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Sneak Peek: DC's Newest (4?) Star


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So I got invited to this mock restaurant opening. It’s a new place downtown, very hush-hush. The focus, I was told, is on selecting the absolutely best ingredients and presenting them in a pick and choose way, like the classic restaurants of yesteryear, with classically elegant service to boot. Here's the story.


As I crossed the threshold (spying above the host stand a peculiar picture of a short, forty-something guy with curly hair, a bottle of Donnhoff resting uncomfortably in his bare bum), I thought of cruisin’ on my tricycle from one of those old temples of gastronomy to another, getting a fried Pollock sandwich at one (that was the thing those days) and perhaps some bubble gum ice cream at another (hey, it was wartime—how did these guys get enough gum to put it in ice cream?…and how did they get all that cream from Pennsylvania?). Those were the days. But I wondered, have chefs changed, or have our palates? And what would this elegance entail?

My silent reflection was broken by a hearty, “Ahoy!” In front of me stood a large (but not quite corpulent) fellow, with a goofy grin, wearing these outlandish fish pants. “Good Evening,” he said, and led us to our table. It was the famous (or so we were told) table 769, from which the chef could literally sneeze into our food as it was being served. What an honor! We already knew we just had to set up a blowout dinner here, and make sure everyone got to sit at this table for at least ten of what would have to be at least three hundred courses.

We sat for what must have been an etermity before fish-pant boy came over. “Good Evening,” he said, again. “My name is Steven, and I’ll be your server this evening. If you’re really nice, I’ll give you a free demitasse of hot chocolate and tell you about my James Beard award! I understand you are waiting for guests? Well those dolts, they told me to seat you! We never seat incomplete parties, they just linger and linger and linger, it’s just ridiculous. Next thing you know, my boss Jason’s going to want to send you out a miniburger. I’ll just have to….erg….erg…Put him on a leave of--“

“Well well well! If it’s not our dining companions!!” Music Man bellowed. “I’ve brought some yummy wine tonight! 1983 Niellon Vergers, my first bottle of five cases! 1986 Chave Hermitage blanc, which I already know is corked before we even open it! 1978 Latour—I heard it was your birthday, Cake Boy! All kinds of good stuff! And it’s all French! Cos that’s the only place that matters!”

<clank> <clank> <clank> reverberated through the room, as Music Man unloaded his bag.

<clank> <clank> <clank> “Oh wait! Here’s a 1999 Chateau Souverain cabernet! It’s not French, but it got twenty million points from Dean Delahanty, the Loire Schnauzer! He doesn’t get out of Jasnieres much, but when he does, he’s like a Black Starliner!”

Steven the waiter comes back over. “Wait a minute! We have a strict two bottle per table corkage policy!” Now this is quite an issue, as our table has swelled at the last minute from a four-top to thirteen or fourteen (though two are children and three are vegans, so it remains to be seen how the restaurant counts them).

Music Man goes crazy. “What a stupid policy! Forget all the histrionics, I’m just going to sue!” Where else can we go?! But it’s after 6PM, so OpenTable is shutting us out of all the good joints. So there’s nothing we can do but stay here and look at the painting of the dumpy guy with the Donnhoff bottle. “Is that you?” the Pillsbury Doughboy asks our waiter.


“Who is it?”

“The guy that owns the joint. He’s never here. He lives in a grist mill with a bunch of crows and communicates with us by private messages and spattered lung slices.”

“I want a patio table! I want my own check!” Nabisco spoke up.

“We don’t have a patio. This is a soft opening. And you’re banned,” Fish-boy replied, stifling both a snicker and a twitter.

Cake boy chimes in. “I need my drinkie. What are we drinking next?”

“There’s only one way to do it,” says the young lady at the foot of the table, tapping a hickory yardstick. “We have to have a lottery.”

Immediately, that end of the table huddles for another Overthinkers Anonymous meeting. From the huddle, the lone, mustachioed male can be heard calling out numbers, “54, 26, 83, 22—“

“Hike!” says the tax lawyer. Nobody listens.

“It’s settled,” yardstick lady yells. “We will be drinking the 1985 Laville-Haut-Brion and the 1959 Moulin Touchais.”

“Touche! Touche! One point for me!” says the tax lawyer. Nobody listens.

“I don’t drink white wine!” said Nabisco.

Then a bellow arises from Music Man’s once-again-burgeoning wine bag. “I never get picked! I’ve got twenty million points! I should’ve gotten twenty million chances!”

The tax lawyer reaches over to shut it up, and the bottle goes crashing to the floor. Nobody notices.

Meanwhile, fish-pant boy comes back over. He starts to stammer through the specials (neglecting prices the whole way), but eventually he peters out as he notices one of the lady denizens of the table looking at his trousers with a maniacal focus. For no particular reason, we’ll call here Blue Cheese Chick.

“You know, I asked four different message boards what to wear tonight, and none of them said fish pants.”

Music Man and two others pipe up, in perfect unison, “Sure they did. But we banned you before you could see it.” I could’ve sworn one of them was fish-boy himself.

Finally, fish-boy gives us the menus. Or rather, the menu. It scrolls on and on, reaching the length of the table and back. As fish-boy goes to make a third length, Music Man fulminates, “This is ridiculous!”

“No it’s not!” Protesting was the balding fellow. He then protested in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Basque, Latin, and Middle English. The tax lawyer nodded sagely. Nobody noticed.

Mustache-man responds, “These are just the miniburger toppings.”

“Whatever. Fishboy! Just have the chef choose our meal for us!”

Cake-boy, having sucked down the entire bottle of Laville-Haut-Brion, is incensed, “But what if all they bring us is miniburgers! We can’t drink white wine with miniburgers!”

At that, the Overthinkers Anonymous huddles again. We never hear from them again.

And so, the food starts to come out. First, a raw fish course. Plate after plate of raw scallops, each of them accompanied by a fried fish sandwich. “Historical deconstruction,” the tall, dark former waiter says, quietly. We all murmur, except for Cake-boy, who orders eleven more bottles of wine.

A delighted shriek is heard from the floor. We look down, then look back to the table. By the time we realize that the broken bottle of Chateau Souverain had never been cleaned up, all the fried fish sandwiches are gone. Finally, a very large man, with a very large beard, in a very large tuxedo, comes up and begins sweeping away the gluttonous bottle.

“A-ha!” Fish-boy is waiting. He cuffs the tuxedo-man, hard, then scoops him up, and, with some great exertion, tosses him into the street. “Blog your own cleanups!”

More food comes. Good thing…we’ve only had a few mouthfuls. It’s charcuterie now. Each slice of ham and terrine is accompanied with a plate of these strangely testicled, worm-like objects. No one touches them. Halfway through our charcuterie course, a young lady with an exotic accent collects them and grinds them into a green dip. No one touches it. Except the tax lawyer. But no one notices.

A tall guy in chef’s whites, clutching a 1.75L of bourbon while munching on small, cured sausages, mutters, “these are better than Two Amys.”

Five or six people at the table jump him. See what happens when you don’t serve miniburgers?

At last, the main courses arrive, including a lobster tail that’s bigger than the whole table. “That’s a cowboy lobster,” the replacement manager, clad in flannel shirt and bandana, crows. “I caught it off the artificial reef I used my Mercedes as after its tires got slashed. That’s sustainable, bay-bee!” Behind him, an army of servers are bearing platter after platter of steamed crabs. But as soon as they are placed down in front of our ravenous eyes, a tall, shifty, prematurely-graying man in chef’s whites snatches them away. The table next to us, between complaints about not getting their soup, report that the snatcher is muttering “no risk, no risk” over and over.

A frighteningly tall fellow at my end of the table yells after him, “But I’m not allergic any more!” Cake-boy stuffs a bottle of pinotage down his throat. Nobody notices.

Music Man is taking pictures. And more pictures. And more pictures. Bandana-guy comes over to him and bellows, “In no uncertain terms, I said you had a ninety-picture limit. And flash counts double! Matter of fact, you should never use Flash! It just gums up the whole operation!”

Hearing that, Mustache-boy throws down. “No one tells me how to work MY technology! Or they get Ventworm Miniburgers!” And the brawl starts. One late arrival starts flogging Music Man with his tastevin. Several diners are gored with screwcaps from the pallet of wine Cake-boy ordered when no one would drink the first eleven bottles he got. Music Man re-emerges from his walloping and taps the Overthinkers Anonymous folks, who are still huddling. All of a sudden, they emerge, spewing snark about all involved. Music Man is at the head, saying, “You can’t give this brawl four stars! Only brawls started by French guys can get four stars!” At that, a large, jovial fellow with a Piemontese accent stuffs a pork shoulder sandwich down his shirt. The resultant gluten shock quells the last of Music Man’s plaintive screams.

The tension is thick. You could cut it with a knife, except Tom Sietsema has stolen them all to see how the new restaurant reacts. He and Music Man sit in the corner, squeakily tittering, “We’re bloggers! We’ll write about this!”

It gets worse. The ventworm dip is splattered all over. The screwcap wounds are deeper and more painful, although a guy in a Hawaiian shirt notes that the screwcaps from the unoaked wines cause no harm at all.

Finally, the same tall, prematurely graying, quiet man in starched whites, previously known as the crustacean thief, comes into the dining room, holding a glass of Calvados. “Q&A! Q&A!” shouts the lottery lady, who then continues, “I notice your surreal calm in the midst of all of this carnage. How do you make money? Or are you just doing it for the love?” While she taps out this question on her laptop, she spies the tax lawyer beating fish-boy over the head with a smoked pork butt. No one else notices, though.

“It’s simple,” replies the powerfully serene chef. “We’re non-profit. We get all our food by going and working at farms all weekend, dawn to dusk, taking incriminating photos of the owners and blackmailing them. So if we charged anyone for anything, we wouldn’t be non-profit. And when we comp people, they go on the online forums and into the newspapers and tell everyone how wonderful their meal was! It’s really amazing, how people will follow what anyone says online! Mwhahahahahahahahahahahaha.”

We all twitter appreciatively and plan our laudative posts on our various boards. Except for the guy that never got his soup.

“One last question,” the tax lawyer pipes up. “What you gonna call this joint?”

“I call it, ‘I Risk-No-Crabs.’”


Now this was a mock opening, so I should definitely give the restaurant time to settle. But bourbon-boy was wayyyyyy off. The cured sausages are way better at Two Amys, but even better was the little place on Potomac Ave where I used to ride that tricycle. Nothing now compares to that. We should all lie on our sofas and eat paste now, because everything is crap these days….

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Our paths crossed jparrott's yesterday. Craig and I stopped in for a drink and found the youngest and dreamiest-of-them-all Brown brother, Leroy, behind the bar. He fixed us his signature cocktail, the Gorgonzola Martini. The white chocolate shavings really brought the whole thing together and it went down a treat! It was amazing watching him work while Jake was throwing wine bottles at him and screaming, "They're CORKED I tell you!!! All of them CORKED!"

We left that scene of utter chaos and went looking for some food. Luck was with us! We discovered the Phantom Hot Dog stand, this time on the corner of 11th and K. You all know about this--it looks like any other stand, complete with the Sabrett's umbrella, but it moves from place to place seemingly at random. The silly tourists were actually buying HOT DOGS! I guess they didn't know the secret: You whisper in the ear of either Abdul or Juanita and say, "I'll have the special, Inshaallah!" Juanita gave us a big grin, opened a secret compartment and handed us a box of Foie Gras Poppers. They were delicious and only cost $2! I would have paid at least $3 for 'em--they're that good.

We walked along munching on the goodies and found ourselves at Farragut Square and decided to practice our shagging for the DR.com picnic. We got arrested. <_<

Who knew that shagging in public was a crime? Of course, if you've ever seen Craig shag, you'd think it was a crime, too. Fortunately for us, we had a lot of cash on us since we knew that we would need many $$$ for the Szechuan Boy dinner tomorrow.

In order to get our fine reduced, I gave the cops the address of Jaques Gastreau's office and told them to keep their eyes peeled. A serial Shaggist works there!

We made it home in time to watch the Nats beat the crap outta the Orioles. All in all, a great day (except for the time in jail, of course).

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