Today, as we celebrate the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge's birthday, and in honor of that occasion, I would like to, once again, impose upon you my review of Houston's new Pavani restaurant, in the style (?) of Coleridge's best known, and most often butchered, epic poem.
I recently ate at the new Pavani on Richmond Ave. here in Houston, in its fourth day of operation. It has replaced my favorite southern Indian vegetarian restaurant, Udupi, at this location. I had frequented the short-lived Udupi not because it was kosher (Which it was until November, 2002, when the Houston Kashrut Association withdrew its kosher certification), but rather for the feeling of comfort that its good food and service instilled in me.
Many of you might wonder why Udupi failed, especially in the light of its competitor, Madras Pavilions, success. After all, Udupi and Madras served similar kosher food, they both were in the same part of town and Madras is unfriendly and crowded - the very opposite of Udupi. Would anyone care to venture an opinion as to why Udupi bit the dust?
I am ashamed to admit that I had a role in Udupis demise - in fact, I am responsible for it. And, since guilt bothers me to no end, as if an albatross hangs around my neck, I must come clean. Heres the story of what really happened to Udupi, with the hope that I never encounter a pissed off Samuel Taylor Coleridge or his Ancient Mariner in some future life. It is, as always, a true Texas tale. Happy Birthday, Mr. Coleridge. I call it:
The Rime Of The Ancient Dinerer
How Udupi was driven out of business and the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancient Diner came to his own recompense.
It is an Ancient Dinerer, and he stoppeth one of three.
By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me? Protests the Guest accosted thus,
Pavanis door is open wide, my friends now feast within.
Dont hold me back, the dinners nigh, I must be going in.
But Ancient holds him with thin arm and cries with trembling lips:
There was another restaurant here,
The Guest does freeze now in his fear.
The Ancient One, continued he:
Twas fine, and known as Udupi.
The Guest sat down upon the curb,
He could not break away.
And thus the Old Man told his tale,
Spoke on the Ancient Frail:
Udupi opened in the spring,
They spread a tasty, small buffet.
As I was laboring oh so near,
Dine here did I most every day.
The owners name was Satish Ram
High Hindu born, a native son,
Devoted was he through and through.
He served no meat, no yeast, nor brew,
But more import, twas Kosher, too.
And all the staff, dark southern Indians,
Dressed in white, so very clean.
All hard workers, ever helpful,
Never insolent nor mean.
As days turned slowly into weeks, and weeks in turn to months,
And Earth spinned round and round and round and round and round around the Sun,
We who dined there, full of pride
With the kosher certified, by a Rabbi who so steady
Checked and gauged and verified.
Devil take ye, how I fear thee, Ancient Diner, Young
Guest cried, Why impose upon me such a tale?
Rather let me enter; let me join my kith and kin, at the feast that waits within.
Why ever do you hold me, badger, and excite me?
I have sinned no mortal sin!
Ever tightening his grip, thus the Ancient One did answer:
Tis, I fear, for my transgression, bound am I to tell this tale,
Till the day that I shall die, and go straight to hell do I,
For tis true and tis no joke:
To Udupi I BROUGHT PORK!
God absolve me, Wept he dryly: One day in the winter, slyly,
Thought that I would have some jolly, with the Rabbi who did visit once a week.
Wouldnt it be grand, I ventured,
If this time I so intended
To surprise him with some anti kosher meat?
So I, pocketing a pigs head, sneaked it in.
And I put it on under cover, prayed the Rabbid soon discover.
Hed be shocked, and I would have a fervent laugh or two.
Yes, he quickly did beholt it, and was strikingly revolted.
Twas a cruel and evil deed that I did do.
Quick the Kosher certification did the Rabbi renege,
There was not a thing that Satish Ram could do.
All his customers deserted, I myself could not revert it,
Thus Udupis closure posthaste drew.
Now so doomed am I to haunt here, damned by God for Evermore.
Like Prometheus bound I be, here you will encounter me.
And within this place, I say, neer a Rabbi more will stray.
Since Pavani is not kosher, bound am I outside to stay.
So I stare in and I envy, haste my end I earnest pray.
Saag Paneer, Masala Dosa, Sambar,
Poori, Roti, Naan.
How I miss them, cant resist them,
Now I only fantasize for such a precious fete;
Curry, curry, everywhere, but none for me to eat!
These three lessons God has taught me, ever seared into my soul;
Learn them, Young One, who can tell; seek thine Heaven, never Hell:
If its kosher that you must, do not give in to your lust.
And if Eden you desire, never to Pavani, Sire.
Most important, not just rumor: NEVER TEST A RABBIS HUMOR!