.

Rome --

seeing All the greats are here, of course. I loved the otherworldliness of the Pantheon the most, it felt like it belonged in Battlestar Galatica (nerd alert.) Walking through the heart of the city to see the Trevi fountain at night. Stranger but lovely was the Capuchin Crypt. I found the Vatican Museum not as awe inspiring as St. Peter's, though. Capolitini museums were worth it for the awes inspiring Roman statues as well as the view of the forum. 

staying The Monti neighborhood was lovely and very slice of life Rome right by the main tourist destinations. We opted to stay in a hotel there.

eating Travestere for all dining and especially Dar poeta pizza. A cute cafe spot for breakfast in Monti called La Casetta. There's a mini chain worth it called La Prosciutteria The best gelato I had was Fanta Morgana. Pasta Chef for street food carbonara that delicious and budget friendly. Lunch and apperativo around Campo di Fiori Antico Cafe Greco for a little posh old school cappuccino

Florence --

seeing Duomo!  Walking everywhere, especially at night across the Ponte Vecchio. The Boboli Gardens for meandering and the views. The Uffizi Piazza della Signoira  with a beer in the evening, observing people. Piazza Santo Spiritu for a lively night scene, too. There was a cute cafe with to go spritz. Leather goods everywhere, you can tell the more artisan stores if you wander a bit. Ceramic goods from Tuscany at La Botteghina Del Ceramista Santa Maria novella for the beautifully patterned church and the famed perfume store.

staying We stayed right by the Duomo in a side street airbnb on the top floor. It was lovely.

eating Aperitivo at the Santa Croce hip spot Oibò Pizza off the beaten path at Marlborghetto Sandwiches everywhere, in little delis tucked on so many streets. Old school pastries at cafes like Bar Pasticceria Cucciolo and La Loggia degli Albizi A fantastic Tuscan dinner at Osteria Cinghale Bianco

Saying Goodbye to Apartments

I've lived the longest on my own in the apartment building we're about to leave in Brooklyn. It's been almost four years in one building, crazily enough. Four years back in New York City. I'm happy to have been here and happy to move somewhere else, to buck the nostalgia people always cling to when leaving phases in life.

In my packing, I found this sketch from one of my 2015 sketchbooks. It was the year I decided to start making art again, not really caring why or how. I'm so glad I did because it brings me so much joy outside of the hot subway commute of working life in the city.

We brought both of these bookshelves to the basement a day or two ago. We found them first on the streets of Brookline when we were living in Boston. In the two apartments in this one building I kept the shelves organized about the same way in each. Funny how I repeat life patterns. It's a bit freeing though to realize they're old and musty, that we don't have to keep just so many books.

Our super arranged the boxes upon boxes of books we got rid of into a free library in our laundry room basement. That made me a smile a bit and feel less like I was throwing away good reading material. My New York Times Cookbook was already snatched up by the time I returned to the basement. People are less interested in the literary and cultural theory textbooks with the used label I've kept way too long. Ah, ghosts of a liberal arts youth!

I'm keeping the vintage globe because a girl has got to keep some whimsy in her life, and the painting my mother did of a picture I took in France and the ye olde time looking radio. My terrarium died, of course. I've got no green thumb, but I'll keep trying. I'm thinking: ferns!

I'm keeping books that have a sentimental value to me and letting go of the rest. Oh and my fruit bowl, that will live on. I love an apple a day.

I know I'll be back to Brooklyn, maybe not to the exact spot I've lived in for four years, so I don't feel any kind of fear of leaving. It's easier to romanticize the past or the way things are than to embrace the change of the current and the future. I am so ready for getting older and moving on with whatever happens along the way.

Recently I told a last-year-of-teenage-dom teenager that every year we are dying so why fear change. She asked me if I was always 65 years old. The answer is yes, yes I have always been.

Here's to moving back to Manhattan, where I haven't lived since I was a college kid in 2007.

Sketching St. John Divine

I started working uptown this past spring on both a whim and a planned expedition in changing.  And I mean, actually uptown and not just above the corridor of favored lower Manhattan offices. I mean the uptown of that-certain-university in Morningside Heights.

At first I thought, well this will be the commute, when considering the working life up here. But after a few meandering walks around the campus, and down Broadway into the the west nineties, I was sure it was the right change. I kept thinking during the walks about those essays about leaving New York, those inflated ideas of New York we grab onto.

Morningside Heights is also full of charm, students, bookstores, and slower cafes than those downtown. It is most notably to me home to the looming neo-gothic glory of the Cathedral of St. John Divine. Every time I rest on it's steps, or venture inside for a moment in its cavernous-like interior, I feel the pangs of a long lost crush on Joan Didion. Just this past week I was remembering how I clung to her narrative for a long time but that now I feel a natural distance from her detached prose. I kept her books when cleaning my apartment for the move uptown still. Either it was sentimental or silly, I don’t know.  I know she too felt a particular connection to the cathedral, though, the way it witnessed ups and downs in her life. 

When I'm walking up Morningside Drive in the morning arching my way onto the campus, I always stare up at the Cathedral's spires, feeling a bit like I’m coming around to the beginning of a life in New York. The church is always inspiring me to sketch, to look at it from a side street, in awe of it's giant prowess in such a small beautiful neighborhood. 

Maybe I’ll join the ranks of those wistfully thinking about loving and leaving New York from this iconic neighborhood or maybe i’ll just mark this as another part of the journey.  I’m happy to entertain my own version of Goodbye To All That even if I’m thinking right at this moment that I never want to be so far away I can’t still get lost in the giants of Manhattan’s avenues.  Of course, that gracious feeling I have walking around is more often than not buttressed by finding myself crammed into a hot and sticky heatwave subway car or watching a pigeon eat my fallen slice of pizza on the street.

I wouldn't change it, though. 

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Cathedral of St John Divine. 1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025

It's worth taking a tour around the inside of the Cathedral. So many artists have had a part in shaping the vision of the church in the 21st century, and it's mission to serve the diverse people of the city.There's a Keith Herring Triptych inside as well. It's one of the oldest buildings in the New York!

Queen's Night Market

Food halls and markets are popping up all over New York City this year but they're often a bit pricey for what is still fast and casual food.  That's exactly what makes  Queen's International Night Market, open in the summers since 2015, a welcome respite on the food scene. The market is far less about a hip location or culinary trick.  It's a place for first-time entrepreneurs to introduce their foodways to curious New Yorkers of all kinds.  The idea is directly inspired by the colorful night markets of Taiwan. The Taiwanese immigrant who runs the market emphasizes the cultural relationship to food and lower priced smaller portions with every vendor he signs on. If you're looking to try a plethora of hard to find dishes from a range of countries, this is the place!

A few weekends ago a trio of us made it out on a whim to the market, a surprisingly easy plan to hack on a Saturday afternoon of lounging about the city. It's location in Corona Park Queens take some time to reach if you're coming from our neck of the woods but it's easily managed by the subway nonetheless if you're hungrily motivated. The mood is family friendly and boisterous. As the New York Times emphasized in the a market profile just this week, there is a lot to be enjoyed at the market by just soaking in the colorful atmosphere. I too loved the friendly giant inflatable maneki-neko.

My advice on visiting is really simple: graze. Oh and bring cash. Come later in the evening if you want to avoid the bigger family crowds. If you're resourceful, bring some wine in a travel to go cup (yes, I am that girl but also don't rude with it) so you don't have to imbibe in the drinking area that's removed from the market.

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Queen's International Night Market Every Saturday Apr 22 - Aug 19 Sept 30th - Oct 28th Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens

 

What we ate:

The Keema Palata at Burmese Bites. Mochi Waffles at Moffle Bar. Takoyaki at Karl's Balls Taiwanese Cakes at Catmint Wheelcake 

And some yakisoba and jian bing that I can't remember where we bought from!

 

 

Ruminating on things eaten in Paris last year

Maybe it's that my sister in-law is headed to Paris right now. Or that I've recently joined the fan club for those normal French pharmacy beauty products that just seem so much better every time I use them, like this dry shampoo and this really basic moisturizer. It's probably also that I was in Paris a year ago crazily enough, and being stuck inside during a snow day had me wistfully thinking about that late winter trip.  If you're looking for even more inspiration, Cup of Joe's recent city guide of Paris has me thinking France is always a good idea, whatever the weather. Of particular note to me, even a year later:

baguettes, always good, with butter even better gastro pub Les Deux Cigales , very delicious mint tea at the Grand Mosque of Paris worth the marauding pigeons  all pain au chocolat forever!

 

Embrace The Pretzel Croissant

I love breakfast. It's the best meal, hands down. You can eat it early, you can eat it late or you can eat it twice like me most days. There is a strange promise in being fancy for breakfast every once in awhile. It's like seizing the day, reminding me of being on vacation. Making any day commuting in Manhattan to feel like a vacation day is a good approach for making my life more enjoyable.  I love to put in a little effort some morning to make it in earlier than usual to stop for a croissant and a cappuccino because Im old enough now to just embrace my love of frivolity without caring.

This week at the office my lovely coworker brought in pastries from The City Bakery to celebrate Mardi Gras. My favorite of the bunch is by far the Pretzel Croissant.Call me an iconoclast but It's a beautiful, salty thing of butter wrapped into a pretzel homage of sorts. The crispy outside is saltier than a regular croissant. The inside is the familiar buttery goodness. I have a fondness for it's brown-flecked flakey layers. I enjoy that while saltier it's still a croissant, through and through.

I like it even more jam, a perfect blend of sweet and salty, eaten at my desk. Those tiny crumbs of course ruin my usual attire of dark on dark.

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The City Bakery 3 W 18th St New York, NY 10011

 

Happy Lunar New Year

I recently got back from a wonderful birthday trip to Hong Kong! Which is to say, Happy birthday to me and Happy Lunar New Year, I'm so grateful to spend any time exploring the food and lives of other people around the world, ever slightly unhinging the way you can feel your experience is the central way of life. Before we took off I started thinking about New York City's Chinatown, seeing that it was first settled by Cantonese immigrants to the city . It's the largest Chinatown in the United States, too.

It's easy to ignore the beautiful, unique nature of Chinatown's busy, neon signed streets. It's easy to accept it as a part of Manhattan's core, not stopping long to appreciate it's flare for out-of-the-norm. After being in Hong Kong, I'm ever so ready to score it's back alleys for egg custards and waffles.

e. There has never been quite a time to appreciate an immigrant enclave in New York City that right now, to think that at a time we also excluded Chinese immigrants from coming and settling in the United States. I'm so thankful that it is a part of the fabric of New York City, though, with more Chinatowns in both Brooklyn and Queens growing today.

A local favorite Chinatown favorite is Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, a staple in my journeys through the neighborhood.

If you're there at the right time, when the tables aren't too busy, you can easily watch the chef slap the hand-pulled noodles down in the tiny side kitchen with a loud, sudden whack. The noodles are chewy and fresh. The thicker the cut the better in my book! I prefer them stir fried with vegetables.

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Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles 1 Doyers Street New York, NY 10038

Women's March 2017 Postcards

You can donate to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood while get these post-cards for sending to your elected officials! I've printed these on recycled matte paper with an illustration I did in gouache and watercolor. For every bundle sold I'm going to donate 90% of the proceeds, using the rest to print & ship for as long as I can.

It's hard in these crazy times to keep focused and do as much as you can, especially while we're juggling work, life, family, and health. So I'm trying to keep my eyes clear and use whatever I have to do something, anything. I know I'll have to protest again and over and over again. Right now, I'm using creativity for a little burst of energy though.

It was beyond nice to have a random, kind stranger buy two bundles online last night. I'm very excited to both raise some money and to send my art out to other women.

Boston Favorites (from a New Englander transplanted to New York)

Every year at Christmas I head home on a bus or train to Boston, meeting my family in the suburbs of both Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Holidays are always enjoyable and stressful yet I'm thankful to be able to spend brief spurts in the city. Boston is a place I keep passing through even after three years of moving back to New York City. It's a city for trips home or short weekends. It's a city where my family and friends live. It's a city I've known for so long as the city, that it's funny that I live in this other big city.  It is a comfort though, to always have it be a part of my trip home.

So in honor of the holidays I wrote a little rumination on what I love about Boston and its environs, things to do and eat and see and. Places change (how dare them!) but I hope these will continue to be useful. Of course, this is by no means exhaustive and just my little take on a city I keep in my heart.

I'll keep updating it as I go back and forth with any new found favorites. Heck, I might even move back one of these years. It seems like my life will be switching between Massachusetts and New York every few years based on my track record so far.

Oh and yes, there are many touristy historic things to do I left out.

Things I love to do:

Lounging in the Copley library courtyard in summer or the reading room in the winter or fall. In the summer there is a wonderful farmer's market in the square, too.

Walking the emerald necklace through Jamaica Plain, spending an afternoon in the arboretum and strolling Centre street.

Exploring a college campus, especially Harvard's.

Walking that part of the Charles River esplanade where kayaks come in through a small waterway.

Spending an afternoon on Newbury Street, a sort of both lovely and overwhelming intersection of all of Boston's shopping. I like to perch at Trident Booksellers and just people watch with coffee and a book.

Finding time to walk the Mass Ave bridge all the way into Cambridge, stopping at Flour Bakery and then seeing the robots at the MIT museum. Finish it up with dosa in Central Square.

Stoping in for a movies at The Brattle or The Coolidge Corner Theater, some of the few indie theaters left in the area.

Getting the right perch for the view of the harbor from the ICA at night, better yet on their free after hours nights.

Keeping close to the T windows on that part of the Red Line when it emerges on the Longfellow bridge and everyone is compelled to look out at the Charles river no matter their curmudgeonly.

Picking just one gallery to spend the day in at the MFA Boston.

Picnicking in Boston Common and walking down Charles Street into Beacon Hill, getting lost up and down the hill.

Being in awe of the glass flowers at The Harvard Natural History Museum.

Meandering around the cloisters courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Browsing and shopping in the brownstones of the South End. The SoWa market is a nice reason to visit.

Putzing around the North End, eating grandma slices or at the original Regina Pizzeria.

Tracking down the food trucks!

Walking the entire length of The Rose Kennedy Greenway from end to end, which has some fabulous landscape architecture and a moving holocaust memorial near the North End. In the summer kids play in sprinklers and it's a nice spot to rest while people watching.

Catching a ferry to one of the Harbor Islands in the summer to picnic or adventure inside old ruins that I am sure are haunted.

Attending Open Studios at The South Boston the Distillery where many artists live and work.

Touring the Sam Adams Brewery in my secret favorite neighborhood Jamaica Plain.

Things I Particularly love to Eat and Drink:

Clover Food lab in Harvard Square (or any location they just moved from their original there) has a place in my heart because no matter the multitude of food trucks turned brick and mortar I love that you can sit, drink a beer, and order a fairly cheap falafel plate for dinner with fries.

I just tried the coffee and pastries at the new location of Tatte bakery in Harvard Square. The space is so lovely and light, like a Parisian bakery with the backdrop of Harvard's campus in the background.

Hot pot in Allston at Shabu Zen, or any of the stalls at Super 88.

For imbibing, Grendel's Den to feel like a college kid in Harvard Square, Deep Ellum for a well crafted cocktail and silent movies on TV screens.

Tasty burger in Fenway because you can easily eat at the bar while watching Boston sports without being too obvious. Secret sports viewing is key for a non-sports obsessed New Englander.

Algiers Coffee house because it reminds me of New York City's Cafe Reggio where I can linger for a long time without buying much and 1369 to read and people watch in Central Square. *update in 2018, alas it has closed! 

Area Four for my most favorite pizza and garlic knots.

The Salty Pig so I could build a board of pig parts plus a fancy pizza with more pig parts. Pig is key.

Highland Kitchen in Somerville for comfort.

Chinatown eating! Especially Dumpling Cafe.

When I was feeling fancy I loved Oleana (of course I'd say this, I got married there!), Neptune Oyster, or Ten Tables in either Cambridge on Jamaica Plain.  p.s. I really need to try Sarma next time I'm in the area!

Places I love to browse:

The best overall bookstore, a browser's delight and open later than most things in sleepier than I like Boston, is the impeccable Brookline Booksmith. The delightful Globe Corner in Harvard square closed but gratefully the Booksmith assumed a great deal of their map and travel collection. Wanderlust denizens, rejoice!

For more travel, lingering, and reading literary magazines without purchasing them I actually admit I love the Barnes and Noble in disguise Harvard Coop. The down the street independent The Harvard Bookstore is not actually a part of Harvard but that doesn't stop tourists from always asking where the sweatshirts are when they walk in. It is a great all around bookstore though, with strong academic and non-fiction sections as well as a solid used book cellar.

Every year Brian and I also find ourselves at Schoenhof's in Harvard Square, a hidden foreign language bookstore with a deep catalogue of French and Spanish titles plus a lovely staff.

I have a special spot in my heart for Black Ink in Harvard Square or Beacon Hill for the finding the best offbeat gift, card, or special thing you are lusting after.

Oona's in Harvard Square is for everything you dreamed your vintage closet could be someday.

For handmade gifts I'm a fan of Olive and Grace. I'll often stop by on the days before christmas for an extra gift.

 

Trips out of the city:

deCordova is a hidden gem of modern art and rolling sculpture park greens making it perfect for an afternoon adventure.

West Concord has the best bread and sandwiches in a cozy shop plus of course Concord itself has charm and Walden Pond is a childhood favorite.

Mass Moca is worth that zip car trip out west.

And for the record, I actually love the cold, rocky New England beaches north of the city.

Also, most of New England isn't far from a car trip, either. You can be in Salem, Portland Maine, the White Mountains, or the New Hampshire Seacoast in a few hours at most.

 

Sushi Yasuda

sushiyasuda When Brian turned thirty this past January we looked high and low for a few indulgent things to do in New York City. The thing is, so many of the fancy restaurants don't keep my interest for very long. Give me a plate of dumplings or slice of good pizza and I'll be more happy than I am with tiny plates of foraged mushrooms at every-other-farm-to-table-restaurant or upscale Italian joint in the city.

Ahem, but sushi, I'm ready to burn a hole in my pocket for sushi.  Elegant fish prepared piece by piece is exactly the kind of thing worthy a big milestone. So after a bit of a research, we decided that Sushi Yasuda was perfect for marking an entire new decade.

sushi_yasuda_one

Sushi Yasuda is one of the top sushi restaurants in Manhattan even if Mr. Yasuda has moved on. It's tucked away on a nondescript block near Grand Central. The simple layout has an understated elegance, the kind of light and minimal restaurant I've already created fantasy narratives about visiting Japanese business travelers stopping in for dinner.

For the full experience, the kind worthy of splurging for because that's what you're going to do here, we sat at the bar for the Omakase set where the chef prepares the sushi meal piece by piece for you. There was no set menu or price when took our spot at the warm colored bar. We didn't even order drinks, instead sipping green tea that is generously refilled by attentive waiters. The only question we were asked was what we didn't want before the chef began. I decided I didn't want to try sea urchin, but Brian did, fish being one of the few times he's more adventurous with food than me. When we weren't supposed to use soy sauce he let us know, which I loved, because of course we're woefully unaware Americans. Often he'd set down a trio of fish, my favorite being variations of salmon. He'd note for us if something was flown in from Japan. Each bite was velvety and rich, the right balance of fatty fish to sushi rice's slight sweetness, with a hint of wasabi underneath.

sushi_yasuda_two

The older Sushi chef had a sweet smile, a bit of a quiet wit. He laughed when he asked us if we were finished after what felt like a million years marked in single pieces of fish. When the bill was paid we left,  it was lightly raining in the city but warm for a January so we decided to stroll across town, thinking we'd probably never dine that well again because to be honest, some roundtrip plane tickets are cheaper.

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Sushi Yasuda 204 East 43rd Street New York, New York 10017 212-972-1001 www.sushiyasuda.com