Thursday, 20 December, 2007, saw myself and kvetch heading out for an evening which I am absolutely sure I will be looking back on with considerable pleasure for a long long time.
Earlier in the month, as he regularly does, kvetch had directed my attention towards an upcoming event which he thought I might find of interest. Sometimes I do find his suggestions of interest, sometimes not so much. He has no expectations or requirements of my response when he presents me with the information, he simply serves as a messenger. If there is an event which think I’d like to attend, then he books tickets. If not, he doesn’t. I very much enjoy knowing that he is always keeping his eye out for things he thinks might divert me.
Kvetch is often quite delightful. :)
At any rate, my response to the news of this event was something along the lines of:
- Oh wow, yes, most definitely, we must go to this!!
(kvetch had suspected as much, as he put it “This sounded just like your sort of thing.“, as indeed it was :) )
Although I was rather dismayed at the cost of the tickets (€35 each, plus a €2 “convenience fee” for booking online [insert rant here]), I just couldn’t turn it down. The last ticketed event we’d attended was about four months ago in early September.
Back in early September, kvetch hadn’t been well, and was recovering from the after effects of a nasty virus. Events had conspired to make Friday, 7 September particularly busy. Some friends of ours were having a private BDSM-themed party that night. Before we’d known about the party, kvetch had booked our tickets to take me to see Paul Merton’s Impro Chums at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin.
- The Olympia Theatre, Dame Street, Dublin.
(By the way, my advice is, don’t ever eat at Charlies One. Go round the corner to Charlies II on Essex Street in Temple Bar. I have no idea how the seventy meters or so distance between them can possibly result in the vast disparity in quality, but there is a consistently serious difference.)
We had considered selling the tickets we had for the Friday, going to the party, and rebooking for the Saturday, In the end, we went to the show (which was quite hilarious and had me literally crying with laughter), and then went on to the party. We weren’t that late for it, in the end.
Ticketed events always seem so expensive in Dublin, but then, these kinds of special performances, such as the one we were about to attend, just don’t seem to happen in smaller cities for any price. So occasionally, it seems a worthwhile investment. :)
From sunrise to sunset, the light had been rather spectacular, and I’d been out on the balcony taking photographs of it most of the day.
(I like taking pictures of the sky)
So the end result was that, even though I’d had a hot shower and been warmly dressed on the balcony, I was freezing cold and feeling kind of groggy and sluggish. So, still all wrapped up in my fleecy black Turtle Fur Tort hat,
fleecy scarf, fluffy faux-fur-lined zipped hoodie, and leather fingerless gloves, I’d snuggled under the duvet and dozed off. I’d sleepily opened one eye when kvetch came home around 18:00 and said:
- “Ready for chinese food?”
Shit. I’d forgotten I’d agreed to be ready to go at around 18:00 in order to get fooded in time to arrive at the concert in time for 20:00.
- These are some of the photos I took during the day of Thursday, 20 December, 2007, because the sky looked so spectacular all day, and by doing so, I got feeling all cold and sluggy and late for chinese food.
So I got kvetch to make some coffee, which he does well, and which I slurped down greedily in the style of the “Inhaling School of Intra-Oesophageal Coffee Drinkage”. I had dressed, inhaled coffee, and was ready to go in twenty minutes.
- China House Restaurant, my bestest ever foody pal, mmmmmmm. :)
We’ve been eating at China House regularly since shortly after we’d met. The first time we ate there was with a friend, about a year ago. It was a cold Saturday night in December, and we met up with our friend about an hour or so before the monthly Dublin munch.
The decision was taken to munch before the munch. So we were standing outside the various victuallers, the bitter wind whipping round our body parts, causing our noses to run and the tears to trail down our cheeks, as if mourning distantly remembered but long gone physical comforts.
Sniffling, we blinked through watery eyes to peruse the menus on display in the windows of the many Chinese foodetiéres on Parnell Street.
- If I didn’t take my foodage quite so seriously, I obviously would have taken us all into the first place we came to. But I do, so I didn’t, and I am now and forever grateful that I hadn’t. :)
I’d felt drawn to China House, partly because of the many obviously foreign born Oriental diners inside (one of my sure fire tests for assessing Oriental fooderies: Do Oriental people choose to eat there?), and to the menu, which offered such tantalising authenticities as “Dry fried guts” and “Jellyfish’s skin”.
Come on now, wouldn’t you have been tempted to enter such a shrine of promise?
Once inside, we were directed towards the table at the window. We shuffled around it, removing outerwear and settling into our seats, chatting all the while.
- Our friend was even more of a chatterbox than I am. :p
We found another encouraging sign, not only did they have a “western” Chinese menu, they also had a proper Chinese menu, complete with convenient translations for those of us not fortunate enough to be able to read Chinese characters. Some of the translations enjoyably bore some resemblance to “Engrish“isms, such as “Fried Noddle with Sea Food”
For me anyhow, those kinds of quirks reassure me that the food which is about to come is very likely to be far better than their spelling. Besides, the place smelled absolutely divine, just as it should. I felt encouraged and hopeful. :)
Another thing was that kvetch had never eaten Chinese food before. At the time, he had neglected to mention this. He indicated that he wasn’t sure of what to order, so I simply ordered for him. This was the genesis of the first of my many foody successes for his previously virgin, unexplored, sensitive palate.
- On multitudinous occasions since then, kvetch has offered me his most profound and heartfelt thanks for introducing him to Chinese food. He has also separately thanked me many times for introducing him to such things as oyster sauce, which has now become a staple ingredient in his kitchen. I take pride and pleasure in expanding his palate to increase his potential for enjoyment. :D
On that night, artfully wooed by the duck in satay sauce, the unsuspecting kvetch was utterly seduced. And thusly began what was to become his torrid love affair with duck.
- (I knew he was polyamorous :p )
I don’t actually remember what I or our friend had, but I’m sure we’ve had it again since then. Their menu is incredibly extensive, but I find myself drawn irresistibly back to the section of their menu which they call “Staple Food”. Everything on it is what I would call comfort food. The dishes listed there are incredibly cheap, filling, delicious, and intensely satisfying. Perfect food for cold winter weather.
Or for any weather.
Or for picnics, funerals, weddings, and bar mitzvahs.
Or for Spiffy the hamster’s biweekly birthday.
Over the past few months, kvetch and I have been having virtually nothing but either fried beef and rice noodles, or fried pork and rice noodles. One time I asked for fried beef and udon noodle, and they actually went out there and then without telling me, and got some udon noodles so they could prepare them for me! Now, I don’t think it’s possible to beat that. :)
- A Note About Quality: I wouldn’t recommend doing this in future, and I don’t intend to do this again. Although I absolutely cannot fault them for effort, they obviously were not able to carefully vet the udon noodles for quality in the same way that they must quality check every other ingredient they serve. The udon noodles were not great, and the resulting dish was not as good as the other noodles they serve. So from now on, I will be sticking with things they make from ingredients they already stock.
One of the many things which I must recommend about China House, and what keeps me coming back again and again, is that the cuts of meat they use are absolutely beautiful. Every meat we encounter in there is perfectly tender, juicy, with flavour that lingers delectably on the tongue. Every ingredient they use is of the highest quality, very fresh, perfectly kept, and expertly prepared. The quality does vary somewhat, as one would expect, but not outside the bounds of acceptability. The consistently high quality of their ingredients and culinary skills is the stuff dreams are made of. Well, my kinds of dreams, anyhow. Ok, note over. :)
- Note The Second: Oh, by the way, because it seems that the lamb chops in the fridge seemed to have become somewhat more aged than is considered beneficial to health, kvetch has ventured out tonight to get a takeaway from China House. This evening I’m having the Beef with Cumin and Chilli as it was mentioned in more than one of these reviews. I’ve been very keen to explore other parts of their menu for some time, so I can’t wait til kvetch gets back with my fragrant parcel. :)
I will return for further food droolage later. But now I think I’d like to describe the cast of characters we normally encounter in China House.
All the China House staff are Oriental born. I think they must all be Chinese, as I hear them speaking easily together in what sounds (to my admittedly untutored ear) like Mandarin Chinese. Additionally, there was recently the decorative addition of a political map of China complete with provinces marked in colours, put up on the wall by the loo, So I am going to operate under the (possibly erroneous) assumption that all the staff are Chinese.
I list China House staff members in no particular order of importance, simply as they occur to me.
- The Hostess: This is the first person we normally see when we go to China House. She is usually the first to greet us, with a smile and a gentle gesture indicating our table (not always the same one). She speaks very fast. Lately, she has been smiling a little less brightly than before, and looking tired. I think they’ve been getting increasingly more customers without any significant increase in staff, and I think they must all be working very very hard. She is an attractive, slender, young woman (I’m guessing no older than mid-30’s, possibly younger) with a friendly, warm, round face and a lovely smile. She has very long hair which she wears in a ponytail. She has an acute memory, and always remembers what we had before and how we like it prepared. I like her. :)
- The Talkative Waiter: This man has a really delicate bone structure and a narrow face. He has very little flesh covering his bones. I always feel an urge to feed him lots of chicken soup to try to fatten him up a bit. :p He is friendly and talkative, with a very expressive face. He knows his English could be better, and I think he would talk more if he felt he could understand more of the conversation. His face often conveys what he means, even if he doesn’t have the words. He smiles a lot and likes to try to converse when he isn’t too busy. He tries very hard with his conversation. He always seems glad to see us and likes to admire what I’m wearing. Sometimes he just stands and looks, smiles, and makes admiring sounds. Sometimes I’ll turn around slowly so he can have a better view. I enjoy conversations with him. :)
- The Man Behind The Counter: When we go to China House, this man is always behind the counter. He has some grey in his hair, and I think he’s older than the other two. Usually he is wearing glasses and doing what looks like paperwork behind the counter. Before they expanded their customer seating area into the upstairs next door and got so busy, he used to keep coming over and refilling our teapot (even if we didn’t want any more tea!). He would gesture to the teapot and say “Mori”. I’m not sure what he meant, as his English isn’t that extensive, but a web search for “mori tea” turns up a famous tea growing region in Japan. Usually the tea they serve us is jasmine, but last time it was a green teabag (complete with string in the pot, hehe).
- The Cool Hand Gesture Incident: Recently we were sitting at a table which was right in the draught every time the restaurant door was opened, and we got really cold (and our food congealed). I put up the hood on my hoodie (which I normally never do) to help keep me warm. I got up to go to the loo, and the man behind the counter made some gesture indicating (what I thought was) the coolness of my hoodie. So I did a little sort of “cool” dance thingy with my hands in strange finger shapes (like this one), and making what I thought might be cool, streed-cred-like noises (well, cool for a light olive-skinned Jewish person, anyhow).
(I might have just been grunting)
I think the result of my efforts might have been best referred to as the “Jewish Comedy Street Cred Attempt Spasm”, because not only the man behind the counter, but every staff member who saw it fell over themselves laughing (which was sort of the point :p ).
Anyhow, the man behind the counter stopped pimping tea at us after that. I’m not sure what the connection is, if there even is one. I suppose that will remain one of life’s great mysteries. :)
- Assorted Other Characters: The three people I mentioned above are the people we see and interact with the most in China House. But there are a few others we see regularly but don’t speak with much. We exchange smiles and nods and a few words sometimes.
- Older Woman 1: There are two older women in China House (older than the first two people I mentioned, I mean). The first one is older and shorter than the other, whom we see less often. She often appears lost in thought, looking off into the distance. Sometimes she checks the paperwork behind the counter. Occasionally she brings food to tables. Frequently I see her coming out of the kitchen. She favours a dark reddish lipstick which I like.
- Older Woman 2: This woman is taller and younger than the other. She usually says very little, mostly with the man behind the counter or with Older Woman 1. She also occasionally brings food to tables or welcomes diners into the restaurant with a smile.
- Tall Young Man: This man is a newer member of staff. He seems quite tall, well formed, nice looking face, and has a kind of funky cool hairstyle. I’ve not exchanged any words with him, but I’ve seen him going back and forth, bringing foody things to people outside my frame of view.
- The Kitchen Team: There are a surprising number of people seemingly always packed into what looks like a cookery cupboard with a door with a hatch in it. They consistently churn out dish after dish after dish of steaming, fragrant, tempting tasty goodness.
They seldom, if ever, appear in the dining area. I almost never ever see any of them. Sometimes one of them might zip out of the kitchen and straight down the stairs or out the door on some foody errand. In that case I will see a blur dressed in kitchen whites instead of in serving blacks.
Sometimes I stick my head in the kitchen after a meal to thank the kitchen team. At those times I see a blur of moving bodies dressed in whites, who pause for a moment to receive my gratitude. They do so with the air of polite people stumbling across something slightly puzzling and unexpected. They pause, smile, nod, and wait for me to close the door so they can carry on, which I do.
I always feel better if I can personally thank the people who are responsible for providing me with such high quality foodily delights as they do. I don’t always do that for the kitchen team in China House, because the kitchen is so small that opening the kitchen door kind of gets in their way. (that might explain why the kitchen door has a small hatch with a sliding panel in it, through which the fragrant, steaming dishes flow at a steady pace) My thanks do take up precious moments of their time, and they do work incredibly fast. So even if I don’t take the time to personally thank the kitchen team, I do always verbally thank the staff members in the dining area. :)
Besides which, I also try to leave a large tip. Even leaving a large tip never takes the bill much over €20 for two.
Update: Report On Beef With Cumin And Chilli
When kvetch returned with our fragrant parcel containing my beef with cumin and chilli, we neither of us could stand to wait very long before diving right in.
There were a few issues with our order. This tends to happen more often with takeaway than when eating in the restaurant (although it does happen sometimes when eating in China House). I think this might partly be because the spoken English of the waiting staff is still in its developmental stage, although it is detectably improving over time. When getting takeaway, the waiting staff doesn’t always visually see a menu item in front of them which matches the name of the dish being spoken, so misunderstandings sometimes happen. Also, to be fair to them, kvetch’s lip movements and enunciation when he speaks aren’t the clearest on the planet. So, adding the difficulties with speaking a foreign language learnt as an adult into the mix, I can easily imagine that those factors can combine to easily result in miscommunication.
On this occasion, we ended up with one boiled rice and one fried rice instead of two boiled rices (we both always have boiled rice when we have dishes with rice), and my beef with cumin and chilli had many onions in it (we both always request that our dishes be made without onions).
Fortunately they cut their onions in large pieces so they’re easy to remove.
Having said that, they do sometimes remember how we prefer things without us having to explicitly ask every time. For example, one time, I had my medicine out on the table ready to take, and I asked the hostess for a glass of water. She brought a glass of warm water with no ice, exactly as I prefer for taking my tablets, even though I hadn’t specified that. She must have seen the tablets on the table and used the visual cue to remember.
This is a problem I’m willing to tolerate, considering the other orgasmic benefits of eating at China House. :)
And the verdict on the beef with cumin and chilli?
I moaned with exquisite pleasure during the entire time I ate it. And then I collapsed from exhaustion from having been all pleasured out.
Enough said. :)