gall and gumption

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Note to Self, 4 a.m.

The word "fish" on a restaurant menu in Washington DC does not mean what it means on the West Coast. Fish on the West Coast is fish without batter.

I am not in the West but the South, where fish is smushed into a sort of paste coated (to put it mildly) in batter and deep fried in what I fear, at time of writing, might be recycled synthetic motor oil.

I had "fish tacos" for dinner at the neighborhood hipster bar with my friend J. Fish tacos! What do you think of when you hear that phrase, my West Coastians? Do you think of little chopped up bits of fish-flavored deep-fried salty crunchy and chewy spicy tasty mysteriousness with something that seems to be a sort of muffaletta sauce poured all over it? Delicious, but so, so wrong.

I mean, there I was in the hipster bar, not one of the "carryout" places (e.g., Chinese, Mexican, chicken, subs, all behind the one counter) with the tile walls that remind me of nothing so much as a Greyhound station restroom, and the plexiglas barricade and the phone cards and the miscellaneous this and thats people might need at 1 a.m., while they satisfy their craving for fried fish with fries and extra friediness plus a side of grease. And I was suddenly down South, under the rule of "what can't be deep fried probably isn't worth eating."

Update: Later the same day I go to Eastern Market on the pretext of buying peaches for the Holy Angels, but also because I hear they have a good lunch counter. And I can tell they do, there are people lined up. I look at the menu and it has two or three kinds of fish plus shrimp and oysters and crab cakes. Platters, combos, sandwiches. People are eating it up. In my mind I'm running down the list of items saying "Fried. Deep fried. In batter." I don't know why more people aren't dropping dead right in the streets from it, honestly.


At 12:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See Calvin Trillin's American Fried. That will set you straight.
Lovely tribute to Suzanne Farrell and Balanchine in earlier column. (Though I'm pretty sure if it was Farrell Jeff saw, he'd a known it!)

At 5:35 AM, Blogger Kia said...

That was me, PS, quoting myself and doing a sloppy attribution. I think mostly it was just wishful thinking on my part. The whole matter could have been cleared up if they had given out programs or had a poster with the names of the performers somewhere.

I think I read all Calvin Trillin's food books except that American Fried. I just remember going to a supermarket near where I worked in Prince Georges County, MD, a year or two ago, and they had all the usual fried things but also fried okra, fried broccoli, fried giblets, and hush puppies which from the look of them were just basically little happy bombs of superfried friediness. That all took place on Frieday, and that's when the line for the hot trays was longest.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Chuckling said...

It sounds like you're in Adams Morgan. If so, or when you are, there's a Peruvian place up the street from Florida on 18th. Great fish dishes, especially the sudado.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Mt. Pleasant, Chuckling. But thanks for the tip. I'm not far from Adams Morgan so I will make my way there at some time of the day when the streets aren't awash with expensively dressed staggering revelers from -- where do they all come from?

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Chuckling said...

I used to live in that mammoth apartment building at 16th and Columbia and walked around Mt. Pleasant all the time. Of course that was back in the "murder capital" days and the social scene was quite different. On my most recent visit, I noticed that Mt. Pleasant had become significantly yuppified. In my day, it was risky to go there at night. And now most of the great Eritrean restaurants are gone from Adams Morgan, replaced by upscale bars and restaurants (and Mexican). The only positive new development I see is the arrival of so many Peruvian restaurants. There's a great, inexpensive grilled chicken place right on Mt. Pleasant Street. Or there was a couple years ago, at least. I think the seafood place on 18th has "Rosa" in the name, but I may be wrong about that.

You've probably figured out that you can take a short walk down Harvard St. and get to the zoo. Ah, live Eritrean music, Doro Wat, so many days at Rock Creek Park - those were good times. The crack houses, constant stress and never-ending sirens -- well, that scene had it's charm for awhile, but it grew old quickly.


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