Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dining Not In Paradise

Years ago, Denver D and I were wandering around the U District in Seattle, killing time before meeting someone somewhere else. After wandering long enough, we decided to have dinner. Denver D lived in Seattle and when he pointed out two Vietnamese restaurants we chose the smaller one. They were only a couple of doors apart and he said he'd heard they were about the same in quality, though he'd only been in the larger one.

The restaurant was really small, and it was not only hot but as muggy inside as it was outside. There were a few fans bolted to the ceiling, pointed at the tables, moving the air around your head but not providing any comfort in particular. We sat at a small table in back, under one of the fans. The table had salt, pepper, and a sticky bottle sriacha chile-garlic sauce sitting on it. We reviewed the menu and ordered.

Denver D had taught English in Taiwan for about a year after we got out of college. While waiting for our meal, he remarked that this restaurant convincingly recreated the experience of eating in Asia: a small, almost-clean setting, with tables close together and muggy air.

When the food came, the grilled whatever-it-was I had ordered (I no longer remember) had been garnished with a sprinkling of peanuts. I can't eat peanuts at all, not even a garnish, and when we finally got the waiter to come back, I explained that I couldn't eat this food with peanuts all over it because it would trigger my very bad allergy. He took the plate away and returned two minutes later - a surprisingly short time to prepare a whole new plate.

In the semi-darkness I looked closely at the plate and saw that there were still little pieces of peanut on the food. It was clear that the waiter had taken the plate back to the kitchen and shaken the peanuts off the food. I told Denver D that the waiter had not responded to the problem, and so we talked about what to do next.

That was resolved for us by Denver D noticing a baby cockroach on the table. He said that the cockroach made the recreation complete, only with smaller cockroaches. I pointed out that we were not eating dinner in Taiwan. We left.

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