Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Don Xuan part I

This post (in two parts) ends with a "paella" recipe. It begins with a drunken romp through El Cerrito's gourmet ghetto.

What is love? Is it something you feel when you walk into a hearth-warmed cabin out of the snow? Is it something that washes over you when you just know you’re with that special someone and you don’t have to work at it, it just comes naturally? Or is it a sentiment associated with someone giving you a basket of puppies, or a big fat bottle of Dom for free?

I think it’s something as grounded in common hate as it is common interests. E and I both hate mediocre food. We even hate the mediocre food at the restaurants that we love. Many times, we can size up a restaurant just from the look of it. They say don’t judge a book by its cover (hell, if we did that, a lot of the places we love we’d NEVER frequent); but with restaurants it’s often a safe bet, especially with Japanese establishments. It may seem racist, but I’m relatively certain most people of Asian derivation would agree with me: sushi bars are better when they’re Japanese-run. How to tell? Look around. If there is sriracha on the table, they’re not. If the name of the restaurant is a misspelled English word, they’re probably not. If the name of the restaurant is a badly-Romanized Japanese word, they’re definitely not.

Such is the case with Yammy (sic.) sushi in the EC Plaza. They are a ‘sushi’ bar/Japanese restaurant that specializes in temaki of various levels of authenticity. This is a good place to take your grandmother if you just really want some sushi because she’ll be able to have a teriyaki steak or some such truck. I have not been able to determine the specific race of the owners; I usually do so by rattling off a few Korean or Mandarin words and seeing if I get a response. Apparently, however, they wish to convey to us that their food is characterized by sweet potatoes; so much so, in fact, that they named the restaurant after this Yamminess of theirs. About the only benefit of this place is that its saké is cheap enough that you can get just toasty enough there to be sufficiently brave to go to the Mel-o-dee lounge (on the same side of the plaza as Yammy’s front door) and enjoy their incredible magenta/burgundy velour walls, seats, and drapes.

So, in a case of nomenclaturate emotive transposition (yes, this is an undeclared variable), E and I have always avoided a restaurant that we shouldn’t have, Yummy Chinese Restaurant (at 10264 San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito) simply because of its nomenclaturate association with Yammy above. We were foolish to never try it out when we used to live two blocks from it, but that is partly due to the fact that we were too busy playing patrons to our favorite place, Yuet Foo, two blocks north on San Pablo. Yuet Foo is what made me wax lovey above(y); whenever we walk into Yuet Foo we feel like we are really somewhere we should be. The décor is deplorable; the élan is MIA; the tables, chairs, and restrooms are usually dirty; even the method of construction of the building is an embarrassment (painted cinderblocks chest-high topped by a cheap wooden frame). But, they’ve got six acrylic salt tanks stuffed full of living frutti di mare for your perusal, and they are happy to cook up anything you ask for. Their élan is apparent in their food wrangling, not in their place settings.

But on to the new blood. E and I prepared for a sortie last Friday night because we were in a Yuet Foo mood. We had already done our April going-out-and-eating in spades, but felt like it anyway, on the condition (E’s) that we “order only dishes that we’d not had before” (not including the fried oyster appetizer). Beers in hand, we marched the road to Yuet, hoping for a taste of fried oyster. But when we got there, the place was absolutely packed. Normally that wouldn’t stop us; we’d walk right in and have two large Tsingtaos waiting for us by the time we sat down. But there was something different about this crowd. They OWNED Yuet Foo, and you could tell. Sure enough, as we approached the front door, we spied a sign begging the patrons’ forgiveness for the restaurant was closed for a private banquet all night. Would we like take-out?

The thought of walking fried oysters home ten blocks unappealing to us, we decided to go for peking duck at choice #2, the ghetto-ass but always good Golden Dynasty about three blocks down. To shorten a lengthy anecdote, we got the Gwai Lo treatment there; walking in at 9:20 and being told they were closed. Huffily we decided to go for our last-ditch choice, Yummy. I am so glad we did.

Tune in next time for the rest of our heroes’ campaigns in southwest El Cerrito!


Blogger drbiggles said...

Ha, the Mel-o-dee is absolutely divine. I was sure it would have been blown apart by the last renovation of the EC Plaza, but nope. It lives on.
Are you a fan of the Al's Burger? Do you remember "The Fry Guy"? A brown skinned man in his mid 40s, not too tall? Dark hair with a mustache that didn't talk much? Well, he quit about a year ago and bought his own hamburger joint down the road in Richmond. He put in his own mesquite grill and duplicated Al's menu. AND he does a mean bag of fries, perfectly golden and crunchy. He and his wife seem to be doing well at the old Pup Hut down at Clinton & San Pablo Avenue. EC history takes another roll.

Senior Biggles

2:53 PM  

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