Close Reading & Crazy People
It can be a struggle to get someone to try new things. This is especially the case with children.
Last night, we had to go to the Empire State Plaza for Little Miss Fussy. One of her paintings was selected to be in an installation in the concourse. But since that event was at 5:30pm and since our range was out of commission, it seemed like a perfect night to go out to dinner.
The kids wanted Taiwan Noodle. It’s one of their favorite places. But I remembered that we would actually be closer to Timmy’s which is one of our newer Chinese restaurants. The place has an incredible amount of buzz within the Yelp community, including from people who I trust.
Plus, I remembered seeing some beautiful pictures of their soup dumplings. So I convinced the children to step out of their comfort zone and try a new place. My argument is that I wouldn’t take them someplace that wasn’t great.
Tempting fate with hubris is never a good idea.
When we stepped into the restaurant, there was a guy eating at a table who was clearly a regular, and he was going to town on a dish of chow fun. He had a crazy energy about him, but was remarkably enthusiastic about the place in general. So I asked him about the chow fun, and he gave it a glowing report.
Young Master Fussy also happens to love chow fun, so this was encouraging. Dinner was shaping up into soup dumplings, beef chow fun, siu mai, and a small bowl of hot and sour soup for me. Remember, I’m on a diet, so I thought it better to supplement all of this meat and noodles with a bit of broth.
The results of this meal put the kids on the edge of tears.
The soup dumplings had thick grainy skins, a bland broth, and chunky tough meatballs. The chow fun was missing any wok char, and thus a layer of flavor, which also resulted in undercooked meat. The siu mai were fine, and perhaps the saving grace of the meal.
I’ve never seen my son eat one soup dumpling and refuse to eat another. He can typically go through a basket or two of them on his own.
Fortunately, the kitchen sent us out a plate of complimentary steamed custard buns, and the kids enjoyed those. I took a nibble of one, and split the remainder of that with the kids. I did the same thing with the fortune cookie, trying to salvage a little bit of their good will.
So, what went wrong here?
Well, for starters, I trusted a random person to make a recommendation. That’s never a good idea. But what about the average five star review on Yelp? Well, it turns out that most mentions of the soup dumplings were lackluster.
It’s really important to read the details of a review and deviate from specific recommendations at your peril. Just because a place can deliver a five star experience doesn’t mean everything the kitchen produces will be at the same level.
I know this. But an abundance of enthusiasm for soup dumplings and at the opening of a new Chinese restaurant, clouded my judgment. Otis had a great experience at Timmy’s ordering an entirely different array of dishes. So I am eager to return and try it again. Perhaps with friends, but definitely not with kids.
It’s going to take some time to get the kids’ trust back. I made them a promise that the next meal out will be to Taiwan Noodle to make up for last night’s unfortunate outing. But it’s an important lesson that’s been relearned.
Read reviews closely, and don’t take food advice from random strangers on the street.