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The Bangles Week: Eternal Flame

May 9, 2018

Dammit. It’s my blog. If I declare it’s The Bangles Week, it’s The Bangles Week. In our heart of heart’s we know the post about Vic, Two Buttons Deep, and the Utica pizza joint is totally perfect for “Manic Monday”.

Maybe the lyrics of “Eternal Flame” are entirely vapid. But the song is all about a deep longing. It’s a longing I have, and I suspect that many share. Sure, the song isn’t technically about a longing for international cuisines, cooked by hands with a deep knowledge of the food and culture, and served to eager consumers who want as true a taste of place as possible in a foreign land.

But it could be. Do you feel the same? Or am I only dreaming?

Here’s the thing. Yesterday -R took issue with calling Bon Appetit Cafe an Egyptian restaurant. And his reasoning is certainly valid. The presence of one signature dish does not define a restaurant’s identity. However, there is a larger issue at play.

How many Chinese restaurants aren’t actually Chinese restaurants? I mean, what’s Chinese about General Tso’s Chicken? How Japanese are our sushi places?

I don’t know how far you were able to make it through Ugly Delicious, or if you were even able to make it through the first pizza episode. At some point in the show there was a great thing about Chinese restaurants opening, where the family decided to put away their traditional Chinese recipes, and serve only American food.

People will say they want more interesting dining options. Then an excellent Burmese place opens, and people think perhaps maybe it’s too interesting.

Anyone remember Shwe Mandalay?

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I want the flexibility to be able to define a restaurant based on the knowledge, capability, and passion of the chef and owner. Of course, this doesn’t make sense in every instance. If a French chef has a love for Texas BBQ and opens up a smokehouse focused entirely on brisket, I’m not going to call that a French restaurant.

In the case of Bon Appetit Cafe, I see the owners dipping their toe into the water, and taking the temperature of eaters in the Capital Region. “Let’s put one Egyptian dish on the menu, and see what happens.”

Owning a restaurant is a terrible job. It’s an awful way to make money, and it’s a brutal way to live. Margins are slim. Hours are long. Failure is almost inevitable. So I don’t blame those who stake their livelihoods on this segment of the economy for trying to produce a product that sells.

In an office building on Wolf Road, that’s salads, sandwiches, and wraps.

The fact that there is even one Egyptian dish on the menu at all is a small miracle. And while it broke my heart a little, I wasn’t entirely surprised that no previous review for Bon Appetit Cafe mentioned the Koshari. I did not see anyone else order it while I was in the restaurant. And I have to wonder if they sell more than a small handful of order on any given week.

My hope is that you—yes, you—will go there soon, try it, love it, and tell your friends all about it. And then hopefully, some of them might go out and repeat the cycle.

Should the owners come to see a higher demand and interest in Egyptian food, they may put on another dish as a special. If that does well, maybe they will develop an entire Egyptian section of the menu. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll expand to open a fully Egyptian restaurant.

Perhaps other budding entrepreneurs see a thriving Egyptian restaurant in Albany. It might give them the encouragement to open, I don’t know, maybe an Ethiopian place?

Because right now, despite the rise in some truly fine Chinese restaurants that are actually serving bona fide Chinese food, the Capital Region doesn’t have the most adventurous diners. It’s something we need to work on, and hopefully you’re up for helping with the task.

This is the kind of wistful optimism that was so well expressed at the end of Eternal Flame,

Say my name, sun shines through the rain
A whole life so lonely
And then you come and ease the pain
I don’t want to lose this feeling

Now get out there and eat!

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