8.72: Yuko Soup Bar

 In Downtown it's all about managing expectations. Photo by Dan Johnson.

In Downtown it's all about managing expectations. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

I received a large and glossy advertisement from FryMadness in the mail the other day. I’ve known the frou-frou potato spot from the visionaries who decided to name their Los Angeles café after a season in a city 3,000 miles away was coming for quite a while. The foresight didn’t help me to answer that lingering question “why?”

They say you should dress for the job you want. Here in the New Downtown, some Svengali or another has convinced restaurant owners to dress for the Spring St they want. However divorced from reality it may be.

Even as the corpse of Artisan House decomposes a block away, FryMadness offers a selection of bougie fried spuds that have Yelpers raving. Many have flooded in with the customary five star reviews that come after you have a friends and family night with a red carpet.

I’m a little hung up on the $11-30 price range and the 5:30pm open time. Still, it’s not my problem. Do what thou wilt, FryMadness.

The strong likelihood is that no one actually gives a shit what I have to say. Given that I have this platform on which to spew opinions no one actually gives a shit about, I’ll just go out and say it: the new name of the game here in Downtown and elsewhere across America is managing expectations.

I love the way expensive food tastes. Truly. But anyone asking stadium prices for rebooted interpretations of things that should cost under five dollars needs to understand that they’re gambling on the sort of prosperity that doesn’t always materialize or last. Drive on up to Clovis and ask Tabachines what I’m talking about.

It’s nice to think you’ll reinvent the way the world sees _____ in Downtown Los Angeles, but it’s even better to create a democratic product that people can afford to buy with regularity during somewhat reasonable business hours.

Incidentally, I was heartened to see Yuko Kitchen open up a soup spot on 5th St. I know food writers aren’t supposed to review a place right when it opens, but one out of ten food writers polled called me an irrelevant clown with the other nine responding, “who the fuck is Dan Johnson?”

Without the burden of a professional reputation choking me at the gullet like some toxic albatross, I went and got some hot soup to help wash down the summer heat wave.

Full disclosure: I don’t enjoy Yuko Kitchen. This isn’t a judgement, just a subjective statement. Everyone else loves Yuko. I’ve ordered everything that trusted friends have gushed over and found it all disappointing. But I’m me. I have persnickety tastes. Also possibly a spiritual defect. I do, after all, despise the Beatles.

(The Beatles are the epitome of lukewarm to me. I don’t care for them, nor the way people fawn over them as if they invented electric light. One more thing and I’ll let it be: nothing offends my sensibility more than the false sanctimony of that wishful thinking opus that is John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It’s the one song that has instilled the most unreasonable expectations on the Western World. Nice as it may be to imagine a world without hate and greed, it’s probably smarter to reconcile your utopian visions with the reality of a planet that has never been without either. Which is not to say that there’s something fundamentally wrong with being a dreamer. Fine by me. It’s the expectation that because the rich guy who got shot to death outside of his fancy New York City apartment told you we should live in utopia, that’s what we’re all going to get one day. Sheesh.)

Again, I’m me and you’re you. Gauge accordingly. I’m delighted that Yuko makes so many of you happy, while maintaining a toe hold of sanity at 5th St and Main St. Really, truly – thank you for that.

A few times this weekend, I cupped my brow and pressed my face to the glass at their new soup spot on 5th St. It looked great. Cheap food with a decent threshold of nutrition is a big win for the Nickel.

I kept fixating on a $6.50 bowl of soup that featured an impossible amount of side items. Unfortunately, this was my turn to manage expectations.

The soup + salad/rice + choice of meat or tofu or avocado offering was not, in fact, $6.50. (The actual $6.50 menu item was a plain bowl of soup).

 General rule of thumb: don't plan your day around confusingly placed prices on handwritten wall menus. Photo by Dan Johnson.

General rule of thumb: don't plan your day around confusingly placed prices on handwritten wall menus. Photo by Dan Johnson.

That whole other package went for ten bucks. Tack on fifty cents worth of jalapenos and fifty cents worth of crispy wontons and we’re well above $8.72. $12.08 was the grand total. I went ahead and tipped a dollar on the off chance that the hundred cents would somehow dissipate my grimace.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, lady. You’ve got a variety of soups and I’m happy you’re doing what you’re doing. I’ll eat my humble pie.

The vegetable miso soup was stocked with onions, tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms. I recognize the flavor as reminiscent of the twelve bean gulag soup my mother used to make in the dead of winter for us to feast on for two weeks straight while I watched and rewatched a VHS copy of Jeremiah Johnson and thought to myself “gee, I’m sure glad people don’t have to live like this anymore” while a smaller, deeper seated, more convincing part of my being kept admonishing me, “just you wait, fucker—the 21st century will be a cruel mistress.”

Fond memories.

Anywho, I know for a fact that this brand of base nutrition can sustain low-metabolism human life through the drudgery of winter months. It may not foster a sense of joy or exuberance, but you’ll stay nice and scurvy free. Mostly, as we approach spiritual nadir, that’s what we need.

My experience was skewed as I went ahead and consumed the full twelve dollar ration. Robust as the soup alone may have been, I doubt it’s enough to keep me going through the day without having my hanger flare up. That’s the thing, though. I don’t need to be blown away. I just need something to keep me going.

People are always griping at me for not being optimistic enough. “Set a positive intention, Dan, and wonderful things will materialize!” Yeah? Did you set the intention of having a nickel dictator attempt to subvert the United States from the inside out while world order decayed around him and the stark contrasts between the elite upper crust and the rest of us pee-ons widened and the earth set out to destroy us like the virus we are? Because that’s what The Secret got you.

I prefer to assume shitty things are going to happen so I’m not overwhelmed or shocked when they do. The management of expectations makes life so much easier.

Yuko Soup Bar is not going to reinvent broth. You won’t see stock differently for having eaten here. On the up side, there are five flavorful varieties of vegetable laden liquid with which to ensure your enduring survival here amidst the great wonder we call humanity. Have some.

I award Yuko Soup Bar a "1" on the binary and congratulate myself for no Seinfeld references.