Jim Leff

Jim Leff

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 28 2000 9:00 PM

Jim Leff

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Ever since that traumatic experience at Bo this weekend, my chowhounding instincts have failed me miserably. I've been looking for chow in all the wrong places. It's not been a day to be proud of, but seeing as how this is a tell-all journal, I'll confess the whole sordid matter. Be forewarned: It ain't pretty.

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I had lunch at my neighborhood last resort, a Korean fast-food counter situated under a green tent in a parking lot. I realized, intellectually, that this might not be the best choice, given that my favorite Korean restaurant had just broken my heart. And I didn't particularly crave their $5 utilitarian fishball soup, splashed into my bowl by a stern, sourpussed matron straight out of the Seoul production of Oliver Twist. Yet I found myself walking there sans intent—like an automaton. On such a beautiful spring day, I dimly rationalized, it might be nice to take lunch alfresco.

There was nothing nice about it. The soup was spicy hot, but it wasn't a hearty, restorative spiciness; rather, it blared a shrill, persistent monotone. The fishballs had a certain charm (explanation: they're not made on-premises) in their spongy, tasteless way. And the kimchi completely flatlined. But what was most unsettling was that I was actually taking grim pleasure in my lunch's mediocrity. That's not standard eating procedure for me; I'm no mealtime masochist.

For dinner, thoughts turned toward comfort food at Kabab Cafe, the Egyptian hole-in-the-wall that's my refuge when I lack the get-up-and-eat to scout forgotten Italian joints in Staten Island, secret Harlem barbecue trucks, semi-private Albanian social clubs, Midtown Japanese-businessman haunts … or any of my other various missions and quests.

But I'd procrastinated endlessly, and it wasn't until 10:30 p.m. that I stalked out of my apartment in a roil of lightheaded, ravenous hunger. Once again, I had no destination in mind as I drifted through the neighborhood with the stumbling gate of a dowser seeking water. Finally, I arrived at a glaring no-frills macho Pakistani place near the subway. While I'm a big fan of the cuisine, chowhound intuition had previously prevented me from checking out this particular spot. Their tandoori-roasted meats did look pretty good, and might have quelled my kebabish cravings, but something snapped and I ordered—what was I thinking?—curried goat. Before I could come to my senses, the gruff counter guy scooped a ration of the stuff from the steamless steam table (where gristly nuggets of goat floated in pools of oily ghee), slammed it into one of several industrial-strength microwaves, and handed me a 13,000-calorie takeout bundle I could scarcely imagine eating.

I headed home, where I ate a few bites of the goat and all of the rice. There was no choice but to seek comfort in Pepperidge Farm Sausalito cookies. Here's the descent-into-shameless-squalor part: I didn't even warm them up first. I ate them cold, with their chocolate chips hard and unmolten.

I think I've hit rock bottom. 

 

For information on good places mentioned (and better alternatives to some of the bad ones), click.