The other night, a waiter asked me if I was a restaurant critic. I balked at the title. Restaurant critics are food specialists, individuals with a comprehensive knowledge of culinary technique and sophisticated palettes honed by years of professional experience. Me? I’m just an opinionated guy who likes to eat out. The “restaurant critic” moniker connotes a complete investment and commitment to alimentary detail that eludes one such as myself. No, I’m more of a…what do you call those guys who seem to make a living show up on CNN every once in a while to offer their take on the hot topic of the day? You know, those professional talk show circuit trawlers? Oh, right. Pundits! Right.
I am a food pundit. I hold no allusions of sophisticated insight or authoritative assessments. Still, I do know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. And the following (in no particular order) is my list of this restaurant pundit’s biggest pet peeves:
Uh, shouldn’t you be writing this down?
What is it with wait staff who choose to commit orders to memory rather than simply jotting them down? Yes, I suppose it is a laudable demonstration of their recall abilities – but only provided they don‘t screw up half the time, which they invariably do. Seriously. Your powers of recollection don’t impress me. Serving me the right appetizer does.
Anyone can take a reservation…
I can understand waiting a few minutes for the table you reserved as the restaurant shuffles off the slow-ass previous diners and changes the settings, but – half an hour? With reservations? It’s happened to me on a couple of occasions, most notably twice (!) at Tojo’s old location. In both instances, I would have up and left if the people I was with hadn’t insisted on waiting it out. Once, by way of an apology, our guest of honor – the birthday girl – was gifted with a complimentary Tojo’s t-shirt. Hungry? Eat this!
Would you care for some water, sucker?
I’m not going to get into the whole water debate with you. You can argue all you want over which is better for you but all I know is that I prefer the taste of bottled water. That said, what leaves a worse taste in my mouth than the fluoride-doctored pool piss that flows from our taps is how much some restaurants charge for the bottled stuff, sometimes as high as the price of a modest bottle of wine. Special mention goes out to Lumiere, one of Vancouver’s top restaurants, that really should demonstrate a little self-control. People are already paying top dollar for your food. Do you really have to jack them on the water as well?
Small plates, and appies and starters, oh my!
Remember the good old days when negotiating a menu didn’t require helpful accompanying instructions? When your choices came down to selecting from three basic courses: Appetizer, Main, and Dessert? Now, restaurants are offering up sub-categories under pretentious headings like “To Start“, “Amuse Bouche“ and my personal favorite “For the Mouth“ (as opposed to what other part of your body exactly?). Just save me the headache and put them all under the appetizer menu where they belong.
Stop trying to make fusion happen!
Ever had a hankering for a Hazelnut Tenderloin or the combined flavors of banana, goat cheese, and trout? Well, welcome to the wonderful world of Fusion Cuisine where the marriage of surprising and suspect ingredients come together to form a one-of-kind, often unpleasant taste experience. I don’t know. Maybe there’s a good reason why no one has ever thought of making Cilantro Pudding before. Oh, yeah. It tastes like shit.
Waiter, my plates dirty! No, sir. That’s your main course.
What is with the dwindling portion sizes at some of the higher end restaurants? The same salmon dish I ordered on a return visit to Gastropod was two-thirds the size of the serving I had on my initial visit. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect they were trying to wean their clientele off food.
Sure, it looks pretty, but nothing befouls the luxurious sweetness of a well-made dessert like the unpleasant sharpness of the raspberry coulis. In fact, I can honestly say that no flavor bully has done more to piss me off than this tart travesty of a complementary component.
No new episodes of The Sopranos on account of Memorial Day Weekend and so, because you didn’t ask, here is my prediction of how things will go down in the show’s final two episodes:
Sil gets word that Paulie has been hedging his bets by playing both sides, providing information to Phil in New York. An already antsy Tony responds by offing Paulie (remember that quick flash dream sequence way back in season 2 where Tony saw himself shoot Paulie from across a table?). Tony’s crew is horrified, none more that Pat Parissi who, it turns out, was the real mole funneling info to New York (long-since harboring thoughts of vengeance against Tony for murdering his brother). Pat seeks help from Phil who, realizing Pat is going to be more trouble than he’s worth, orders a hit on him. Pat is offed in sloppy fashion and Tony declares war on New York.
Lots of back and forth killings. Bobby and Sil bite it. Butchy follows soon after. Carmella looks like she’s about to be rubbed out next when she is saved by some Feds. They’ve been monitoring Tony and co. for a while, tring to build their RICO case, and lay out Tony’s entire operation to his horrified wife.
Carmella confronts Tony. Huge blowout. She takes the kids and leaves him. The Feds offer Tony a deal, but he turns it down.
Phil is whacked.
In the show’s final scene, Tony meets Dr. Melfi for a final goodbye at the ice cream parlor he used to frequent when he was a kid. He’s lost his family, lost his friends, but he’s the new King of New York.
For dinner tonight, we went where I wanted to go last night: The Sha Lin Noodle House on Broadway. We had pork and chive dumplings, sweet and chewy curry cutting noodles with barbecue pork, and “stew pancake with lamb in nutritious soup”. After a mere three dumplings, a taste of Fondy’s curry noodles, and not even putting a dent in my soup, I was stuffed. Check that. Overstuffed. I feel like a post-gastroplasty supermodel after a popcorn and Crystal Light binge.
Ruffles writes: “Do you have any guest star casting news that you can share? Will the origins of Teyla’s pregnancy be hinted at in early S4 or will The Seer be the first reveal? And will we actually find out the origins or will you keep us guessing? Any other instances of Shep Whump you can share?”
Answers: Nope. Hinted, yes. We’ll find out almost immediately. Nope.
Crazymom writes: “Then to celebrate my paycheck arriving several days early, we bought ice cream…”
Answer: Ooh, do tell. What flavor? I’m a cookie dough man.
Patricia writes: “Are there any further details about the distribution of the Stargate movies?”
Answer: Nope, sorry.
Anonymous #1 writes: “I’m nothing if not persistent…”
Answer: I’ll give you that.
Jason writes: “have you had or would you try PORCUPINE?”
Answer: Never tried it. Don’t know if I would. I suppose it would depend on how hungry I was. Eating a porcupine is nothing. Once, I was so famished, I ate at Subways.
The Second Lily writes: “ 1) Have you seen/did you like “Little Miss Sunshine”?
2) Is there a story as to why we don’t know Major Lorne’s first name?”
Answers: 1) Yup. 2) We just never got around to it. But Alan has given him a name in Spoils of War. It starts with a W. We’ll see if it sticks.
Forrest writes: “If I was writing a two-parter for Atlantis, who should I (a writer from NZ) sent it of to, and where do I go from there?”
Answer: I’m sorry to say we’re not looking for freelance submissions.
Vikitty writes: “So… you don’t read anything but sci-fi when it comes to novels?”
Answer: No necessarily. Although I read mainly scifi, many of the books I’ve read of late (The Eyre Affair, Nine Princes in Amber, and The Zombie Survival Guide) fall into the category of fantasy or speculative fiction.
Silver writes: “Don Davis looks like a happy person. What kind of chocolates are you feeding him?”
Answer: Don is a fan of dark chocolate, so he’s eating some Ghirardelli dark chocolates that Alan brought back for a recent trip to San Francisco.
Edward4th writes: “How are you getting on with the Pratchett books? Have you ever read Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” series?”
Answer: I finished The Colour of Magic. I haven’t read The Stainless Steel Rat but I have been on the look-out for it. In the meantime, I have a collection of Harrison’s short fiction I’ve been meaning to get around to.
Johnny E writes: “Who is the overall “Big Picture” person for stargate. The one who gives direction to the episodes so that it is not randomness from ep 1 to ep 20?”
Answer: In the case of Atlantis’s fourth season, Paul, Carl, Martin, Alan, and myself all weigh in on what should air where and what types of stories we should be telling.
Anonymous #3 writes: “What do you think, is Severus Snape good or evil?”
Answer: Good. Dumbledore – alive.
Cheeky Lil Devil: “When you went to Hong Kong, what did you enjoy the most?”
Answer: The hotel we stayed at (The Shangri-La) and the food. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll get the chance to go back this year. L