In retrospect, it's perversely exciting. Tonight I had the single most disappointing meal of my life. It was extra disappointing because the disappointment wasn't due to some dramatic twist or noteworthy turn of events. It was disappointing for the very worst of reasons: utter mundanity.
I'd worked many hours without pause on a new project I've been plotting. I forgot to eat, forgot to get up, forgot to move (shades of my Chowhound management days). At 7:30pm, in a dull rush of ravenous hunger, I was roused from my chair and propelled to the refrigerator, where I spotted nothing that might be made edible within my window of, say, three to four minutes. So I ripped out into my car.
I'm residing for another couple weeks in a village in northern Fairfield County called Bethel, and the one local restaurant I've not tried is a shopping strip Japanese called House of Yoshida. It has a reputation for quiet competence.
I was going to order sushi, but the sushi chef was Dominican. I gave him a hard look, but decided this wasn't am earnest outsider who'd diligently learned the sushi trade. Rather, it was some random dude pushing fish and rice together. So I contemplated the cooked dishes. The simplest, most foolproof sounding one was Pork Ginger (according to the menu: "sliced pork & variety of vegetables marinated & seasoned with ginger sauce").
First they brought me the expected grim house salad of cheap wilted lettuce and hard carrot shreds topped with cloying ginger dressing. And, finally, they brought me a sizzling hot metal dish which contained slices of pork tossed over a bed of simmering salad.
Incredulous, I probed the burning hot, wet lettuce, hoping I was wrong and that it was cabbage. It wasn't. I swallowed a piece of pork, and realized, against all my assumptions about how low a kitchen might ever go, that they'd simply poured the ginger salad dressing over it all.
I stared hopelessly at my plate of bubbling hot broiled salad with chunks of pork doused with bad salad dressing. My first thought was that this was something an eight year old might concoct. And then I realize that no eight year old could ever be so hateful.
A full plate in front of me, I requested the check. The robotic busboy and waitress didn't blink. The dish was cleared while they kept up their fake cheerful robo-patter, a check was brought, and I paid, for this, the most disappointing thing I've ever been served, eighteen frickin' dollars and fifty frickin' cents.
I grabbed takeout Chinese, which was abysmal. But much better.