Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The banality of it all unless I was to hearken back to M.F.K. Fisher by some clever means to justify my mission in seeking out the absolute best Indian restaurant in Aberdeen City would have overwhelmed me, so Madame Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, I’m guessing this is what you might have done with an empty Tuesday in Provence…

I’d been cooking in the apartment since our arrival on Saturday and in spite of the fact that you had to stand sideways, competing with the washing machine to reach the sink, (whoever designed that space either never washed dishes or ever had to which might point to the possibility that this kitchen was designed by a man) in spite of this petty nuisance all else was well laid out for a City dwelling, certainly manageable enough in such close quarters. The Italian Bread Salad I made on Monday night was memorable; sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, delicious mix of Mediterranean olives, feta, baby spinach leaves, day old bread, and of course a good douse of olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper complementing nicely the lentils, potatoes and fresh red and yellow bells which were as ordinary as they sound, but then not everybody can be a star.

Hence it was time to dine out, so that morning before Paul left for work I asked if he wanted Italian, Asian, Indian or Scottish and Indian was the reply.

Of course my first search took me to which surprisingly yielded no response and I’m not quite sure why, but then soon discovered the Guide (a webpage listing local events and restaurant reviews) and successfully recorded the address and phone numbers of each potential candidate before I set out on foot to check out interiors, retrieve take out menus and scrutinize the location altogether, intrepid food sleuth that I am.

Descending the steps of the Skene House deposits you directly at the front of the
Concierge Desk and in all good measure, considering I’m new to Aberdeen and too that I was literally nose to nose with her (the Concierge) I thought it at least a sensible idea to ask where the locals eat Indian and while at it, if nothing else, to get a good foot map, so I briefly explained my proposed odyssey and this lovely young women with the most delightful lilt in her voice suggested I look into Cinnamon, for apparently it had been voted the number one restaurant in Aberdeen City two years running. “Really”, I exclaimed, as I hadn’t run across it in any of my research but be that as it may, I dutifully took down the address and set off…with a foot map, of course.

No ill intent meant to the City of Aberdeen, but after years of traveling and years of opportunity to ask a local where the locals eat, it was Shirley who said to me one day, “How do you know the person you’re asking knows anything about food?” Well, I’d never thought of it like that before, but since can think of it in no other terms, so regarding the choices of the collective from an intuitive angle you will likely fall into the “right 80% of the time” category, which are not bad odds, though something about the interior of Cinnamon screamed “NO” you’re in the 20% zone here, as this wee whisper was vanquished by my own voice requesting dinner reservations for two at 7:30.

But that wasn’t the only thing I had to do that day, which might be why I blazed a trail away from there thinking I had it made. I had yet to stop for a card and flowers and champagne for Paul and then write the poem that had been making noises for days. In all fairness to my sixth sense of the culinary arts, I had romance on my mind and I was just certain that after flowers and champagne and poetry we’d finish off the evening with the best Indian restaurant in Aberdeen City, but alas the 20% category had other things in mind for us.

One of the warning signals was a poorly written, nay, deplorably written restaurant review posted to the board in the vestibule area. Then carelessly stuck up around that were newspaper clippings of silly local celebs shoveling pompadours and what looked like the spicy eggplant into their mouths with green sauce trickling down the side. It gave me the feeling altogether of an Indian pub, if there were such a thing, of a bunch of football fanatics sopping up dal with naan bread sort of thing, even though the interior was cool and well laid out with a hint of unmistakable New York trendy. (Looking back on it though, it was the kind of place that Donald Trump and all of his groupies might have likely landed for an evening to see and be seen and it was that very image which struck me midway during dinner that, had it not been for the tenderness and the humoring of my husband, might have landed me in a shire lock up someplace for unruly disturbance in a public place, like cussing out the chef for starters).

Anyway, as I’ve already told you, I had other things on my mind so I wasn’t paying attention to the warning signs that day which returned us to the door of Cinnamon at a prompt 7:25 to be met by, oh no, it couldn’t be, my eyes deceived me, an East Indian man dressed in full regalia including a neatly wrapped jeweled turban on his head. Where was he when I went by at lunch? My memories raced back to the Greek cousins of the local taverna owners in Athens who are paid handsomely to beckon unsuspecting tourists into an economic culinary nightmare. I’m not even sure if all of this is so politically correct, thinking too shades of colonization, Passage to India and all, but we kept walking toward our destiny. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Okay, it’s going to get better I comforted myself. Don’t blame the chef for a tacky gimmick over which he had no control of the owner. Let’s just get down to the business of the sag paneer…what?! What do you mean you don’t have sag paneer? No dal? What kind of self respecting Indian restaurant doesn’t have DAL?! We have blah blah blah Spinach blah with blah. I don’t want that, on the verge of homicide. I want sag paneer, oh, never mind, give me back that menu.

And then there it was, the culprit, right in front of my face, like a tiger in prey, “Nouvelle Indian Cuisine.” Oh what have I done? They’re probably going to serve the rice in a timbale form…and they did, and the shrimp sat up so attentively with their split bellies, tails upright in the corner of yes, you guessed it, a square plate, with nouvelle portions of sauce – translated to NOT ENOUGH.

Paul thought the food was fine, but nothing memorable which I think is criminal given all these accolades. Who awards these titles anyway? Best this and that. Somebody who doesn’t know that Sag Paneer and Dal are as much a staple as rice on an Indian menu, that’s who.

But in all fairness, the naan was very good and the walk home delightful. Wish us better luck next time. Tonight we’re staying in for what I consider Paul’s award winning omelet. No complaints here.

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