Decorative Food Discomfort
Remember my last blog about the joys of food simplicity? Well, a case in point was made last night. I met two friends for dinner at a Thai restaurant called Spice. The restaurant is small, intimately lit, and certainly stylish. I had Thai Iced Tea and a duck dish called Chu Cee. The duck was scrumptious, slightly crispy and, admittedly, wonderfully complicated with flavors of a mild curry sauce. Luckily, the price for my indulgence was very reasonable. But, the duck is not where I will make my point. Overall, the quality of the food was quite impressive. The problem was the rice, or more specifically, the presentation of the rice.
Heavily sauced dishes like the ones we enjoyed at Spice demand a great deal of rice, if only for the pleasure of sopping up every modicum of the flavor. Alongside our large meat and vegetable dishes, we were each served a tiny cone of rice on a small plate. The portion reminded me of a serving of sorbet to cleanse the palate between courses. My friends and I giggled at the strange portions of rice (especially at a Thai restaurant) quickly burned through them at the start of the meal, and flagged down our server to request more rice. With the server’s obvious discomfort, you would have thought we asked for a new, perhaps even still quacking, duck.
No, we did not want another cone of rice or even a small family of rice cones with our meals. With great amusement and various hand gestures, we insisted on a BOWL of rice for the table. They begrudgingly complied after the manager was summoned, and in the end we were charged for four extra cones, much to our chagrin. The restaurant seemed to be insisting on some aesthetic statement with their rice cones, turning us into mere philistines unappreciative of the presentation. (Do you see how ridiculous this sounds?) In all honestly, the bowl of rice was much more appealing than the awkward rice cones.
In my opinion, restaurants and foodies alike should never sacrifice the proper balance of a meal in favor of decorative presentation. Trust me, it’s not going to be sitting on the plate long enough for me to appreciate it. As Andy Rooney put it, “I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting.”
Nonetheless, here are a few Thai recipes to peruse.