Well, that was…. meh.
I am not hip enough for the Clinton neighborhood. Given the amount of pomade and very, very clean plaid shirts on display, I don’t know that anyone is- though they’re certainly trying. But following a stunning performance of NeZha the Dragon Conqueror at the Clinton Theater, we fetched up in what should have been a fine meal. It’s mussels in the Pacific Northwest. The only way to make it easier would be if they sauce themselves.
What followed was a lesson in musical composition taught by a college freshman – dishes that included all of the elements of a meal, but lacked the wisdom to tie all of the parts into a coherent tune.
Summer Salad – Because who can resist “fancy herbs”. This really set the tone for the rest of the meal – each ingredient was, on it’s own, very good, but when you tossed them together it just got weird. Plum vying with cherry, then masked with cheese. And what’s the deal with the pumpkin seeds? Lots of things were crunchy in the salad and, so far as I could tell, they were unseasoned. Just a gritty texture at the bottom of the salad.
Cheese Board – This one was essentially “what youtube cooks think you should put on a cheese plate”. One blue, one hard, one soft, some pickles, some bread. Two of which were imported, which in a state like Oregon is basically a venal sin. Maybe you’re not going to hell, but you’re going to need dispensation from Saints Child and Bocuse before they let you out of purgatory.
Moules Catalan – Momma always said that if you can’t say something nice, talk shit about people on the internet. And to their credit, this was definitely the best thing we had. The mussels are big and meaty and very, very good. The broth less so. You go into something like this expecting big wine and chorizo flavors and what came out was a fairly limp fish stock. Almost no heat, definitely under-salted. Just bland. I know the northwestern palate is unaccustomed to spice, but gimme something.
Duck – it’s five spice duck. It’s hard to be generous about a thing that I’ve had – done in essentially the same way over and over again. Just because you lump chimmichurri on it doesn’t make it interesting. It just overpowers the Chinese five spice. And I realize that you can make unspiced kimchi, but if I wanted sourkraut, I’d be back at Stammtish. Here too, the ubiquitous and totally unnecessary nuts – admittedly, a helpful textural note, but one that could have easily been played by a more robust kimchi. The eggplant, though, is fucking dynamite.
It was a meal without theme – music without composition. Each note played with workmanlike competence, but without joy, without risk. A bloodless meal in a bloodless restaurant. In the end, all I had was dinner.