“I’m not mad,” I insist, sliding into the driver’s seat.
I throw my umbrella into the backseat, slam the door shut and turn to face my friend. “I’m… annoyed.”
She makes an apologetic face. “I’m sorry. I was the one that suggested Thai…”
I brush her off with a dismissive sweep of my hand. “No, I picked the restaurant. I wanted to come here.”
“Don’t think about…” She starts.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if they hadn’t told me to get the soy sauce noodles.” I interrupt. “They practically made me get them! I told them I wanted curry!” I sputter as I aggressively poke at the radio.
Ashley and I have just finished dinner at Celadon Thai Kitchen in Culver City, a new Thai restaurant that I’d been excited to try after the favorable report in the LA Times. I’d gone in with high expectations for the fresh, some-what health-conscious fare – so high that I hadn’t even minded that the nine-table restaurant is located in a strip mall. By a Papa John’s. And doesn’t take reservations. Or have a liquor license (yet).
I’ll save money! I told myself. I don’t always have to have wine – preferably a Sauvignon Blanc or spicy/robust red – when I go out to dinner. I can subsist on water. Water and delicious soul-comforting curry that will make me forget about the $50 parking ticket I got this morning.
I was convinced it would be great – fabulous even! The perfect way to turn around what had been a terrible, no good, very bad day.
And it was. Until it came time to order.
“How is the red curry?” I’d asked hopefully, looking to our server for reinforcement that the dish I wanted was, in fact, the dish I wanted. I needed his approval before I committed -- the smile that said, “Girl, you have zeroed in on the best item on the menu! Well done, you!”
Instead, our server surveyed me for a moment before responding, “It’s… spicy.”
My shoulders slumped back. “Oh.”
He pointed out the chicken curry to me – a yellow curry with carrots and potatoes, hardly the feast of brightly colored vegetables I was craving. He also graced me with an enthusiastic smile when I inquired about the soy sauce noodles -- flat rice noodles with broccoli and egg and my choice of protein ($7.95). It was the smile I’d wanted to accompany my mention of the red curry, not the gentrified pad see ewe dish.
“I think we need a minute,” Ashley said, coming to my rescue like she always does when she isn’t busy trying to get me to drink hard alcohol or take shots at a mutual friend’s wedding in New York.
A few minutes later a different server returned to our table for our order. Like the smiling chap that proceeded her, she shooed me away from my coveted curry with sweet basil, kabocha squash, red and green peppers ($7.95).
“You order the panang curry,” She told Ashley, upon hearing that my friend likes things spicy. “And you order the soy sauce noodles.”
“Okay.” I said finally, regretting the words as soon as they came trudging out of my mouth.
But I pressed on with my capricious optimism. I ate my half of the Celadon summer rolls, rice paper wrapped around mixed greens, tofu, sweet basil, and rice noodles ($5.95), and pretended not to notice that the accompanying mustard was the best part.
And I tried to pretend not to mind when my entrée -- a mass of limp noodles – arrived at the table looking decidedly underwhelming. Ultimately it proved to be too hard a task for me on that day – that terrible, no good, very bad day.
My head swelled with anger as I funneled the bland plate of picky white girl food into my mouth. The restrained amount of chicken and broccoli did nothing to assuage my disappointment that would only worsen when I tasted Ashley’s panang curry with tofu. The lush coconut-brown curry sauce enrobed my flavor-parched tongue with its bright spicy notes, mocking me with its pungency. It was the dish I had wanted – the dish I’d been craving. The dish that could have turned my terrible, no good, very bad day around.
“I should have gone with my gut.” I tell Ashley when we arrive outside her apartment later that night.
She nods, not knowing what to say. Knowing, perhaps, that there’s nothing that can be said or done to stall my bad mood.
Nothing except the salve for many of my emotional wounds: A bowl of Soy Creamy Cherry Chip ice cream.
After a pit stop at Trader Joe’s and a ten-minute interlude spent searching for the key I drop on the wet strip of street by my apartment, I finally eat (some) of my bad feelings away.
Some, but not all of them.
When I go to bed, I’m not cursing the parking attendant who leapt upon my poor defenseless car that morning; I’m cursing the blandest dish I’ve ever encountered at a Thai restaurant. And cursing myself for not getting the darn red curry that I wanted.
Celadon Thai Kitchen
13364 West Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90066-5108