Friday, June 5, 2009

i wished i was a panda...

today i cried in the middle of one of my favourite sydney restaurants. for at least ten minutes my blurred eyes bled tears as they burnt very visible whiter shade of pale trails through my already off white foundation [not everyone in sydney is the proud owner of a bondi beach tan]. for another ten minutes i was incapable of speech [some people would argue that this is a good thing] as i managed to wildy gesticulate with flapping arms my urgent need for milk & cucumber.

call it post childhood traumatic separation anxiety [i'm just not that big on cookies] or the divinity of the malaya's master chef mustapar jaffar's signature dish: szechuan egglant... yes, i flirted with danger & ate the dried chillies. victoria 0: chillies: 1.

in fairness to the malaya i knew what i was getting myself into, you're not actually supposed to eat them per se. famously the stoic locals from the szechuan province in china can casually chew on these concentrated torpedos of edible flame like athenians would kalamata olives which meant in journalistic enquiry mode, i had to also...

like the local pandas of the region, i suddenly wondered whether the bamboo shoots were a more viable decision. those bears are onto something i think whilst guzzling almost a litre of milk making strange appreciative sucking noises on my second bowl of chopped cucumber. but then i dip back into that heaven meets hell plate for more...

i must assign this lesson to the concept of nature's systematic appointing of short term pain memory to women re: childbirth. if we remembered that clearly the horror involved it's possible we wouldn't go there again no matter how much fun the first step in the process might be.

last time i did this with the same dish several years ago i managed to weep at a table for a full half hour whilst the table played one of those group bravado things where we all outdid each other's chilli consumption. i lost that round too, whilst kleenex shares went through the roof just from what was going down at our table. any intestinal cobwebs have long since been laid to rest. but dear god, the eggpant is so good it just has to be done.

so does everything... i am addicted to the "must have" otak otak and often dream about it. if there was crack in that wonderful mash of minced fish fillet fused with chilli & spices before being wrapped in a banana leaf and barbecued i wouldn't be surprised. mystery spices eh?

on inital entrance after consuming the obligatory warm-up caipiroska in true athletic form, it is closely followed by an ice maiden, a deliciously subtle combination of pear vodka loaded with fresh lime & frangelica [i'm thirsty]. then it's time to face the menu which means mandatory starter of steamed scallops in the shell with fresh ginger, chilli, soy and shallots. there can be no other, or at least shouldn't be.

for the longest time whilst supply was short they were only available on the set menu but due to popular demand owners lance & givie wong have ensured this entree is now available for the unfenced grazers like myself. because i harassed staff for so long it is my moral responsibility to eat scallops as much as possible in order to fill the demand bubble. a tough job indeed.

after chasing everything down with a bottle of duval leroy fleur de champagne [we're celebrating rio tinto's just announced BHP billiton joint endeavor, watch those stocks rise] it's time to hit up the salt and pepper prawns. these chillies are much easier on the palette. this time consumption is painfree and so deliciously salt-good tantalising i want to lick my plate clean, but do not.

our enlightened waiter savio with the name of an italian saint & the body of a hong kong chinese expat steers us towards the new dessert which is black rice pudding.

if you're only going to have one dessert on the menu in an asian inspired restaurant the odds are coconut is going to have to make an appearance. so it does and in the best possible way. light, creamy with the resonance one expects from sticky rice this small glass houses a unique blend with an incredible mixture of fruit so finely chopped that the flavour maintains such vital intensity but is not lost amongst the others: bananas, lychees and berries dance together in a perfect waltz which heads straight to my hips but i don't mind.

today i am a panda with such short term memory loss that those hips could well be child-bearing for all i care. i just can't wait to do it all over again.

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