Indian food scares me. I have no frame of reference for it. My repertoire of exotic foods runs like this:
Chinese: check! (My incredibly broad range involves Sesame Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Orange Chicken and any other chicken that is sweet, sticky and readily available at shopping malls)
Jewish: check! (Specifically deli food, bagels, and occassionally gooey giggly* masses of gray ground-up fish product) [*by giggly, I am not referring to the J.Lo movie]
Italian: check! (If it's breaded, fried and covered in a red sauce I'll eat it)
Otherwise, my palate has a strict immigration policy. Any boats from unchartered waters are quickly turned away. "Sorry," my palate says, "we're dealing with a very limited person here."
Lately, though, my palate and I are experiencing a Renaissance of sorts. As the inside of my skull grows more and more like the Sisteen Chapel, I have forcefully stretched my tastebuds as far as they will go.
"Wnnnnnnt!" they say, rather unintelligbly. (Translation: "Waaait!")
"Wnnnn rnnn scrred erf nrrw tings!" ("We are scared of new things!") "Wnnn lk fds wnn nnr!" ("We like foods we know!")
I quickly bite a lemon to shut them up.
Thus, in my quest for culinary edification, Lisa and I stumbled tonight on Tamarind (22nd btwn Park and Broadway).
"Ouch!" it said.
"Sorry, we didn't see you there."
"All right, all right come on in."
This was Indian food and I was going to eat it.
"This is Indian food," I said.
"And you're going to eat it," Lisa finished.
We were sat at a lovely table for two. We immediately admired the decor. White walls in large rooms with square tables and interesting lights. Beautiful silver plates rested on perfectly placed white table cloths.
"I really like the atmosphere," Lisa said.
"Yes," I agreed.
"It's really pretty."
I nodded. Time passed.
"Really pretty," Lisa repeated.
"Mmmhmm," I said.
The sound of a large clock ticking took us through a "time passing" montage, complete with shots of me looking at my watch, Lisa looking at hers, and our hair turning gray.
"Do we have a waiter?" I asked.
"No," Lisa said.
A manager walked by. I gave him a meaningful glare that said something like: "Ummm, excuse me, I know this is a different culture, but can we have a waiter?"
He gave me a look back like: "Yes, it is a different culture, so you'll just have to suck it up and wait."
I glared back: "I can't wait any longer. I'm really hungry."
"Fine," he glared with resignation, "I'll take your order for you."
Lisa and I had agreed to share two vegetarian dishes.
"The baby eggplant one," I said, doing my best to exude confidence with Indian Food, "and the potatoey one with the spanchy stuff, ya know, like the one on pg. 2?"
"Very good sir."
"And basmati rice."
"Oh," added Lisa, "and nan."
"Ah, yes," I said, ho-ho-hoing, "of course. Nan! How could I forget."
"Thank you sir." The waiter leaves.
"It's a bread?"
Time passes. Our non-waitress passes by and tells a newly sat table the specials.
"What's her deal? She tells THEM the specials and she doesn't even acknowledge us?"
"She HATES us," declares Lisa.
Finally our food arrives. First two empty white plates. Then the waiter (not our waiter) serves us rice from a silver bowl. Then he serves us our eggplant and potatoey spinachy thing.
"Ok, here goes nothing," I say, and dig in.
"Put it on your nan first, dumbass," Lisa says, rolling her eyes.
"I'm sorry!" I shout, "I'm new to nan. I wish you'd be more gentle with me."
"This is the only way you'll learn, Adam," she sighs. "Now eat your nan!"
I spoon some eggplant on to the nan.
"This good?" I ask.
Lisa rolls her eyes.
"Mmm, it's good," I say.
"Ya, it is good," Lisa agrees.
This is probably a good moment to admit a propensity for rendering Lisa more bitchy than she really is when reviewing food places on Chowhound. Lisa, in real life, rarely rolls her eyes and is a charming dinner companion. I have cruelly exaggerated or, in some cases, fabricated Lisa's nastiness to improve the review's drama. This, I admit, calls into question my journalistic integrity. All I can say, in my defense, is that once I slept with Stone Phillips.
We now return to our regularly scheduled review.
"Did you try the potatoey stuff?"
"Yes," Lisa answers.
"Which do you like better?"
"I like the eggplant better."
We wash it all down with water. Another waiter takes our plates away. Time passes. A new president is elected. Finally, our waitress appears.
"Would you like to see a dessert menu?" she asks.
"No," I hiss wildly, "but we would have liked to have seen you during our meal! We were lost in the wilderness of Indian cuisine without a knowledgable waitress to guide us. Not only were you not knowledgable, you weren't even present. You have failed on every level and if we were on NBC's The Restaurant, Rocco would hit you with a spatula!"
I snap out of my reverie and answer: "No, thanks, just a check please."
"So," Lisa asks, "did you like your first Indian meal?"
I pause for a moment as triumphant Olympic music plays. "Yes," I say, "yes I did."