Something New Where It’s Least Expected
Another meal review by Vernon MacDooble
This past weekend as I strolled into Garbanzos, I knew immediately that this meal would be different. I’ve always regarded Garbanzos as more of a hidden treasure, frequented by smatterings of loyal locals and not the mad cacophony of Main Street hotspots. But tonight it was downright bustling, every table filled and a long line of Muttering Myrtles winding out into the concourse. I, of course, was escorted to my usual window side table, and beckoned the fair haired hostess close to inquire as to what all the hullabaloo was about. She wiped the sweet sweat from her brow and informed me that it was the Chef’s Special that had the diners in a tizzy. Without delay I ordered the same, and sat back sipping a fine Merlot while my belly rumbled with curiosity.
The first course caught me off guard. A rice salad, surely not Garbanzos typical fare. Apparently nothing worth this fuss, I frowned under my impeccable mustache. Curiosity and my trust in Chef Nakamura got the best of me, and I took a bite. As I chewed, my mind drifted to the African plains during the wet season. I fancied myself a great lumbering hippopotamus, happily slopping through the thick muddy banks of my favorite watering hole. What’s that floating up ahead in the murk? Why, it’s rice, by golly! Thankfully I have these water chestnuts and artichoke hearts to add to it. I scoop the salad into my obscenely large mouth, munching away while cool mud oozes between my hoofs. Delightful.
I waited with bated breath for the mysterious main course to be revealed, nearly ready to kick the elderly madam behind me in the face just to get a peek at hers. Right on cue, the wee silly waiter brought it forth. Chilled poached salmon steak alongside chilled asparagus in mustard vinaigrette. Two chilled foods in one meal seemed peculiar, but I welcomed it on such a hot summer’s eve. As I sampled the salmon (cooked to perfection, I must add), I observed the tastes I’d expected as they washed across my palette. Onion, lemon, peppercorn, white wine. And something else. Something… inscrutable. Now you must understand, for a culinary connoisseur such as myself, someone who has traveled the world delighting in every flavor man can offer — to taste something new is quite remarkable indeed. It was as if I tasted the food not just with my tongue buds but with my very soul. A feeling of great strength washed over me, as though I could take a boulder into my fist and squeeze it into a pebble. My fork became a scepter, raised high as I envisioned myself conquering the Nordic empire and laying waste to any filthy peasant who stood in my path. Glorious.
I called Chef Nakamura to my side, clapped him upon the back, and demanded an explanation. I quickly realized my mistake, as Nakamura is a somewhat long-winded fellow. The recipe, he blabbered, was sent to him by his brother, a fellow chef working in Tokyo, where it had been gaining favor in some of Japan’s most well-renowned restaurants. It contained the finest ingredients money can buy, from fresh bay leaves imported by a company called Fotopoulos Herb Gardens in Crete, to something the Japanese call “kaitei no mitsu”, or “Seabed’s Nectar”, shipped in dry ice by a company out of Honshu called Tagruato. I feigned interest in the chef’s incessant prattle, distracted by the unveiling of desert. A chilled strawberry white wine soup, the highlight of the meal. I felt like I could destroy the cosmos using only the patch of flesh where my pinkie toe used to live.
I had not entered Garbanzos that night intending on reviewing the meal. I simply aimed at taking pleasure in a cozy bite at one of my very favorite haunts. But sometimes we discover something new where we least expect it. I wouldn’t call the Special delicious, or even tasty. But I would call it an experience. A culinary experience whose shadow has yet to leave my mind, and has left me craving more.