Friday, March 20, 2009

A Is for Absent

Psst. Psst. Hey you. Here, over here. No, not there--here. See me? With the baseball accoutrement and an aura of almost-celebrity??? Yes, that’s right, now stay with me--I’ve got a small piece to ask you. Ready? Ready??! [Cue drum roll, horns, dancing ladies, the Queen of England, pending knighthood. LOL.] Okay, the question:

Are you forgetting something? Or, wait, allow me to rephrase that: Are you forgetting a little something? [Cue knowing wink, snickering.]

I’m sorry--what did you just say? You pointed to my right hand, that much I recognized. Oh, wait, are you… But no. You couldn’t possibly be implying the thing that just occurred to me: a vile gesture, a lowdown and dirty showing, an egregious affront to DDB’s regal nature and earnest pursuit of culinary accountability.

And yet.

(Human extension of) jPAN, come clean: Do you truly and actually wish to strip DDB of its singular form of defense as it moves to scratch its name on the proverbial bathroom stall wall, as it proudly and perhaps a tad egoistically (mention of recent media attention reserved for a future post) carves another well-deserved notch on the proverbial bedpost that guards the most coveted corner of DDB’s glorious and still proverbial “pillow top with memory foam and built-in back saver” mattress aka burgeoning franchise?!? LOL.

No, jPAN, you may not have the batting glove. Quite frankly, that last exchange of ours has me straining to tighten its Velcro-hold around my wrist. That’s no joke, either.

In other words, a suspicion that previously held steady at a low, sneaking simmer has officially caught fire, and it’s a full-on blazing, five-alarm spectacle with some serious “N-melting” potential!!! (Anyone for some delicious jPA takeout tonight? LOL!)

Oh, god, you can’t afford to lose any more letters. (Or should I say “l*t*ers?)

It’s clear by now, right? Clear that, channeling a little Sue Grafton, “A Is for Absent”?

Now, I’ve never read Ms. Grafton, jPAN, same as I’ve never read ~you~, at least not in any sort of “sound and proper” sense of that word.

Backing up a bit, it was with grammatical malfeasance dead-square in mind that I hit up this relative newcomer to the Slope’s Fifth Avenue sushi lineup one temperate evening last week, with friend in tow.

An initial sweep of the room revealed an aesthetic sensibility that wasn’t too far off the mark--austere and modern, yet with a few calculated flourishes that serve to adequately “soften” and “warm” the atmosphere. (Who says polka dots and bamboo don’t mix?? Hmm, this guy maybe, judging by that ill-contained snarl of his. LOL!!)

As my friend, we’ll call him dVID, and I were led to a window-side table by a hostess versed in the usual and expected pleasantries, I paused to consider that scorned “a” for the sixtieth time since jPAN mounted its vexing sign and opened its treated glass doors to the public a couple of years back.

As I organized my wares with the full respect and I dare say blatant admiration of dVID, a troubling thought coalesced, one with significant staying power, such that it was still festering when our waitress approached us several minutes later with an inquiry about drinks.

Basically, jPAN, it occurred to me that you were trying to be clever in skirting that first bold vowel.

With dVID taking on the drink order, I swept the room again, noticing, this time, a vaguely “managerial” figure hovering not far from our table, just beyond the sushi bar. And here, loyal and beloved readers (re: loyal and beloved, bona fide DDB “followers”--you know who you are--get an especially enthusiastic shout-out; p.s. let us know re: that pending Playa shirt order--you certainly do deserve one!!), is where it gets interesting.

At the close of our initial “confrontation” (see above), I shifted my focus away from the would-be DDB glory-stripper and back to the proceedings at my own table. Now, oddly enough, although several minutes had lapsed since dVID had first spoken up, the words were still coming, and I was left with the unsettling notion that here was a conversation which, like my glove (harumph), was going nowhere!!

There appeared to be a great deal of confusion with regard to the menu’s sake selection, with dVID repeatedly declaring his interest in “this one” but “served cold,” not warm as specified. Now, I realize the unlikelihood of your being acquainted with dVID, so you’ll have to take it at face value when I say he does not mince words. “He does not mince words!!” Wait, that was more “shout” than “say,” wasn’t it, readers? LOL! (Keep up.)

My head was starting to hurt. Because as the seconds ticked by (tick tick, tick tick), the air around me grew so thick with the collective spoils of confusion, my brain threatened to pickle ala the ginger gathered in tidy, fleshy mounds (resembling damp baby cheeks--ya know?? LOL) and circulating on all sides of us. Or, to go the way of the product mentioned here--

“When I opened the container containing my nigiri, it smelled rancid. I couldn't figure out where the smell was coming from except that it was coming from the container.”

Oh no!! LOL.

But man, the density was truly dizzying, toward the end so thick I would’ve put Big $$$ on effectively hiding an entire Pizza Plus chicken parm hero, the British monarchy in totum, and DDB’s staggering and enormous reputation in that muck. Heck, even a, a, a…

And that’s when it hit me, readers:

Even an A could don an invisible cape in that swirling stew of befuddlement!!!

Catching the eye of “managerial” a second time, suddenly it all came together: This wasn’t a case of the sort of “clever” I’d originally had in mind, the moutarded sort which, on confirmation, would’ve aligned smartypants jPAN with an entirely different breed of restaurant. Oh no, this was hands-down the very best sort of clever, the sort that channels mystery and suspense. (Sue Grafton indeed!)

jPAN, you w*nt us, you w*nt your customers, to sleuth out th*t missing A!!!!1 (See what I did there? LOL!!)

Brilliant. Just brilliant. Not to mention (though I actually am mentioning, LOL) further substantiated with the debut, shortly after, of my wine.

Here’s the thing: It’s okay! Sure, in terms of pour-size it may have recalled those tiniest cupfuls of children’s cough syrup back in the day, but I get it! That elusive A was dangerously close to revealing itself, wasn’t it? A milliliter away from whoosh--into the royal DDB goblet it goes. LOL.

I know why you did it, know why you ran interference.

It’s simply too early on! The game has only just begun, clearly, and jPAN, though I may be “on to you” as it were, privy already to the calculated rationale behind not only your “confused” service and your “careful” wine pours but your excessive application of various, and I dare say non-traditional, sauces, all of them w/ strong and undeniable “masking capabilities” and which fuel this variety of commentary--

"they're a little mad on their sauces there and a lot of the tricked-out rolls we ordered came topped with two or three different kinds of sauces each"

--I’m still plenty inspired!

And, hey, when DDB cracks that sh*t (no “a” in that one, LOL; just kissing up to our more “sensitive” readers) at most a few months down the road, may we request T-shirts commemorating our wholly expected but still noble victory? Something along the lines of--

jAPAN: No longer A-holes



Thank you, thank you very much.

p.s. Lest you be castin’ doubts (“catch” that one? LOL) around DDB’s presence in the blogosphere at large, here’s a tasty little morsel to tide ya over:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Super Barrio Bros?

Compadres y commadres! Prospect Parkers OR given a previous post should i wax humoristic and say Prospect Parkas (not COAT "parkas," you dear phonetically-inclined smart alecks out there!) and manifest destiny gold prospectors, put down them there sediment sieves, and follow us into the vibrant, psychedelic rainforests of Barrio on 7th Ave and 3rd St.

Disclaimer: DDB never holds back when it comes to dishing (LOL!) the truth on the fine eateries of our neighborhood (our "barrio" if you will... oh yes, DDB does its research, wikipedia-style) however! However... even the most ruthless fiber of my core was touched with pangs of moral compass and pity when it noticed, upon sitting down and scanning the menu, that Barrio was owned by the proprietors of a previous DDB drubbing, the aforementioned comedian sleep-away camp and restaurant that you might dream up if waking into a blueberry daiquiri-infused delirium: Playa. So guilt? Maybe. A moment's hesitation in carrying the torch of investigative journalism? Never! Suffice it to say, the DDB noodle was awash in thoughts both tender and ruthless, before it settled upon the realization that if one person can perfect the fake, plastic palm trees of Playa they can also perpetrate the cotton candy meets pumpkin pie meets too much whiskey cacophony that is Barrio. And this person just plain had it a-comin'!!!1

But there it was. A beautiful, sunny day, and entering into the carnival tent emerged DDB, with its necessary array of accoutrements: camera, notepad, pencil, batting glove, iPod, ready to walk that tight-rope between curious patron and patronizing curiosity, mind still unclouded by unfortunate proprietary overlaps. Dare I say it was as if the circus curtain was thrown back and a hush fell over the audience? It could certainly have been because of the dearth of clientele, but with alarming plausibility, I conjured the idea that DDB's cover could have been blown (could it have been the glove?!?!!) and thus with feigned casualness did the wait staff saunter around, the bartender disappear into the kitchen, all of whom clearly desperate to conceal the panic that had just whipped their souls! What else could explain the extravagant few minutes I spent waiting to be seated?! or maybe they just didn't know what to do with customers?! maybe they thought I still had to tie up my elephant outside?! LOL.

It was thus with mounting skepticism that I took my seat and began to note my environs, as a psychic scanning the crime scene for remnants of transgressive acts... only in reverse chronological order, ya know?

Forget the freakishly long-armed dancers or the mural's am-i-still-drunk-perspective or the menacing army of bananas or EVEN the Wild West swinging saloon doors, I think it was the vision of mop and spray can seated across from me that next caught and held my eye. Now DDB accepts the proximity of cleanliness to godliness, but that doesn't mean you want your tacos scented with Palmolive or to suspect that, at the drop of a hat, those mop's tentacles might lash out and steal your guacamole!

Speaking of which, it is almost criminal that even the most indignant plots and blossoming skepticism can be dispersed with the thought of that divine substance of green liquid-y gold! It's like mashed Kryptonite to DDB!

And there it was, placed in colorful counterpoint to the chicken enchiladas that had begun settling into my plate. And despite the fact that it tasted like what I would imagine paper to taste like (guac IS slang for money now, isn't it? maybe Barrio just took that too literally! LOL!!), the guac nonetheless added a subtle flair to the mouth-watering and tasty main course. Never has making a mess with your food been so delicious! Before I could even restrain myself enough to relax what must have been my three hands holding fork and knife and guacamole-laden chip, I had dispensed with the savory enchiladas. You can see that my attempt at capturing this miracle of melange proved too late. :-(

But though I might have missed the opportunity to photo the fiesta, mid-gluttonous rampage, at least we can affirm together the adage: You are what you eat! :-)

Sensing perhaps that the iron was hot and that the scales of culinary justice might be tipping in their favor, Barrio went for the knock-out punch with a tender wink-wink moment and tried to not charge for the two Sprites. Now maybe the moral outrage at such transparent bribery (carbonated payola!!) was somewhere in the enchilada I just scarfed down, and though it might lower the moral currency of DDB in the eyes of our loyal following, DDB has to admit to being touched, if not altogether shocked, by the gesture. Now, you surely cast aspersions if you think DDB would accept such gratuitous payola! DDB might not be above enjoying such blatant currying (curry? not at Barrio surely!!! LOL.) of favor, but its journalistic integrity will forever remain unimpeachable. ~Period~. Tilda. Another period. 

But now, with my reservations melting away as so much sour cream on warmed tortilla and with the taste of real Sprite (no, not no Pizza Minus Sierra Mist knockoffs!) coursing through my arteries as so much fine mineral sediment through well-worn tributaries, this ol' prospector forgot for a moment the color palette of bubble gum bursts and mango lassi (barf!), the convincing, conspiratorial casualness of the staff, and even the glimpse behind the carnival curtains, and ensconced himself in tryptophanic (gobble gobble!) satisfaction. And whaddya know, I even got my gold after all. And if getting gold wasn't good enough already, it was stuffed with chocolate!!

Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba! Yiii-haaaaah!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We're not in Kansas (City) any more

Choo choo... chugga chugga chugga chugga CHOO CHOO...

Next stop: Jake's Kansas City Bar B Q Restaurant, where hyphens are apparently optional. LOL!

Ridin' the rails down Red Hook's sleepy <yawn> Columbia Street on a recent Saturday afternoon, this DDB conductor was compelled to alight in front of one of Brooklyn's more time-honored barbeque joints (not to be confused w/ Lookout Hill Smokehouse, or w/ Biscuit, for that matter--LOL; see previous post). I had happened upon some fairly promising reviews courtesy of a handful of other reputable food blogs (surprise--we're not the only BBOC*!! stick w/ us another month or so, however, and DDB will be "mopping the floor" and "wiping the counter" w/ these old bats), and I figured Jake's was at least as deserving as Pla-"something to drink for the octupus?"-ya. LOL. (See previous post.)

Sauntering in, I "tipped my hat" to those present, a jaunty lineup consisting of one "rested and alert" waitress, a few "behind the scenes" personalities harboring a conspicuous helping of interest (can I get some salt w/ that?!?) in the heralded arrival of yours truly, and a veritable chuck wagon of... not customers, that's for sure!! In fact, there were a whoppin' four of us total: myself and a trio of feisty young bucks (more on them later). Still, let's not forget, it was 2:00 p.m. on a dead-cold Saturday, and the "Columbia Street Waterfront" is no boom town to begin w/. LOL.

Cuing off the helpful gesticulating of my waitress, I quietly took my seat and set up shop, pleased w/ the expanse of table allotted me.

A minute more and I was zeroing in on the menu: a preserved, plastic-sleeved model ripe w/ (potentially!) delicious dishes. And, well, as much as I don't want to be "that person," I would be remiss, in the process subjecting DDB to all variety of withering commentary, if I failed to out the following:

There it is, clear as a crystal vase: ASSORTEMENT. WTF?! Is it intentional? A playful swipe at those malapropism-spoutin' Midwesterners ("ah sorta meant")?? LOL--j/k. Of course it's a mistake. Heck, I have to wonder if even I wouldn't misplace the occasional "e" if it were me rising w/ the cock-a-doodles at the crack of dawn, yanking my Carhartt in place as I soaked hickory chips and smoked all manner of delicious animal hide out in the great wide open. You know?? (For the record, fellow critics, I know they don't actually do it like this. We're in Brooklyn!! The closest we get to "Carhartt and smoking" is the Williamsburg bar scene. LOL!!)

Anyway, ride 'em cowboy: my food was a hit. I opted for a "small bite," being I was a scant hour out from a particularly "extreme bagel." Here's how it looked:

Chili, meet cheddar. A nice soft blanket of it. Er, except for along the perimeter, where its gooey interior morphed into something decidedly and satisfyingly crispy. This was a strong selling point for me--the delicate textural balance--as was the resonant tomato base of the chili itself: piquant, subtly spicy, and generally pleasing in flavor. The dozen or so tortilla chips served as a complement were "straight from the bag"; "Jake," if you're reading this, may I suggest "smoking" a little less and laying tracks in the kitchen a little more?! Really, though, making your own is a breeze: (Now that I think about it, still plenty of time for smoking!! LOL.)

Oh, there was also a miniature cornbread "loaf" served alongside, which was on the dry end of the spectrum but when dredged through those delicious beans, came out alright. And if you're wondering about the "centerpiece" of single chip and sour cream "smudge," I can in good conscience claim it as my own. Makes for a stunning photographic display, wouldn't you say??

Another tidbit I should include: the service. Interestingly enough, after emerging from the kitchen w/ my dish in hand, my waitress went AWOL all throughout the second half of my downhome dining experience. Now, in the wake of a solid week of mulling, I've basically figured it out: It was those cretins to the right of me, the "trio" to whom I previously alluded. Their language was despicable (the p-word was uttered w/ reckless abandon), their gestures of extreme ill-repute, and their menu selections vile at best ("slab" of this, "half-slab" of that). Not much to laugh at there, huh? (LOL. I stand corrected!)

Lastly, I did take some issue w/ the interior decor. Because while the color scheme--a festive "dance" of yellows, browns, and oranges--as well as a series of dazzling vistas framed and hung at regular intervals, a whimsical "twig wreath" of sorts, and that madcap Wall o' Tile pictured above, lend a certain "flair" to the establishment, a set of woebegone cafeteria-style furnishings comes nailbitingly close to canceling out said flair completely. Hell, I was nearly "committed" for Major Depressive Disorder!! (Psst, "Jake": I've got another little "wisdom nugget" for ya... LOL.)

Looks like I really cleaned up--must have been good!!

At any rate, ~Jake's Kansas City Bar B Q Restaurant~ appears to lasso up some good eats: Get in there and claim your spot at the trough. And, hey, make haste--before ol' Bessie crowds ya out. Oh, wait, she's more likely to be on your plate!! LOL.

And now...

Choo choo... chugga chugga chugga chugga CHOO CHOO...

Next stop... ?????

*BBOC: Big Blog on Campus!!!!1