Last week we finally visited the “best” Chinese place in town, the Modern Chinese. The classy type of place where one might order a grilled cheese with a side of BBQ ribs and General Tso’s chicken.
We were immediately shown to a large booth in the center of the dining room. I ignored the ugly decorations, peppily reminding B that Chinese restaurants are required to sport a mismatched assortment of strange and brightly colored bric a brac from seasons past. I counted the number of people already seated, figuring that with such a large crowd the food must at least be decent.
However, in my quest to turn the experience into something positive I ignored several glaring hints that we should have high-tailed it out of that dump:
- The first page of the four-page menu was full of detailed run-on sentences (in swirly font) which described the way the restaurant truly cares about its patrons, how much love goes into the food, the careful combinations of flavor and tradition, etc.
- The egg drop soup was served with Saltine crackers.
- When I asked the waitress which of two dishes she recommended she shrugged her shoulders, made a face, and said “I’ve been working here so long, I don’t really look at the food.” I made the mistake of assuming she was just a crotchety person.
- I shouldn’t have looked at the food, either. As soon as the plate was set on the table before me I felt like gagging.
- I ordered: One of the combos, almond chicken with pork fried rice and chow mein. I got: A previously frozen, pressed, breaded chicken patty with some almonds sprinkled on top, next to a pile of slimy bean sprouts and other unidentifiable vegetable (?) items, finished with some greasy fried rice with what looked like sliced chicken sandwich meat on top. All of which glared at me from under a thick layer of mostly clear oozing liquid which I assume is the restaurant’s “secret sauce.” (When I saw the sauce my thoughts wound back to the menu line which read “We create all of our dishes with love.” Hey-o!)
I didn’t have my cell phone with me at the time or I’d have a photo for you now and I bet you’d be gagging, too.
I’m still not sure why we didn’t just return the meal and walk out of the restaurant. For some reason no matter how worked up I might get in an auto repair shop, I’m still shy about causing a scene in a restaurant. Unless there’s a severed finger in my soup, I can’t help feeling like I should have paid closer attention or asked more questions before choosing a certain dish. (But with a few more Modern Chinese episodes I’m sure I’ll soon be cleared of any shyness.)
I nibbled a bit of the chicken, sampled the swamp veggies, and was able to eat a few bites of the rice before I had to call it quits and just sit there looking out the window, at my hands, or at B. At anything besides the plate in front of me. When the waitress asked me three times if I was suuuure I didn’t want a box to take my meal home in, I had to bite my tongue while B raised an eyebrow and waited for the verbal lashing I would have otherwise delivered in such a situation. The truth was that after waiting all day to eat a meal, my blood sugar was already so low that I didn’t have the energy to tell the woman to stop bugging me. I just kept repeating no, no, and no over and over again until she finally went away.
After gritting our teeth and paying for the meal, we walked out to the car in silence and I may or may not have given the finger to the restaurant door. As we drove home B took my hand and said “Well, I guess this is life in a small town. At least your cooking is really good! Because as it turns out, our house is the best restaurant in this place!”