Sunday, November 16, 2008

Worth the Wait

"What's the best dish on the menu?" The restaurant manager repeated my question, eyeing me flirtatiously.

Oh brother.

It was the kind of rainy November night that makes you want to sit in the corner of a cozy restaurant, surrounded by friends, laughing and drinking wine until you finally close the place down. Unfortunately, the people lingering at the corner table that was slated for our group reservation at 10 p.m. seemed to feel the same way. I glanced at my watch - 10:43.

I'd spent the last three quarters of an hour posted near the kitchen entrance, watching food go in and then out of what I assumed to be a 700 degree wood burning brick oven, and then delivered to the nearby counter to be plated before being handed off to another section of counter to await its appropriate server.

I was mesmerized. Watching. Planning my order. Thinking about how amazing it would be to roll my sleeves up and get back there. Wondering how the guy working the brick oven avoided setting his hands on fire. The manager sauntered over to find out if I was being taken care of (and maybe to make sure I wasn't stalking one of his sous chefs). "Oh yes, thank you. Just waiting for my table. I like to watch the food. What do you think is the best dish on the menu tonight?"

The dialogue taking place on this particular rainy night is at Middle Eastern restaurant Taboon, off the main beat, but still in what's considered Hell's Kitchen. We waited a long time for our table. I was watching the front-of-house activity for a good 50 minutes. The manager professed his love to me. But oh, the food. The food was incredible. The focaccia flatbread was warm and crisp from the brick oven, and the hummus was flawless. We split an incredible shrimp appetizer that I think I can duplicate (I'll share the recipe in an upcoming article if it proves successful). I ordered the garlic and pistachio oil marinated hangar steak that was perfectly grilled, served on top of a red and yellow pepper chutney and garnished with crunchy pistachios. No dessert was ordered among us, but my potato purée was so sweet and creamy that it was a treat in itself.

I laughed and drank wine, surrounded by friends, at our cozy corner table. And yes, we closed the place down.


Anonymous said...

I know living in New York is not always easy, but when you come back and are confronted with these choices for dinner: Cracker Barrel, Appleby's and even some wonderful little Asian place in a strip mall don't you think you'll be a little sad? Enjoy the adventures while you are there. I am living vicariously reading your wonderful postings.
Love, Mom

Veronica said...

Thanks, mama! Yes, the abundance of restaurants in NYC is incredible. I am definitely enjoying, and taking full advantage :)