Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

SEA - A Restaurant Review



I don’t know why I decided to return to SEA. Perhaps it was because I had a wild hair to begin a whirl wind tour of the neighborhood’s Asian restaurants. There are after all, tons of them, so why not begin here? Although the flashy restaurant had opened scads of years ago, I had only eaten there one time, right at the beginning of its inception. Even though my meal was most likely baptized by several Makers Marks, I distinctly remember ordering their “Volcanic Chicken.” I remember being non-plus about the experience. With a dish named Volcanic Chicken, I expected a hot & sizzling platter at least. I remember anticipating what kind of Thai wizardry they were about to bestow upon me. I still worked at Danny’s in Hell’s Kitchen, so I knew Thai Food. I also knew real Thai Food and I was nothing less than disappointed when a slab of snarling, dried, nappy looking half of a chicken arrived at my table. It looked as though it had been kept warm within a tanning bed for several days and as it was placed in front of me, I vaguely remember that it bounced a little. The rest of the experience was lost in a Makers Mark fog.

That was then and this was now. It was a crisp night and as I stood in front of the restaurant, curiously gazing at the large Buddha, surrounded by SEA’s popular reflecting pool, I suddenly found myself asking to eat at the bar. Even though I don’t drink anymore, I am still a bar denizen and still feel more comfortable there when eating alone. I was informed that there was no food allowed at the front bar, but I was welcome to sit at the back bar and eat. Now, eating alone at the back of the restaurant, turned away from the crowds of people, wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I asked for a table for one and was seated (lucky me) right next to the Buddha, floating amid the stagnate waters of the reflecting pool. I was reminded by the Postcard Menu, that “SEA” had been serving Thai Food on North 6th Street for eight years now. SEA actually arrived just in time for the gentrification of Williamsburg. Hands down, SEA managed to destroy Planet Thailand which closed last year, was bat-shit lucky that “Sex & The City” decided to shoot a popular episode there and last by not least, SEA had forever transformed North 6th Street into Williamsburg’s answer to Manhattan’s trashy and swanky “Meat Packing District.”

SEA is dark. With the one candle provided me, I was barely able to read the Postcard Menu which oddly, did not furnish prices. There it was on page four of the menu; Volcanic Chicken. Eight years later and they still have the same entrees. Maybe this was a good sign, maybe this was a bad sign, I would just have to see. I decide to order the “Tim Tom Fritters,” which were deep fried chicken and shrimp fritters in a sweat and sour chili sauce. For my entrée, I ordered “Shrimp in Clay Pot.” Since the restaurant was full, I couldn’t help but notice that with the restaurant’s color scheme, I felt as though I was sitting in the middle of a huge version of the 1980’s electronic game, “Simon Says.” There was vivid Green to the right, Red straight ahead, Yellow to my left, just past the Buddha and Blue behind me. I was waiting forever and began to think I was in a Pee Wee Herman nightmare sequence, with none-stop cacophonies of screeching “Happy Birthdays” surrounding me and I tried to ignore the hideous people, music and atmosphere, by reading SEA’s ridiculous nifty tropical drink menu. Then the food came.

The fritters were okay, if not full of gristle, and what was described on the menu as a “sweet & sour chili sauce,” turned out to be nothing but the same sweet sauce that we used to serve at Danny’s with nearly every appetizer. The thick red goo was no doubt, straight out of the bottle and direct from the distributor. The shrimp were huge, overcooked and served with a never-ending array of slimy vegetables. They were indeed served in a clay pot, but the pot was so high off the table that the damned candle was no help at all in detecting what it was I was eating. I could have been eating Tripe in Squid Ink Sauce Excrementus for all I knew, because I truly couldn’t see a thing. My mind began to wander back a block away to the Mac n Cheese setting on my shelf at home. I quickly ate the greasy fritters (at least I could see them) and then started in on my meal. Blind as a bat I sat, pulling out strings of Vermicelli and over-pungent chunks of Ginger. I discovered that the shrimp was actually better in the sauce out of a bottle than it was in the ginger sauce. I tried getting through the meal, silently wishing I had given the “Volcanic Chicken” another chance.

Suddenly, out of the Simon Says green section, I was startled by a voice that had suddenly darted and sat across from me at my small table.
“Hi!”
A grown woman starred at me, with one of those nifty tropical drinks in her hand, smiling so wide I thought her face would crack like baked brick.
“It’s my birthday and I want to push the boat!!!”
I hadn’t noticed that a small boat of flowers, floating in the reflecting pool, was heading straight for us. Her smile continued to stair me down as I chewed my over-cooked shrimp and quietly watched the boat wearily approaching my table. Birthday girl pushed the boat back across the pool as another chorus of “Happy Birthday” erupted across the restaurant.
“Weeeee!!!” I’m Drunk!”
The moment came when, like Walter Mitty, I contemplated pushing the broad and her nifty fancy drink, straight into the pool and the flower-filled boat. Instead, I called for the check and moved away from the Buddha and closer towards the front door. I fled into the crisp night air as a white limo pulled up to the front door.

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