I’ll admit it. I’ve become a snob when it comes to food.
Let me qualify. On Thursday nights, when I have animation class from to 6 to 9 and we have a 15 minute break to go grab dinner, sometimes I’ll go to McDonalds (ok, I did it twice) and get a crispy chicken sandwich value meal. So I’m not a complete and utter snob. I’m a practical snob. I’m a snob when it’s worth being snobby.
It’s worth being snobby, I propose, when your brother wants to have dinner here:
This is The Redeye Grill. Why the “redeye” grill? Is conjunctivitis on the menu? Is it because you leave the place, your eyes stinging with tears?
No, no. I’m sure it has something to do with being up late at night. This is sort of a theme restaurant: I’m not sure what the theme is, but it involves fish.
Michael wanted to go here because he wanted a very specific fish: salmon. “I want someplace that has salmon,” he declared the night before.
Michael’s gotten into fitness lately and salmon is good for his fitness plan.
I, on the other hand, wanted something for my “screw fitness” plan. Something fatty, with bacon. You see we had tickets to Carnegie Hall that night (for Mahler’s 5th) and The Red Eye Grille is right across the street. But so is The Burger Joint.
“Oooh, let’s go to the burger joint,” I suggested. “They have one of the best hamburgers in New York.”
But Michael wasn’t buying it.
“I want salmon,” he said. “Why can’t we go somewhere I want to go for once?”
So to The Redeye Grill we went. We checked in at the desk and the host said, “Right this way.” He grabbed a few menus and began to lead us to the back. And when I say the back, I mean the very back. The place was huge and—lots of busy tables (with touristy looking people, or Tri-State residents in a time warp that allows them to believe this is still a viable, happening place to eat)—it was a long while before we reached that back room.
The back room I later referred to as “the loser’s lounge.” It was deadly hot back there. A man was eating fried shrimp by himself. A table with loud children stuck out from the corner.
“Is it hot back here or is it just me?” asked Michael. He was sweating. We asked them to turn up the A/C but they didn’t. So, eventually, we had a change of table.
The change led us to the middle of the restaurant which was cool. (Cool as in chilly, not cool is in hip or fly or totally phat, dude.)
All around us people were eating shrimp sticking out of a pineapple. Faces gogged every time a pineapple with shrimp went by. So when I read on the menu: “Our Famous Dancing Shrimp with spicy pineapple & orange coconut dipping sauces” I knew I had to try that. Here it is:
The first thing you’ll notice is that the shrimp come with their heads on. Now let’s be fair: how can I be critical of that? If they did the same thing at a much raved over secret sushi place I’d be like: “Ahhh! This is genius! So brave, so risky!” Yes, head’s on the shrimp is a brave touch. But here’s the problem: how do you eat this?
I asked the waiter. “How do you eat this?”
He gave me a look and then said: “You twist the head off. It comes off easy. And then you eat the rest.”
And so I proceeded to twist the heads off the shrimp. Oil splattered everywhere. Grease dripped down my fingers. When I was done, I was left with a fried shrimp on a stick. I dipped it in a sauce and it tasted good.
But this begs the question: why not just put headless shrimp on a stick?
I’m sure the answer is: because the head is a delicacy, there’s delicious meat in the head. I’ve actually heard that to be true. But without instruction or guidance it ends up being a novelty, and an annoying one at that. By the time I was done I needed to be hosed off but instead I made my way into the bathroom, which was pretty gross and right near the kitchen.
For my entree I had blurry miso salmon on wasabi mashed potatoes with bok choy:
It truly wasn’t bad, but it didn’t justify the $26 price. For that money I could’ve had suckling pig at Prune or pumpkin lune at Babbo or something, anything, that could justify that price. But instead I had something on the calibre of T.G.I. Fridays or Applebee’s.
Michael had his grilled salmon and baked potato and seemed very content.
When mom and dad asked us later how it was, I said it was awful and Michael said: “Oh he’s just mad because he ordered something stupid.”
Hey, if ordering whole-headed shrimp in a pineapple is stupid, I don’t want to be smart.
Meanwhile, the concert we saw afterwards was lots of fun:
It was Michael’s first symphony. For his second symphony, I’ll be taking him to The Burger Joint.