Thursday, February 11, 2016

"I'll have the skate fish"


There I sat, looking at the menu and my appetite was leaning toward something light.

One of my friends ordered the porterhouse pork chop, and it was served on a bed of lentils. I was this close to ordering the pork chop. A pork chop, no less a porterhouse, done well is dynamite. In the restaurant we were in, I knew it would be perfection, but I just can't do lentils. A mouthful of lentils is as appealing to me as a mouthful of walnuts. They just feel meely. Like a thick steak. It's work to chew, and scant pieces remain in my mouth, even after I've swallowed.

The sauce atop the pork chop sounded blissful, but since I couldn't get past the lentils, I let my friend order that and devour it on my behalf.

(Looking at the menu now, for today, the porterhouse is being served over sauteed gnocci. Had that been the case, I would've ordered that, hands-down. Actually, looking at the menu right now, I would order everything on the dinner menu.)

The wives ordered an extravagant version of chicken and waffles. They were decadent. The chicken thighs were braised in red wine, served over a rosemary, apple waffle, and the sample bite I got to have was perfection.

I passed on the pork, and since two people at the table already ordered the same thing, I decided on fish for my meal. It was light, served with a bed of angel hair pasta and parmesan cheese flakes. Sure, it wasn't overly fancy, but it was my first choice, and I've learned over time to go with my first choice.

When the waiter came to take our orders, I looked up and said, "I'll have the skate fish."

Skate fish. I had never heard of it. On the menu, it was described as a mild, white fish. I wasn't feeling gastronomically adventurous, and a light, white fish, perhaps like a cod, done just right in this little, fancy restaurant was the perfect fit for my appetite. I love fish. Steph does not. My chance to eat it is when we go out.

We chatted, drank, finished our cheese board, and then in the midst of salads, our entrees arrived.

The pork porterhouse was a slab of pink meat practically an inch thick with balanced sear marks crisscrossing across the surface. The ladies had a saucy, stew-like chicken concoction on top of thick waffles. They took bites. And melted. It was both rich and savory, and they knew take-home containers were in their future.

I had to wait for my dish a few beats.

Once it was placed in front of me, two long strips of white fish, seared side down, surrounded a small bed of angel hair pasta with giant flakes of parmesan. The menu description did not lie, but the scent of my dinner wafted up at me. And it didn't smell like fish.

*1 Creative Commons Attribution Below
I get it that good parmesan isn't always the most fragrant, but it wasn't just the scent of the cheese atop the pasta. The fish just didn't look right. Weird grooves engraved in the flesh of the skate fish were off-putting. It was too late, however, and I picked up my fork and tried a bite of fish and pasta.

It tasted good. Nothing, really, about my meal was wrong. The fish was perfectly cooked. It was buttery and flakey. The pasta was delicious. The huge flakes of parmesan were a cheese-lover's dream. Really, I ordered a great dish, yet I still was unsettled with it for some reason.

And as I continued eating -- it occurred to me that I blindly ordered a fish I had never heard of.

So, I pulled out my phone to see what it looked like.

This was a mistake.

Here's my dire warning to all people trying new foods: just eat it. Don't second guess it, especially if it doesn't taste funky. Sure it might be unsightly, but just close your eyes. Lean in. Take a bite. Repeat.

I wasn't expecting the site on my screen, but it was too late. My appetite was ruined.

*2 Creative Commons Attribution Below
"THAT is a skate fish? I'm eating that?"

My appetite turned. Already suffering from a bout of random anxiety, it pushed further down to my stomach, and eating this "exotic" fish became almost impossible as I began to feel some acid reflux (from years past) urp up.

Steph found an article from New York Times stating how skate is the new "A-List" fish at NYC restaurants, and so with that in mind, I continued to force-feed myself with my pinky in the air ala Pete Wells.

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*1 Photo by Kent Wang, used under the Creative Commons License 
*2 Photo by Neil DeMaster, used under the Creative Commons License