Thursday, January 17, 2008

Falstaff and the Banquet

I never did get around to blogging about my California trip, did I?

While we are on the topic of food, one of the more fun parts of the trip (and unusual - given that I'm NOT a foodie) was the unrelenting focus on food, with the Bay Area being converted into my own personal smorgasbord. So there were Fontainebleau scrambled eggs in Haight-Ashbury, vegan sushi on Berkeley campus, chocolate hazelnut tarts at Tartine, dimsum in Milpitas, sardines and seafood stew on Cannery Row, arepas at the Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, hummus and pita sandwiches in Mountain View, and, for New Year's Eve, a rum and chocolate cake baked by yours truly that didn't turn out half bad. Quite the culinary voyage.


Worst Experience:

Saravana Bhavan, Sunnyvale CA.

7.00 pm.

Falstaff and Z arrive. Listlessly eye invading hordes at the door.

7.05 pm.

Z: Well, I've put our name down for a table.

F: Did he say how long it would take?

Z: Fifteen minutes.

F: Dude, no way. Look at that waiting area. There must be a thousand people ahead of us.

Z: Don't exaggerate, there are only 994.

F: Ya, but two of them are pregnant.

Z: Look, he said 15 minutes. Let's just wait and see and if we don't get a table then we can always go elsewhere.

F: Sigh. Okay.

7.25 pm

F: It's half past seven.

Z: Ya, I know. I guess he was wrong about the 15 minutes.

F: I told you so. Can we go now?

Z: What, after we've waited twenty minutes? Of course not.

F: But, said.

Z: Look, I'm sure we'll get a table any moment now.

F: How? That line in the waiting area hasn't moved.

Z: Well, don't look at me, you're the one who wanted to come here.

F: Me?

Z: Sure. You asked for this place.

F: I did not. You asked me if I was okay with South Indian and I said "Sure, why not"

Z: See - exactly.

7.40 pm

Z: Hmmm...this is getting ridiculous. It isn't normally this crowded you know.

F: *wounded silence*

Z: Maybe we should get it to go.

F: We can get it to go? Really? Why didn't we do that straight away?

Z: Because we were going to get a table.

F: Wha...Why?

Z: Well, I thought you might want to see what the place is like. You know, check out the ambiance.

F: What ambiance? The place is more crowded than Dadar station at rush hour.

Z: Well, you're the one who's always saying you miss Bombay.

F: Oh, never mind, let's just go order.

7.45 pm

[Bloody but unbowed, F & Z arrive at the counter, having hacked their way through a tropical rainforest of arms and legs]

Z: ...and we'll have one plate of X as well*

Uncle-ji at counter: X? You sure you want X? Why not have Y instead? Very tasty. Absolutely fresh.

Z: Okay, one plate of Y then. How long will it take?

Uncle-ji: Oh, ten minutes.

7.50 pm

[F & Z reduced to mere flotsam in sea of humanity, trying desperately to get the last molecules of remaining oxygen in the place into their lungs. F makes a break for it and goes stands in the parking lot. It's good to be back in the First World.]

8.15 pm

Z: How long is that order going to take?

Uncle-ji: It's almost done.

Z: You said ten minutes. It's been half an hour.

Uncle-ji: Yes, I know. It's that Y you ordered. We'd run out so we're having to make a new batch.

Z: But you told me to take Y. You said it was absolutely fresh.

Uncle-ji: And it will be. When it's ready.

Z: *grits teeth. tries not to swear* What about the rest of our order?

Uncle-ji: Oh, that's right here. It's been ready for twenty minutes.

Z: Right, forget the Y then. We're going.

8:20 pm

F: So, did the guy ever call our table?

Z: No. I asked him about that on the way out.

F: What did he say?

Z: He said it would be just fifteen minutes.


Best Experience

Foreign Cinema

Delicious skate fillet followed by braised peaches with icecream and chocolate mousse, with De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis playing on a giant screen in the background. Ah, the good life.

*Sorry, I don't actually remember what we ordered. The food was that unmemorable.


Space Bar said...

How can you call yourself Falstaff and NOT be a foodie?!

And just in case anyone misses it, can I now draw attention to it?

Z: Don't exaggerate, there are only 994.

F: Ya, but two of them are pregnant.

??! said...


you miss Dadar station? Why? How? Please say it isn't so.

Tabula Rasa said...

he had a crush on a fishwife :-D

km said...

Sartre was wrong. Saravana Bhavan is hell.

Anonymous said...

I went to Saravana Bhavan too on a Cal. trip some months back. Awful experience. Ear-splitting "music", tables that are far from clean, glasses that had to be sent back for same reason, terrible service.

Was the food good at least? Not really. I wonder why there aren't more South Indian restaurants in the Bay area. If this is the level to beat, anyone can do better.

Falstaff said...

sb: Hmmm...good point. Though presumably Falstaff was more interested in quantity than quality. I mean really, this is medieval England, hardly a hot bed of cordon bleu cooking.

And that pregnant bit was deliberate. Obviously I was exaggerating. Or assuming the worst.

??!: No, no, I miss Bombay, not Dadar Station.

TR: Yes, given Dadar it would be a crush wouldn't it?

km: Should qualify that - I'm quite happy at the one in NYC. Just the California one was painful.

lekhni: Et tu? My sympathies.

Anonymous said...

[F & Z reduced to mere flotsam in sea of humanity, trying desperately to get the last molecules of remaining oxygen in the place into their lungs. F makes a break for it and goes stands in the parking lot. It's good to be back in the First World.]

-- Your concept of first world is interesting. Read: less people.

Preeti said...

ooh .. nice .. think I need to make a trip to SFO .. will pass on the vegan sushi though .. I know you still get something to accompany the wasabi, but still, why bother.

also, looks like someone needs a lesson in sunk costs .. sigh, these engineers ..

Falstaff said...

anon: Ya, totally. But that's what it's about no? Resource per unit population?

preeti: Actually the vegan sushi was really nice. Except you know how normally sushi comes in these neat bit size pieces that you can eat daintily with chopsticks? Not so here. Instead you get something that's about 4 inches in diameter and has a small forest of vegetables sticking out of it.

And where do you get off making fun of engineers. You used to be one, remember. Before we took you in and made a consultant out of you.

blackmamba said...

Falsie, nice move.

Now you want people looking for rum and chocolate cakes, dimsum et al to reach your blog, don't you?

Don't undermine your commenters' ability to crush your new fangled dream of being the premier culinary search destination.

DoZ said...

:) I must say that for all the disasters on my CA trip - food wasn't one of them. Hope you had a chance to try out restaurants on Castro st. (Mountain View downtown). And as for S.Indian, we stuck to Komalavilas, and while crowded, it was no where as painful as your experience.

PS: Yes, am still stuck with the tivo - but the internet is back up - baby steps, etc.