“Why did you pick this place,” I asked Eugene as we warmed up inside Amarin Café, the “modern” Thai restaurant he chose that was surrounded by Polish restaurants in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
“Because we haven’t had Thai in a while and I looked at the menu and it’s cheap,” he replied.
I tend to struggle with my picks for our group; trying to find something a little different, unique in its own way and of course meeting our group’s budget criteria. Unlike mine, Eugene’s process seemed effortless. Why had I not thought of it before?
There were four of us waiting in the small restaurant; an open kitchen providing well needed heat. Rick had put himself on the temporarily “inactive” list for our group as he dealt with family issues. But Zio’s absence was a mystery. No one had heard from him. I texted to see if he was on his way.
In the meantime, we went ahead and ordered appetizers; fish cake, Thai spring rolls and something I had never seen before on a Thai menu, mussels “a la mariniere.”
There was no response from Zio, so I tried calling him. He picked up after several rings. “Where are you?” I asked.
“Home,” Zio said as if my question was a dumb one.
“We’re at the restaurant,” I told him. “About to order.”
“Restaurant? What are you talking about?” Zio tends to get flustered, but this was worrisome.
“The food group? It’s today.”
“I didn’t know anything about that,” he said, now comprehending the reason for my call. Apparently, for whatever reason, he never got any of mine or Eugene’s emails. It was now too late for him to get to our table in Greenpoint from Astoria before our appetizers arrived. We would remain only four.
Before I could hang up, the fish cake, spring roll and a steaming bowl of mussels arrived on our table. The fish cake and spring roll were standard Thai fare, but the “modern” mussels mariniere were nothing like you would find in a French Bistro or a New York Thai restaurant for that matter. The mussels were steamed in a herb broth made up of white wine, garlic, shallots and plenty of chopped Thai basil and chilies. The only thing missing was a loaf of crusty bread to soak up all that glorious broth. The lack of bread, however, didn’t stop Gerry from using his spoon and slurping it down like a soup.
The entrée decision came soon after we devoured the appetizers. As is our custom, we asked our waiter, one of two women also working the cash register, what the specialties were. She mentioned the “exotic” penang curry with salmon. Exotic curry appealed to me and I ordered it, but with chicken.
“How do you like it? Spicy?” she asked.
“I like it the way you like it,” I replied.
“I like it spicy, she said.
“Then so do I.” I nodded and she noted it on her pad.
“What’s the curry with the coconut milk? I want something with coconut milk,” Eugene barked to her.
“You like red curry then,” she said.
“If it has coconut milk, then I like it. With chicken,” he said, tossing his menu.
Mike from Yonkers ordered the same, but with shrimp while Gerry braved another offbeat Thai selection; the spinach spaghetti with shrimp. We rounded out our order with Pad Thai for the table.
A bowl of what looked like a tomato based curry was placed in front of me. There was chicken and a few other vegetables. I had a small taste. The heat of the spice instantly stimulated the nerve in my throat that controls my hiccupping reflex. The hiccups came despite swallowing some ice water and shoveling white rice into my mouth. Finally, my body adjusted to the spice and the hiccups subsided replaced now by a sheen of perspiration around my forehead. I had settled into hot sauce nirvana.
Eugene’s hiccups matched my own, though his red curry chicken was no match in terms of spice to my exotic Penang. Mike from Yonkers, deliberately mixing the white rice in with his red curry, taking his time to savor every curry-coated kernel didn’t have the same reaction as Eugene and I. And Gerry’s non-traditional Thai green spinach spaghetti coated in an Asian, cilantro, garlic and basil-based sauce, though not hiccup inducing, was a revelation.
“The only thing missing is a cold beer,” Gerry mentioned as we cleaned our plates.
“Maybe so,” Mike from Yonkers said. “But there is crème brulee on the menu.”
“Crème brulee? I don’t think so,” I said, maybe a little hastily after experiencing the anti-Thai mussels and spinach spaghetti. “Let’s go get some Polish vodka instead.” We were, after all in Greenpoint.
“Now you’re talking,” Gerry responded quickly rising from his seat.
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