Monday, August 22, 2011

That Was a Foodie Turning Point

Glazed Eel -- The Monday Room
The Monday Room

How people manage to eat dinner after 6:00pm is beyond us.

By 6:00pm, we are ravenous.  So hungry that even the 6:30pm reservation we have procured at The Monday Room seems entirely too late.  True to form, we check in for our dinner a full half hour early, and even truer to form, we are the only diners present in the entire establishment.

Needless to say, we're well-prepared for our futures of nursing room early bird specials.

The hostess greets Vodka by her first name upon entry, making it obvious that we are the only ones with mid-afternoon reservations, and perhaps the only idiots to have made reservations at all.  Ginger, never one for clock-reading, chuckles at the ludicrous fact that we are 23 minutes early.  When Vodka points out that we are actually 33 minutes ahead of time, the absurdity only grows.  Particularly after Ginger admits that she has already been prowling the block for 10 minutes in search of The Monday Room's entrance, as she heard via her academic research (Yelp) that it is hard to find (in truth, it is merely to the left of the door to The Public restaurant, the discovery of which left Ginger wandering aimlessly for entirely too many minutes).

We are seated outside at prime table real estate: next to the open vestibule with a view of what appears to be a cemetery, a lion statue, a shopping cart, and a broken down bicycle.  Hello Soho.
Scenic Overlook
Contemplating the cocktail menu, Ginger laments that The Monday Room seems most well-versed in wine, and this specialty list is lost on us because "We are not wine people."

"I'm a wine person," Vodka insists.  "It just all tastes the same to me."

Skipping the overwhelming wine selection, we instead order the Bitter Sweet and the Monday Fizz cocktails, though the only words we recognize in the ingredients are "vodka" and "sugar," respectively ("Is cognac a gin or a whiskey?").  When the waiter later apologizes for the delay in the cocktails' appearance, explaining that they've been unable to locate the Tokay for Vodka's drink, Vodka looks at the waiter and just smiles.  Clearly, we have absolutely no idea what he's talking about.
May or May Not Include Tokay
Examining the food menu, we are at first perplexed by the lack of $6 options, as Ginger's academic resources (Yelp) had proclaimed the greatness of the Monday night cheap menu.  In fact, as the waiter prattles a long-winded explanation of the ham special of the day, Ginger has to bite her tongue to not follow up with "But is it $6?"

With nary a Value Menu in sight, we settle on four items to share, including the glazed eel, as recommended by Claire Robinson on the TOTALLY UNEXPECTED episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.  Ginger, back in her domineering mode, does all of the ordering, which Vodka follows up by immediately commandeering Ginger's cocktail for a picture.  Codependent dysfunction at its finest.

As we wait for our food, Vodka asks, "How's your life?" which Ginger answers nonchalantly with "Well, right now I'm shopping for an outfit to die in." Expecting Ginger to pull a black funeral veil out of her shopping bag, Vodka instead sees her whip out a pair of culottes.
Cue the Funeral March
"I assume those are for El Salvador," Vodka says, referring to Ginger's vacation to a locale from which she fears she might never return.

In an effort to get in as much solid eating as possible before Ginger leaves this city and maybe this planet, we dive into the glazed eel. Two spoons rest atop thin cucumber slices, each filled to the brim with slices of eel, pickled beansprouts, and a miniature quail egg.
Trust Us - We Had the "What the -- ?" Reaction, Too
Devouring them in one bite, they are, as our wannabe best friend Claire Robinson had predicted, delicious in their oddness.
Cucumber Buried Alive
Crunchy and smooth, plus overtly salty, Vodka could consume another dozen if asked, as her ideal food lately tastes of a salt lick.  In fact, the glazed eels are swallowed so quickly that we feel like we almost need another round just to figure out what we tasted.
Or We Just Need Taste Buds That Taste Flavors Other than Salt
Displaying self-control, we instead turn to the watermelon, feta, and basil salad, which is refreshing in its simplicity (though let's be real: nothing featuring feta cheese can really be bad, can it?).
It's Like Jenga
We next try the venison sliders, which are tasty if not quite greasy enough (the venison makes for a more meatball-like patty).
Deer on a Stick
They come with tiny onion rings, which, upon tasting the first one, Ginger calls out, "Can we just have a bowl of these?"  The waiter seems to find this funny, though truth be told, Ginger is not really joking.
So Just to Clarify - We CAN'T Get a Bowl?
Finally, we have our platter of charcuterie, which includes the non-$6 special ham.
So Much for Meatless Mondays
"Something smells like truffle," Vodka sniffs, trying to find the source.

"Aww, that was like a foodie turning point for us," Ginger surmises, and we congratulate ourselves on our ability to recognize a high-profile culinary scent.
So Now, We've Mastered Salt and Truffle
Tasting the four samples of meaty delights, plus the platter of accompanying sourdough, we find them all to be fine, if not particularly memorable.  We are not really one for our meats being pureed, which cuts down on our enjoyment of at least two of the samples, and the ham special and duck sausage, while palatable, are not lapped up.
Knoblewurst This Is Not
We make our exit from The Monday Room, Ginger confiscating half of the individually wrapped bars of soap from the bathroom for use in El Salvador and praying that our Monday Room dinner was not her literal Last Supper.

The Monday Room's Glazed Eel: 4 stars

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