2001 4th Ave
Years ago I went to this cooking show thing in the Convention Center. It was a pretty good bargain because wine tastings cost $1 each. Thirty tastings later I was drunk, stuffed full of free samples of pork sausage from Larry's Market, and dangerously close to jumping fully clothed into the liquid chocolate fountain. Eventually I found myself talking to this scruffy dude with a booth. He mentioned that he was a restauranteur. Later I was astonished to see the scruffy dude's picture on the cover of a cookbook. Turns out it was celebrity scruffy dude Tom Douglas. I was intrigued, since I don't get to talk to famous people very often. Once I tried to heckle that dreadlocked sucker from Counting Crows. “Hey Counting Crows,” I yelled, “you suck!” That really would have caused his world to come crashing down, I'm sure. Luckily for him he didn't hear that mind bendingly awesome put down.
Anyway, I wanted to see for myself why Tom Douglas is so famous, so I went to one of his restaurants, the Dahlia Lounge. I opened with the veal sweetbreads. What are sweetbreads? Thyroid gland, gringos. Before I have to sit through your choruses of “Ewwww!” let me say this: 1) what the fuck are you, a third grader? and 2) considering the only partially edible BULLSHIT (cough! Hot Pockets! cough!) I see commercials for on TV, you assholes who think sweetbreads are disgusting should fuck off, but not before you realize that at LEAST they are pure, recognizable animal parts, and not a fucking bunch of frankenstein's lips and/or asshole. The veal sweetbreads were almost delicious: deep fried to a crispy golden brown, spongy, moist and sweet on the inside. Ahhh, veal, the cruelest of foods! It wasn't perfect, though. Those crispy awesome sweetbreads were desecrated by a nightmarish bernaise sauce, which was GRAINY, a sure sign that the egg yolks in it had curdled. At $11, this dish was just sad, and ONLY because of the shitty sauce! Pity.
Fortunately, the bread salad ($9) was delightful. Mixed greens were tossed with tomatoes, mozzarella, coppacola, and grilled bread. The bread was smoky, slightly salty, and deliciously chewy. The mild vinaigrette, creamy mozzarella, and croutons went well with the spicy coppacola. You ever watch The Sopranos? They inexplicably pronounce coppacola “gobbagoo.” What the fuck is gobbagoo? A Ramones song?
The mixed greens salad ($7.50) was solidly constructed, tossed with a zesty, lemony dressing which was buffered by goat cheese crostini. A perfectly serviceable salad, and no complaints here. Luckily I'm so easy to please. Note how I wrote that last sentence without a trace of irony. Fuck you if you think I'm hard to please.
The Peking duck was cooked perfectly, as I'd expect: the skin was crispy as fuck, and the meat beneath was so moist and soft it was bad ass! Unfortunately it reeked of too much Chinese five- spice powder. The fried rice was too salty, and contaminated with too many chunks of that skinny Chinese sausage that looks suspiciously like hot dogs. It was a let down, and it set me back $25.
For dessert was the crème caramel. It was okay, though for $8 you could go to Dilettante Chocolates on Broadway and get the same thing and a coffee, or a rock of crack. The homemade donuts ($8) were deliciously decadent! Lightly dusted in cinnamon and sugar, they were soft and pillowy and served with homemade strawberry jam AND mascarpone.
In the final analysis, I wasn't impressed, but sadly it doesn't matter. Why doesn't it matter? Because Tom Douglas is rich. Why is Tom Douglas rich? Because his recipes are accessible. He took out the “gross” parts of French and Asian cuisine, and left the lazy stuff in, so that his food is really just shorthand for other, better food. I'm not going to say the stuff we had at the Dahlia Lounge wasn't good. In fact, it WAS damn good. But it wasn't transcendent, which is what I expected. If you want an awesome meal go to Restaurant Zoe, and
you'll save yourself about $50. Then you can roll up the fifty dollar bill you saved and snort some coke off a stripper's ass. If you don't heed my words, that $50 will end up going into Tom Douglas's pocket, and he'll get to snort coke off a stripper's ass. Only he's so rich, it won't be cocaine, it'll be powdered unicorn horn. And it won't be a stripper's ass, it'll be Jenna Bush's. And he won't use a rolled up fifty, he'll use the Shroud of Turin.
Rating: 6 lines of powdered unicorn horn snorted off Jenna Bush's ass out of 10.