Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Least Favorite Dining Companions

It's happened to all of us.  You go out to eat with someone you don't know too well.  Most likely, someone you've never gone out to eat with before.  Minutes into the meal, they do something that makes you silently groan, something that may make the meal even longer.  At this point, I imagine you have an action in mind that drives you nuts at restaurants.  Since I love to rant, I'll give you my top 5 least favorite traits of dining companions.

"Check on our order." Do you know this person?  Are you this person?  Seemingly, they are in a rush, though they have nowhere to go.  Soon after ordering, they grab the waiter or most likely some random employee and ask them to go "check on our order." Years ago, I went to dinner with someone who did this on separate occasions.  Both times, it had not been long after the order was placed.  One of the times, the manager came out to apologize.  I was embarrassed and saw no need to receive an apology.  This person needs a lesson in patience and perhaps something "in their order."
Second-class citizens.  These are the people who tend to not acknowledge the waitress/waiter's presence. . . ever.  They treat a restaurant like some Hindu caste system, pretending the waiters do not deserve eye contact or attention.  They have no interest in hearing the specials or the waiter's attempt to be friendly.  I tend to overcompensate in this circumstance and treat the waiter like a long-lost friend.  This person will also stare at the bill trying to figure out 15% gratuity to the penny, and that's only if the service was "extra special."
"On the side." The picky eater, who wants everything on the side or needs details as to what is in every dish.  I'm not referring to one who is allergic or is watching their weight or even this person.  I'm talking about the individual who thinks they're at Burger King and can always "have it their way."  If you're at a decent restaurant, there's a reason the menu looks the way it does.  It's because those foods go together.  I know someone who would request to replace Romaine lettuce with Iceberg lettuce wherever possible.  Beyond the fact that you're specifically asking for less flavor, you should try to abide by the menu.  This person also refuses to ever try new things and will probably order the most boring thing on the menu.  If this is you, you sound like this when ordering.
Well-done.  I don't really get angry at this person, but if you are extra anal about the temperature of your meat, it bothers me.  I'm referring to your steak not being done enough.  Medium rare is the perfect temperature for ideal consumption of many meats.  Once you start to get increasingly done, you lose flavor and moistness. . . fast.  A request for a well-done steak is a request for the kitchen to start cooking your steak, walk away, and come back if they happen to remember.  Don't ask for burnt meat, just get the chicken.
Same-siders.  I needed to have 5 in order to have a top 5, so I threw this one in.  Obviously, if I'm out with people, they'll probably sit on the same side.  It's the couple that's out with just themselves but sit on the same side of the table/booth.  This is very odd to me.  Why are you on the same side?  Are you conspiring to harm someone?  Put both on your hands on the table.  I know I'm not alone in feeling this way.  Here's proof
Honestly, I don't eat out with these types of people too often.  Most of my dining companions don't fall into the top 5.  Maybe that's on purpose.  However, if you're one of these people, stop being a jerk to the waiter.  They control your food until it's on the table.  If you're at a nice restaurant, respect the menu and the chef-suggested temperature.  Finally, if you're sitting on the same-side, stop whispering.  What other annoyances have I missed?

Monday, April 2, 2012

DLT Stop #1, ChoLon Bistro

Image from:
Stop #1 on the Denver Lunch Tour (#denverlunchtour) was at ChoLon Bistro.  ChoLon is an Asian bistro serving some modern Asian fare.  I had relatively high expectations going into the restaurant based on what I had read about the chef and the reviews I'd seen.  To be honest, I hate having high expectations.  I'm one of those people that believes high expectations equals extreme disappointment.  I tried to mellow them out and say to myself that this was only lunch, so it may not be as good.
Thankfully, my high expectations were too low.  One review mentioned that the sweet onion dumplings were not to be missed.  We started with those.  The dumplings had the appearance of a normal Asian dumpling, yet when prodded with a chopstick, their texture was similar to what I imagine a jellyfish feels like (without the sting).  The waitress recommended we let them cool, which I did. . . but not long enough.  The first dumpling was a little fireball forcing me to awkwardly exhale as though that would somehow cool it down.  Despite the heat, the taste was evident, I was eating french onion soup in dumpling form.  I don't even like french onion soup, but this flavor was remarkable.
For my main entree, I went with the fish tacos.  Another dish that is somewhat uncharacteristic of me, but the waitress said it was good.  As you can see from the photo, the tacos came out tostada-style.  I can't stand tostadas.  They're like uncooked nachos or stale tacos.  They looked attractive enough that I took a photo, but I was concerned that I couldn't fold them.  Another issue I have with tacos is that when you start to eat them, the food falls out the back like a drunk on a wagon train.  You know what's bizarre about all these issues that I concerned myself with?  It's as though they had a meeting beforehand to determine how they would address them.  The tacos were actual tacos that could be folded (without breaking), and the ingredients stayed on the taco through my last bite.  I didn't have to push any ingredients back on to the the taco with my pinkie finger (my designated clean finger while eating. . . don't ask me why).  The flavors were remarkable.  Not one flavor overpowered another, which was tough to believe considering the amount of fresh cilantro that was piled on.  With Mexican tacos, you usually have one strong ingredient like salsa that takes over, but this was perfectly balanced.
I was full without being uncomfortable, and the meal was relatively inexpensive considering the quality.  For Stop #1, I am now concerned about how the rest of the restaurants will be able to stack up against ChoLon Bistro.  Rest assured, I am keeping my expectations as low as possible.
Cha Ca La Taco