A Vegetarian in King’s Dominion, Implied Asterisk

La mujer que llora (Pablo Picasso, 1937)

Happy Monday, an entire week spent prepping for the ordeal, forsaking all animal proteins save dairy (I’d give up meat before I gave up dairy), starting with back-to-back-to-back Indian at Masala Art, Indian Ocean, and Delhi Club, preferences looking something like this, apps, 1a) Tandoori Chicken Wings (Delhi Club), (could only look, longingly, from across the table), the same awesome wings served at Bombay Curry Company, some of the best wings in the DC area (try and see for yourself), dip in raita for a Buffalo wing effect, 1b) Samosas (Delhi Club), perfectly seasoned and fried, as good as any I’ve had in ages, try with a couple drops of tamarind and coriander chutneys, mains, 1) Dal Panchrattan (Masala Art), ethereal, light-colored lentils (five types), not long-cooked and doesn’t need to be, 2) Aloo Gobhi (Delhi Club), simple with flawless execution, 3) Baingan Mirch ka Salan (Masala Art), eggplant in a spicy sesame sauce, a touch sesame-e, but complex (my bias in favor of Southern Indian is showing here) 4) Saag Paneer (Delhi Club), again, strong execution from Delhi Club 5) Saag Paneer (Masala Art), a creamier, paler version, 6) Daal Maharani (Indian Ocean), black lentils (four types) cooked overnight in a clay pot, soupy and good, 7) Aloo Anardana (Masala Art), potatoes were undercooked, tomato-based sauce too simple 8) Saag Paneer (Indian Ocean), oddly (and needlessly) spiced, breads, 1) Rock Salt & Cilantro Nan (Masala Art), as good as it sounds, 2) Pudina Paratha (Delhi Club), 3) Pudina Paratha (Masala Art), 4) Keema Kulcha (Delhi Club), (could only look from across the table), 5) Mehti Paratha (Indian Ocean), 6) Kabuli Naan (Indian Ocean), insertion of raisins, raita, 1a) Indian Ocean, 1b) Masala Art, 3) Indian Ocean, Indian Ocean’s tasting like bad, creamy Italian salad dressing, watery and sugary, dessert, 1) Gulab Jamun (Delhi Club), overall, 1a) Masala Art, interesting, complex, unique in this area, the highest highs, 1b) Delhi Club, underrated, simple but solid execution without a single miss, 3) Indian Ocean, not a good showing on this evening but the best pickles of the three, a brutal, sensational mix done in olive oil, Thai never tasted so good, once again, for the third time in 2011, Thai Noy came through without a single miss, Veggie Pad Thai, and, along with the Dal Panchrattan at Masala Art, the Eggplant Basil was the best dish I had all week, a vibrant, deep purple alongside the deep, green basil, this could have been a still life, at this point, I hesitate to call Thai Noy merely a “neighborhood” restaurant because it’s one of the best Thai restaurants in the DC area, no MSG at Thai Noy, funny how the vegetable-heavy diet became starchier and starchier as the week moved forward, three homemade pastas at Argia’s, Cappellini Fresca with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato, garlic, and olive oil, Linguine with Clams, (could only look from across the table), Mushroom Ravioli with Cream Sauce, all showing Argia’s at its best, as many times as I’ve eaten here, it never sunk in that they had a patio until we had dinner on it, hoping to continue our winning streak, things screached to a halt the next evening at Piero’s Corner, advertising “Coal Oven” pizza on the sign outside, only wood was seen burning, perhaps supply issues, still, I wouldn’t have gone, a Buffalo Margherita had respectable toppings, if heavy on the cheese, but standard-issue, flavorless crust, with very little char, paper thin in the middle which minimized the damage, many pastas are homemade, but sauced to death, Celine’s Ravioli a weak cousin to the Mushroom Ravioli at Argia’s, there was so much sauce that I didn’t realize there was spinach (along with the mushrooms) in the stuffing until just now, Ravioli Croccante a ricotta-dominated, three-cheese ravioli that was too much like the pizza in terms of being starch, tomato, and lots of cheese, half price, sort of, on a bottle of pleasant Frascati, $40 discounted to $20, post-tax, these pastas aren’t bad, but they lack finesse, minimalist decor if you consider absence of decor minimalist, (*) aka a snowball in Hell, right at the front gate of King’s Dominion is Guest Services, and anyone with dietary restrictions should go there and request a copy of the latest “Special Dietary Needs” printout, the situation is desperate but not hopeless (I heard this on the Flintstones when I was young), there is a list of, and I quote, gluten-free foods, vegetarian/healthier options, use of peanuts and peanut oil, sugar-free options, and an advisory that “King’s Dominion does not offer foods that comply with the guidelines established” for Kosher or Halal foods although a couple stands do offer Gardenburger Organic Veggie Patties (made by Kellogg’s) which are Kosher (and vegan), I couldn’t do it, and I did about as well as you can do here by going to Panda Express and getting a plate of Mixed Veggies (broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and celery, quickly stir-fried in a giant wok) and steamed rice, this is all very healthy and non-invasive, but a side order of Veggie Spring Rolls was laden with sodium (Panda Express says they don’t add MSG, but that doesn’t preclude salt), and vampire-killing levels of garlic, a Dippin’ Dots Jones shortly to follow, kiddie cup of chocolate mint and vanilla, Dippin’ Dots (also Kosher) an early practitioner of cryogenic molecular gastronomy, what better soft landing than dinner at Zaytinya, the bar empty, the polite, well-meaning bartender fumbling through recipes, the patio full, the busser hustling and doing his job and other people’s jobs too, most of the service staff tired and sick of it all, wanting summer to end, wanting to close, wanting customers to go home, Gin Rickeys, puff pita, olive oil and balsamic (pointless, unbalanced undertone of vanilla), Hommus (good, balanced), Baba Ghannouge (good, unbalanced undertone of sweet pickle), Kolokithodeftedes (harmless, balanced), Grape-Leaves Dolmades (mushy, unbalanced overtone of sweetness), Piyaz (imported warm giant beans, kale oven-roasted tomato, garlic, the star of the meal), Peynirli Pide Flat Bread (Turkish tomato sauce with cinnamon and oregano, haloumi cheese, surprisingly unexotic, NB this had more char than the pizza I had at Piero’s Corner), “Do you want to ask for the check and have them bring you one more gin rickey?” “No, I don’t feel welcome here,” “That’s because you aren’t welcome here,” the aloof server folding the umbrella above us, silently telling us to get out right at 10 PM, it’s as if he had spent the whole day at King’s Dominion, around children and noise, desperately wanting to leave and be around real people, leave and unwind for a nice, relaxing, dinner on a patio, or sink into the long, plush, cushioned banquette with an adult drink at Quill, the final two customers, welcomed with open arms and treated with respect, the staff genuinely polite and courteous, the lounge modernly lit, and deceptively clubby looking, when we opened the cocktail menu, my dining companion said, out of nowhere, much to my surprise, “I invented this drink,” “What drink?” “The Saphire on the Bayou, we even called it the same thing,” the bar manager at Quill used to be her bar manager as well, ha, busted, two Saphires on the the Bayou, cucumber, tonic water, jalapeño-infused Bombay Saphire, as good as any gin-based drink I’ve ever had, muddled and shaken perfectly, flavor intense even at the bottom of the (ice-filled) glass, execution and service exceptional, a perfect, relaxing, end to a frenetic day, and the (!) on my self-imposed, run-on sentence, I survived, but boy could I use a piece of fish, how was your leek.

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