Stay Away from the Bathroom


I'll admit it, I recommended the restaurant. But in fairness I did describe it as a basement that used garbage bags instead of table cloths. My memory, however, of the quality and taste of food had been obviously clouded by too many Tsingtaos.

The meal didn't go well from the beginning. Vito Bratwurst (names have been changed) returned from the restroom complaining about a strange and pungent odor of unidentifiable origin. Ethan confirmed the smell and they both agreed that it was coming from an unusual sack placed in the urinal. The women's room, I'm told, was normal except for a dirty bar of soap.

A 10-page menu, complete with color photos, didn't make ordering easier. With effort, however, we all made our selections and waited to fill beer full but food empty stomachs.

Dumplings ("no vegetarian, only pork") arrived first. The wrapper was a bit slimy and bland, but the filling had a pleasant taste. Two orders were eaten in no time by the carnivores in our party.

Vito complained about an unusual weight which was causing an uncomfortable heat in his lap. Our table was clothed with a normal pink linen fabric. Underneath were the garbage bag liners that I described previously: a lot of them. After a prolonged count, Vito discovered 70 layers to be exact. And the corners of all of them were resting in his lap as he sat.

Then the entrees came out one by one.

First to arrive was my chicken in black bean sauce. Not bad, but Chinese food's dirty secret, MSG, gave it a tangy twang. With rice it was not inedible, though.

At the same time the chow mein arrived. Fran quietly picked at it for a while. When asked of its quality, she replied "It's not my favorite." I've had and enjoyed chow mein that contained crispy, thin noodles. This had fat, limp noodles. After a little prodding I tried one. And I do think the noodle started its humble life as the type I remember, but since 1945 it had probably been soaking in a lye solution that inflated it to its current state. It tasted about as good as you would imagine.

Next came the shrimp. Hannah had ordered it based on previous experience (at another restaurant) and because of a photo in the menu. They were of ample size and deep fried. The sauce, however, had been liberally applied. How much sauce? Here's what I think happened. In the candy industry there is a machine called an enrober that drops a steady sheet of chocolate which completely coats anything that moves through it. The ingenious kitchen had replaced the sweet confection with mayonnaise and run the fried shrimp through it. Even if that is not how they do it, have I got a time saver for them to produce the same results.

The other three entrees came eventually without as much fanfare. The Buddha delight and moo goo gai pan didn't elicit much comment although each contained items with weird consistencies. The lo mein, however, was smoky and tasty.

Talk never stopped about the bathroom odor. I decided to check it out for myself. Overall the restroom was clean and well lit. But as reported, there was an unusual object nestled at the bottom of the urinal, next to the tea strainer that was being used as a screen over the drain. Shallots, garlic and even small onions are packed together in a small mesh bag at the grocery store. With a tag that read "garlic," that is what they had used. In it, two handfuls of mothballs fought odor. A Martha Stewart version of a urinal cake this was not.

The next day I received an email from Ethan. I think his message speaks for us all. "With all due respect: except for the beer prices, we'll file this restaurant away under 'no way.'"

Fran, Aug 19 2005 2:34PM

Had I not been a part of a dining party that found all of the above humorous, I would have been really disappointed with the whole experience. But the hot plastic, the stinky bathroom, the nasty all made for an amusing evening, which I will never forget. Would I go there again? HELL NO.

Karl, Aug 19 2005 7:32PM

So I assume the 70 layers of plastic were to facilitate quick and easy clean up of the next 70 spills, blown chunks or whatever. But why were they warm to the touch? Is there some physio-chemicial property of the bags that releases energy as heat? Static electricity?

mark, Aug 22 2005 9:04AM

karl - to clarify the bags were not hot themselves. the hot sensation was produced (as i am told) by having 70 garbage bags draped over vito's lap. it's like wearing 70 rain ponchos. but i am intrigued by bags that are hot to the touch.