Main

May 28, 2002

Rain: I'm Singing in the ...

Abstract:I'll keep this one short and mostly boring for my sanity. It's a wonderful story about hungry friends and a quest for sustenance in the City That Never Sleeps (or is that Las Vegas?)

Players: Samantha, Angelique, Viren, lotsa non-thai staff and one thai/pan-asian restaurant.

This plot unfolds in the heart of New York City, and as such may not be exactly convenient to those NoVa/DC residents wanting to follow the trail.

Prologue: To Rent or not to rent?

The plot doesn't have too many twists and turns. In fact, it is positively brilliant in its simplicity. We (Angelique, Samantha and moi) would try to obain tickets to Rent (the musical) through its wonderful lottery system[1]. After several hours of walking all over the city, allowing someone else to sing and dance seemed like a wunnerful idea to me[2]. Besides the practical aspect of it, I'd have really loved to see a show in NYC.

Well, we did our best (which only included writing our names on a yellow piece of paper with some flourish and a lot of elan), and were rather confident since there only seemed to be 60 or so people there, and they were giving out 34 tickets -- not bad odds. However, our quest was doomed. We waited, with some semblance of bated breath, until the last name was called, but dissappointment dogged our footsteps, taking miniscule nips at our heels (which as I've mentioned before were already dog-tired). So, we leave the readers sympathetic to our plight but looking forward to our further adventures, as we turn to our backup plan -- eat at Rain.

This was only slightly more difficult than it sounds. We didn't know where it was, or what its phone number was. Of course, with the modern marvel that is the cell phone, we quickly ascertained -- thanks to the good folks at AT&T Wireless --that there were 2 locations that Rain was at, and Angelique decided that one of them was nearer than the other. So, off we went....to the place at the end of the rainbow.

Act I: The Protagonists arrive

After the relatively short journey on the subway[3], we arrived in the vicinity of Rain. It was extremely unprepossesing on the outside. We might have missed seeing it, except for the fact that Sam was actually using her ocular abilities.

Upon walking into the restaurant, we were greeted with subdued lighting and a sense of tasteful blandness. The lighting is achieved thru several hanging ceiling lights with orange lantern-like cylindrical shades. There's enough light to see by, but not enough to brighten the rooms. While we seemed to have enough light at out table, I can see where certain other tables would present problems in reading the menus. The decor in the restaurant seemed to follow in the same footsteps as the lights. There was enough so that it could be called decor, and not a whit more. While I'm all for minimalism (my preferred taste in furnishings and style being "less is more" and other adages to the effect), this followed the letter without attempting to satisfy the spirit of the style. The paintings and paint on the walls were on the bland side with no sign of the touches of creativity which turns a decent effort into a really good one. For all that, I wasn't unhappy with the decor. It did give a nice feel to the restaurant, and in general would suit most people, except snobbish poseurs trying to write restaurant reviews and attempting to impress people with their veritable plethora of culinary knowledge.

Act II: Saucy Dialogue ensues

After being seated, we were immediately served with shrimp chips and peanut sauce. Now, excuse me for a minute, while I mention that the shrimp chips were more grease than anything else. Ok, now that that is out of my system... the peanut sauce was absolutely wonderful. None of us could actually resist it, and Sam actually went so far as to be very assertive about demanding more chips and sauce. I have no idea what they did to their peanut sauce to make it so much better than the norm, but to borrow a quote from a friend: "they put crack in it".

As is usual with restaurants, I need[4] to order the fried calamari appetizer. It's not like I insist every restaurant offer me this wonderful dish, and it's not even like I eat seafood, but if it's there I just can't say no. So I forced everyone else to agree to the calamari appetizer (not that either of them were against the idea of calamari per se, but they were just concerned about ordering calamari, when it is a well-known fact in food circles that I don't do seafood.) We ordered calamari along with the obligatory request for more chips and peanut sauce, and proceeded to cogitate on what we wanted to order for our main course.

Soon enough, our appetizer arrived and we dove in. The first couple of pieces I had were kind of chewy, but the rest were very well cooked. The batter had some kind of spices added to it which made it pleasantly flavorful. However, it was the dipping sauce that made the dish. It was wonderful -- mildly hot (spicy) and slighly sweet, and filled with peanuty-goodness. It certainly made my top 5 calamari dishes list.

Act III: The Culinary Verbiage flies furiously

On to the main course. As is usual, we made a point of ordering different dishes so that we could taste a wider variety of the food. Just a note here to mention that the menu in Rain is not very authentic Thai. While it does seem to have been born and bred in the same geographical area, it also has influences from other cuisines. I, of course, thoroughly appreciate this.

So, back to the situation at hand. We had left our players sitting around eating calamari and meditating on the correct and proper main course to order. Angelique quickly settled on the duck special (duck wrapped around a nori wrap with lobster and rice). Sam, as usual, didn't read past the third item on the entrees part of the menu -- it had the magic words in it "jumbo shrimp" and "coconut". At which point, several chemical reactions occured in her body (about which the less said the better) and she proceeded to swoon. I, as usual deliberated for a painful amount of time (ask Sam how long it takes me to decide on chocolates) and finally settled on the Atlantic salmon with a crab meat crust in red curry.

Our food arrived post-haste, or so it seemed -- what with us being entranced by the calamari and the chips and sauce. There were no complaints about the quality of the food. I liked my salmon with the crab meat and red curry sauce. Together, the ingredients made a nice blend of flavors. Angelique's duck was pretty nice....though it tended to be a table-rattling experience every time she attempted to cut into it. The jumbo shrimp was pretty decent, and while Sam managed to palm off most of it onto us, she didn't complain about it (which means nothing).

Epilogue: What's a Climax without dessert?

No, don't answer that (in any sense of the question). We debated whether to have dessert there, but Angelique managed to convince us that there were much better dessert places out there (see the next chapter). So, we decided to take our leave of the place. For future reference, a few asides:

Do not have the ginger-whachamacallit after-dinner "mints" they give you. They taste weird and it's not the taste I want hanging around in my mouth.
At some point during the evening, we realized that not only were the waiting staff not asian, but they were also all male. The former considerably dissappointed Sam, and the latter devastated me.

Ratings

Service Fast, polite and male
Decor Soothing but cliched
Food Good nouveau pan-asian cuisine

Footnotes:

  1. The producers of Rent have decided that it would be cool to allow the hoi polloi a chance to see their smashing performances. They do this thru the simple expediency of running a lottery for the front 2 rows of seats, 2 hours before every show. You put you name on a piece of paper, and after 30 minutes, they will raffle off 34 tickets for $20 apiece (note that these are normally $90 tickets).
  2. Note to all you Doc Marten wearers. Do not attempt to spend a day walking (whether it be thru a nice wooded trail or thru a concrete paradise) in your 2-pounds-a-piece-I-could-sleep-with-the-fishes-without-needing-special-concrete-shoes sandals. Don't get me wrong, I love the things, they are comfortable and gain me 2 extra inches in height (not to mention doubling as weapons. Forget about Oddjob's hat -- just watch me throw these babies), but wearing them on a day trip where I walked all day wasn't quite the smartest thing in the world.
  3. Until now, I hadn't realized that the NYC subway was sponsored by Sesame Street. But after travelling on it on several different lines, it finally hit me: my soujourns were usually brought to me by the letters "N" and "L" and the number "4". Not only that, but you eventually got to see all the Sesame Street characters at the subway stations -- though there seemed to be a huge bias towards Oscar the Grouch and Bert& Ernie.
  4. I don't think anyone understands how deep-seated my need to order fried calamari appetizers at restaurants is. My whole dining experience revolves around it. A good calamari dish centers my food chi, and makes me a not altogether almost bearable person to not stay away from. There's something in the combination of fried batter coating cooked (hopefully not chewy) cephalopods that is attractive to my palate. Anyway, what it boild down to is that, a fried calamari dish is one of the central categories by which restaurants are judged in my book.