Thursday, September 15, 2011

Eating Out the Staycation

Howdy folks!  Hope you all have had a wonderful heat-tastic Fresnummer.  As you might have noticed, I took most of the flamethrower months off to be broke and watch my front lawn crisp up like a cruton.  There's nothing like 100 degree temps to mash your apathy button until at least the evenings are tolerably cool.

But though I did not write, I did still eat!  And being me, I forgot to bring my camera pretty much every single time.  But that doesn't mean I still can't give a shout out to the Taj Mahal on west Shaw for their amazing naan selection and heating up their chicken vindaloo past the usual "white boy" level for a delicious meal that was wonderfully spicy, but not so much that I couldn't finish my meal.  But it did help a bit to chase it with a couple high powered Indian lagers.

And my favorite restaurant that I discovered during my "blackout period", Luby's Chinese.  Now, before you all grab torches and string me up for eating north of the Shaw border into Mordor.  Let me preface this by noting that his original location was in the old Bullard loop and that it's owned and operated by the same awesome character known only as "Tom".   And Tom is the shit.  He still remembers every regular he's ever had from his original location and he remembers exactly what they want and how they want it. 

I was brought across the DMZ by a friend and chef to experience what he called "The best goddamn Chinese food ever".  And since he way buying, I was down.  After the personal greeting, we were promptly seated and had cold beers in our fists.  Without evening opening the menu he asks "Mongolian beef, extra hot?" to which we both emphatically say YES!  And then he has a wicked gleam in his eye, to which my culianry guide says "Please Tom, edibly painful", to which Tom laughs and acquiecses.

While we wait, I peruse the menu and notice that there are vegetarian options for almost every single dish.  My host noted that in each case, Tom is able to flavor and manipulate the tofu in such a way that even seasoned meat eaters would swear that there is beast in their meal.  And thats a big compliment considering how delicious the Mongolian beef was!  It was tender slices of seared beef, bathed in a cauldron of simmering pepper flavor.  And oh brother was it hot!  It rode right along my tolerable heat line.  But it tasted so amazing, and yes you could totally taste the beef and the sauce around and through the heat.  But the "Aha! moment" of the dish was when I mistakenly took my first break from madly shoving beef and rice into my gob.  About 30 seconds after I began resting my jaws, the heat suddenly started to take off!  Building to a sweaty, nose running cresendo that could only be put off by eating more of the dish.  Poor me!

And as we reclined in our fullness, me fairly certain that flames were licking out of the corner of my mouth from the final bonfire in my talking hole.  I found great love and respect for Luby's.  I got exactly what I wanted in my meal and my heat level.  I like to be challenged with a spicy meal, it tells me that the chef is paying attention to ALL of their dishes and care enough to tailor them to make the eater happy.  Not to mention that we were stuffed to the gills on 1 dish a piece and a split order of eggrolls.  Top it off with what a warm, fun and genuine character Tom is and I think my buddy wasn't exaggerating when he said that Luby's really was the best Chinese food around.  And don't think that Luby's is just some sort of heat merchant.  I like my hot stuff, but Luby's menu is less than 10% spicy.  So don't fear that your fried rice will fry your tongue.

I know we're all broke as hell these days.  So do what I did!  Find some lucky schmuck rolling in dough and get his money-bag ass to take you out to Luby's!  Hard times don't mean you can't find a way to hustle up a grand meal.