By Diane Ako
At a restaurant, I always order the same thing. I am boring like that. I make no apologies. I might have a rotating choice of five favorites off the menu, but when I know what I like, I like to expect to eat that.
We've been dining at Pho Mai on King Street for eight years. We love it. It's light, healthy, and delicious, with a really nice Vietnamese man who I presume owns it, and is always gracious upon seeing us. He's seen me and my husband go in as newly married people, as a pregnant couple (which I did weekly when I was pregnant- the soups! To die for!), and now the occasional dinner out with our daughter. If a story could be told through the snapshots of dinners, he would know ours.
We went in last week for lunch. The nice man (I really should learn his name- it's not like me to not know for so long) greeted us warmly then turned to me. "The usual, #26?" he asked.
"Yes," I responded. I had already told Claus in the car I was looking forward to #26.
Claus laughed at this little interchange and shook his head. It happens every time, without fail. Eight years of #26. Well, expect that period when I was pregnant and coming in every week. Then I changed it up, got crazy, went wild. But if I only come quarterly, what's wrong with enjoying my favorite dish?
Sometimes I stray from my path and I'm richly rewarded with a new dish to add to my favorites list. Sometimes I am disappointed, like recently at our neighborhood favorite. I almost always order Linguini with Garlic Clam Sauce. Sometimes Linguini with Garlic Mushroom Sauce. If seeking meat, then Lasagna. I felt daring and ordered Veal Marsala. It was prepared beautifully but... I didn't like it.
I ate enough to feel satisfied and I gave the rest to Claus to finish. I hate that. I really delight in going to town on a dish, savoring the flavors with each bite, then relishing that full feeling after. I like when I like the dish so much, I eat a few more bites past fullness. With Veal Marsala, I ate enough to sate the hunger, and then I sat there and downed the wine.
So, over the weekend when we went to a Chinese restaurant with my parents (it actually should be assumed with my mom present, that Dinner Out= Chinese food) I ordered Ma Po Tofu and Crispy Gau Gee Min. Claus laughed.
"There 180 choices on this menu and you go to your five favorites. Every. Single. Time," he poked at me.
I was still smarting from the less-than-enjoyed Veal Marsala. "I like the same old thing. I'm loyal to my favorites." Then I peered hard at him. "You should feel lucky."
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