Friday, May 17, 2013

Nolo Contendre

Monday, May 13, 2013
If you have Nook or Kindle, you are fortunate to have access to Susan Schneider’s new novel, "Fire in My Ears."

Before I even sat down in West New Malaysia Restaurant in the Chinatown Arcade, between Elizabeth Street and the Bowery, I ordered roti canai ($3.75) as a starter, that wonderful Indian pancake to be dipped into a small bowl of curried chicken and potato. Then, the waiter and I discussed what was to follow. He urged me to try choy kway teow ($7.50), listed under noodles without any explanation. It turned out to be an excellent choice, chow fun noodles, thin sliced beef, shrimp, egg, scallions, bean sprouts and flecks of hot red pepper. The portion was large, making the choice even more satisfying.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Steve Schneider came downtown for lunch to celebrate the publication of Susan Schneider’s new novel, "Fire in My Ears." Steve and Susan are somehow related by marriage. We went to the brand new Cafe Hong Kong (no accent), 51 Bayard Street. It is the third restaurant at that location I’ve visited in slightly more than 40 months, replacing most recently Pho 88, a better-than-average Vietnamese restaurant. The Cafe appears to be related to the Hong Kong Station, a few doors down, and its sister establishment on Division Street, with the same color scheme and similar exterior design elements. However, the inside is quite different, offering a large, diverse menu and table service, unlike the informal, noodle-centric fare at Hong Kong Station. It has two round tables, about 6 four-tops and 10 two-tops, with just about every seat taken while we were there.

In addition to 56 noodle and rice dishes, 57 entrées, soups, congee, and an extensive beverage service, the Cafe offered steaks with side dishes of spaghetti. I think that they may be overreaching. In any case, Steve and I ordered 3 things from the 41-item lunch special list, all at $6.95. We chose shrimp with lobster sauce, Szechuan beef and chicken with cashew nuts. Each came with a bowl of white rice, but, save tea, nothing else. Portions were medium-small, and all the dishes were carefully prepared with fresh-tasting ingredients, yet rather bland.

The on-line New York Times has this headline today: "What Is the Right Way to Come Out as Bisexual at Work?" There is none. Shut up. I’m trying to do my work. Also, I’m not interested in your deeply-felt opinion of asparagus, cowboys, turtles, Woodrow Wilson or saxophones. Keep it to yourself until I ask. Group therapy begins after 6 PM.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Four soft shell crabs at Wo Hop downstairs for $10.95, and I didn’t even think that I was hungry.

Thursday, May 16, 2013
With the news consumed by Benghazi (a Republican masturbatory fantasy), and the appearance of real abuses of power at the IRS and the Associated Press, I need the sports pages more than ever. Lunch was also a pleasant diversion as I spent the hour with Marty the Super Clerk at 71 Thomas Street where I was assigned to assist with case scheduling conferences in the afternoon. We went, as we typically do, to Pecan Café, 130 Franklin Street, which offers somewhat-imaginative sandwiches (cranberry chicken, salmon burger, sweet potato), soups, and salads. The large space combines old-timey touches, such as an exposed brick wall and a tin ceiling, with track lighting and exposed duct work. Most folks order the lunch special, soup, small salad or half a sandwich, a bag of chips, a cookie or a fruit, and a drink for about $12. Pecan also has a coffee menu and, throughout the day, computer-wielding people 1/3 my age occupy the long wooden tables. Pecan isn’t Asian, although I believe some Israelis are involved, so it doesn’t alter my count.

Friday, May 17, 2013
I could have sworn that I ate at Pho Viet Huong, 73 Mulberry Street, early in this (ad)venture. It sits a couple of doors above Bayard Street on a stretch that I pass several times each week. Yet, in doing some research on local Vietnamese restaurants, I could not match its name to my lunches. Besides these musings, I keep a list of restaurants visited fitting the mandated criteria, East Asian, greater Chinatown vicinity, lunch. However, the list is merely a word processing document, not a spreadsheet or database, so information retrieval and analysis is admittedly crude. I went there today and am sorry that I didn’t get there sooner.

Pho Viet Huong looks like a dump from the outside, which may be a partial explanation why I ignored it. However, it is large, airy and roomy inside, with between 2 and 3 dozen tables. The menu is also large, over 200 items based on most familiar creatures that move on land, in the air and through the seas. I ordered barbecued beef, fried egg on broken rice ($7.50). Sayeth WikiPedia: "Co’m tâm, or broken rice, is a Vietnamese dish made from rice with fractured rice grains." The grains did look small, but were not otherwise unusual. They were piled high next to several thin slices of nicely grilled beef, a fried egg sitting on top of a tomato slice, and a cucumber slice. As in almost all other Vietnamese restaurants, five or so different sauces sat on the tables at Pho Viet Huong. I squeezed some dark, sweet stuff on the rice for variety. Very good in all, although prices on many main courses were in the mid to high teens, a couple of bucks more than some of its competitors.

The revelation that I missed a restaurant right under my nose is overshadowed by the next tale. I’ve complained in the past about not being discovered by all the TV and movie crews that populate the neighborhood around the courthouse for days on end. Well, I was caught on camera recently, but not under the most flattering circumstances.

For years, I’ve been irked by the condition of a terrace on a low floor directly below Palazzo di Gotthelf. It’s heaped with odds and ends, empty flower posts, discarded outdoor furniture, bags of planting materials, offering an ugly sight for the hundreds of people passing by each day, including potential buyers of semi-expensive apartments. The condition is also a violation of our building’s house rules and possibly New York City’s building code as well. The items may also be a threat during a storm and pose a fire hazard as they sit and rot. I have to pass by this mess every day, one, two, three, four times according to events.

I’ve mentioned this condition to members of the co-op board and other owner-occupants to no avail. I know the owner-occupant of the offending property by sight, but I never approached him, for better or worse, because I don’t like the cut of his jib, as we ancient mariners say. But, I’ve stewed day after day, year after year. So a couple of weeks ago, I printed a few sheets of paper calling terse, but polite, attention to the situation by unit number, and I pasted them in the building’s mailroom and in a back hallway on a couple of days. It doesn’t compare with that guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square or Freedom Riders on Greyhound buses, but I had to take a stand.

Well, the other day I received an expensively-delivered letter from the building’s law firm calling upon me to cease and desist from violating house rules by posting notices on the premises without permission. It seems that Grandpa Alan photographs very well on the building’s video surveillance equipment. First thing Thursday morning, I called the attorney who signed the letter and informed him that I have reacquainted myself with the house rules and will comply with them henceforth. He accepted my promise without the need for any confession. He also listened to my complaint and suggested how I might convey my concerns more efficaciously without running afoul of the authorities. I forgot to ask him for a print of the film, however, for that time in the future when I will want to recall my days as a delinquent.


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