Restaurant Review 2: Pennang/Karma, The Washingtonian, Gaithersburg MD

June 27, 2011

So, Founding Farmers was probably the fanciest place we ate all weekend. I’d like to mention the other places we ate, and then describe to you a place that deserves special mention. Cafe Berlin, near the Capitol, was okay but somewhat overpriced, I assume because all our crooked congressmen eat there and they’ve got cash to flash. There’s a Persian place a block from my house called Johnny Kabob, and it was wonderful (they even have authentic gross Persian beverages). We went to a Mexican place in D.C. that looked like a set from C.S.I. Miami, and while my lovely date’s opinion was firm that there should be no such thing as a $30 burrito, they made a guacamole that literally ruined my shoes because my socks were knocked off, metaphorically speaking. We have no idea what the name was; the receipt doesn’t say and the business card I took from the waiter is for a auto repair in Minneapolis. Oh, and on Thursday, I made clam/mussel/blue crab/shrimp/crawfish green curry with sticky rice. Ladies love my sticky rice.

Around 3 PM on Sunday, we went to a place called Pennang/Karma. Two restaurants in one! It’s in a place called The Washingtonian, a strange gated-community without gates sort of place, where condos loom over a main street that is so wholesome small America that it looks like a set from a crummy 1950s movie. The place creeps me out. Pennang/Karma is a Malaysian/Indian restaurant that looked pretty fancy and I thought would make a nice place for a date. I’m not going to tell you how it went, but have you ever thought a nice date would end with the lady passed out on the floor and the man dry-heaving imaginary blood-soaked mulch into a bathtub? If you said yes, thanks for reading this post, John Wayne Gacy.

We walk in, and the place is completely empty. So they sit us in front of the window, and proceed, in the next 10 minutes, to sit 2 other tables of people on either side of us. To make the restaurant seem full? I don’t know. But I do know that Tracy at the next table was super glad to get away from the kids for an afternoon, and ohmigod do you think they have some kind of shrimp curry here? Not too spicy though.

Then, 20 different waiters asked us if we were ready over the next 10 minutes. It was like a Benny Hill routine. One would appear just as the other ducked away. While our side of the restaurant was dead silent, aside from Tracy and oh, the twins are getting so big!, the world’s largest soccer match was going on in the Indian side of the restaurant. Man, I thought, it sounds like a much more appealing restaurant over there. Too bad we chose Malaysian!

Anyway, we ordered a spicy chicken appetizer from a waiter with bulging eyes who couldn’t stop grinding his teeth when he looked at me. He said Thank You, slowly unclenched his fists, took the menus, and walked off, face twitching.

It was about that time I noticed that nothing matched: we had knives, forks, and spoons from four completely different sets. Furthermore, someone was staring at me from the back of the room. I knew I was going to get beaten, and decided to toast it with a sip of the lady’s Mango Lassi. It was pretty good.

The spicy chicken was also pretty good. For some chefs, spicy food has to be a chili pepper meeting your tongue in a dark alley and stabbing it over and over with unbearable heat, leaving it broken and bleeding on the streets of your mouth. This spicy was more like a chili pepper asking my tongue to dance at the Debutante’s Ball, waltzing about the room with my tongue in it’s arms, and holding it just a little too tight. And then the chili pepper gives my tongue a light slap on the butt as he escorts it back to its seat. I’m… sorry. That analogy got a little away from me. It wasn’t too spicy, I was getting at.

I had some sort of royal kitchen lamb dish, which I immediately recognized as the exact same thing I get at the all-you-can-eat Indian buffet across the street from where I work, but 4 times more expensive, and also not all I could eat. In fact, I thought it was some sort of sauce when the angry man dropped it off. It would have made a good appetizer.

I understand that gourmet food comes in small, pricey packages, so before you say to yourself “Oh, Aaron, that gluttinous gourmand!” and wipe your monocle on your campaign coat lapel, reread that part where I said it’s the same thing I get at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Tasty, but about as gourmet as a Five Guy’s, and one tenth as filling.

Another waiter, one we’d never seen before, and when we pointed out we’d been waiting 15 minutes for drink refills, he looked like I’d taken a shit in his hair. Crying, he scrambled back to the kitchen, and we eventually got our coke and Lassi. If you’re at Pennang (you shouldn’t be, it’s lousy) and you see a man with three steel front teeth, apologize for me. I didn’t know he was so sensitive. He came back to give us free rice to go with our leftovers, which was the only good thing about our visit, aside from the one chicken appetizer.

And then we left, but not before I experienced their bathroom. And I do mean “experienced” rather than “used”. It was a multi-media sensation. How can I say this….? Hmm. It might be cruel to say that I’ve been in more sanitary bathrooms in 3rd-class Moroccan train cars, but it would also be an understatement. At least those train bathrooms had toilet seat lids and lacked a man gelling up his elaborate hairdo in front of the only sink. I stood there for a long time, and considered my options. If I left without doing my business, I might soil myself on the car ride home. But that would be less work to fix than getting a tetanus shot from sitting on their crap-spackled seatless toilet bowl, so I called it a draw and left.

Oh! There’s no other side to the restaurant. The bartender was watching a big screen T.V. What I had thought was a room full of people energetically enjoying their dinner and watching a soccer match was one sullen, angry looking fat man.

Several hours later, and interesting thing happened. The young lady with whom I dined felt into a deep sleep from which no force on earth could raise her. I, on the other hand, couldn’t sleep, because I felt as though some vile creature was festering deep within my bowels, lashing out with its thousand beak-covered tentacles and trying to break free of its fleshy prison. If you lost track, that fleshy prison was my digestive tract. I spent a great deal of time dry-heaving and trying to figure out what was attempting to break free of my insides, and decided that it was a pile of intelligent, blood-soaked mulch. At least that’s what it felt like to me. “I suspect,” said the electric-blue penguin perched atop the sink, tipping his top hat with a flipper and gazing at me through a single solid-gold monocle, “That you are also beginning to hallucenate.” “Very serious.” Concurred the chameleon with the human face.

The effects eventually wore off, culminating in what I can only describe as a “Violent, Catastrophic, Unprecedented, Spectacular” bowel movement. The young lady did, in fact, wake up. Eventually.

SO! If you skipped to the end, let me summarize: You will pay 4 times more than you ought to for mediocre food (though the appetizer was pretty solid), the waitstaff are obnoxiously incompetent, one of them will glare at you throughout your meal, and then you will be poisoned. Oh, and if you sit on their toilet, you will get Rabies. In your ass.

Don’t eat at Pennang/Karma in the Washingtonian Complex, Gathersburg, Maryland.


Restaurant Review: Founding Farmers, Washington D.C.

June 27, 2011

So, my good friend and ex-neighborlady from Michigan came to visit me. I figured rural Maryland only has so many sights to see, so we’d go down to Washington, D.C.  This is the first in my two-part series of places I went to eat this weekend.

We almost didn’t make it to a fancy restaurant called Founding Farmers that I’d heard about on the Facebook. 45 minutes before our reservation, we ducked into a pizzeria to have a beer before supper and kill some time. The place was called Top of the Crust or some silly thing, and it smelled so good we seriously debated cancelling.

I’d heard that Founding Fathers was a green, sustainable, farm-fresh, no antibiotics, shade-grown fair trade sort of ritzy join, and was expecting a delicious, romantic evening. Imagine my surprise when we sat down beside a table full of guys in shorts and sandals and a table with 2 young children. The inside of the place was indeed glitzy, all hardwood and burnished metal, but that made the place deafening. A butterfly fart in one corner of the restaurant would echo until it became a deafening roar; since everyone in the joint was shouting at each other how much they liked the food, I relied on lip reading and a clever game of charades to figure out what was happening.

The bar menu had “let the bartender pick!” as a drink option. I usually prefer beer over cocktails, but I decided to roll the dice and see what I got. The waitress returned with a glass containing a fist-sized piece of ice and what I’m pretty sure was Old Grandad bourbon. She then took a cigarette lighter from her pocket and tried to light a piece of lemon peel on fire. After about two minutes, it flared with a WHOOMP! into a little ball of fire and sparks, and she dropped the soot-covered peel into my drink. I was, to use the British expression, gobsmacked.

I don’t know if this is the new trendy thing in drinks, or if I was actually served the finest tipple imaginable, or if everyone on earth has gone mad except for me. But I do know this: a film of oily black soot on the top of your drink is not particularly appealing. I even resorted to wiping the glass down with a napkin, but to little aid. I don’t know the name of this drink, and have decided to refer to it as the Shitless Wonder. One thing I DO know is that the bartender should be shot for charging $14 for a glass of ashes.

The first thing we ordered were the cracked black pepper corn chicken wings. I entertained the lovely lady with stories of my many adventures in Sumatra (n.b.: I’ve never been to Sumatra) while in the back of my mind I frantically tried to understand what had just happened with the burning lemon. The wings arrived, and I nonchalantly bit into one.

A second later, a wave of flavor and emotion hit me, and I floated from my seat, levitating into the air, as blinding light poured out of my eyes and ears. BEHOLD, I said simultaneously in the 822 most widely spoken languages of the earth, FOR THERE IS A NEW RELIGION. And that was only after one bite. They were the most gloriously delicious things I have ever eaten, and if the people of Washington do not erect a monumental granite chicken wing as a tribute to their glory, they are cretinous philistines and criminals against taste and decency. If you live in Washington D.C. and you are not, at this very moment, eating the chicken wings at Founding Farmers, you are wasting your life. Every moment without those wings is like an eternity spent floating in darkness. They were so delicious that I didn’t just eat them with my mouth: I ate them with my soul.

Euphoria over, I settled back into my seat and realized that a number of surrounding diners had been sunburnt by the radiant glory of these wings. But I didn’t care. And then the hot dogs arrived. I had ordered the Hot Dog Trio because I thought a fancy place would have some sort of witty, fancy take on hot dogs. They didn’t. I could have had the same experience and saved a load of cash if I’d gone to the stand down by the national mall. My lovely date said the crab cake is delicious, and I must agree. That’s my fault for choosing hot goddamned dogs.

About this time, my second drink arrived. I had thought that perhaps the bartender would be in a better mood, so I went with the random-let-him-pick option. Imagine my surprise, nay, my terror, when the waitress showed up with the exact same drink. “Oh god, no, please, no.” I said as she blackened the slice of lemon. “Don’t worry,” She said, “It’s a totally different drink.” She dropped the soot-covered lemon into my drink and, even though my entire body had gone numb at the asinine stupeosity of it all, I was able to tell she was right. It was cheap rum, instead of bourbon. (Side note: It may have been Maker’s Mark 14 year aged brandy cask rum, or some damnable thing, but I know that cheap rum tastes like ashes, and THIS TASTED LIKE ASHES.)

During desert, by which I mean the pleasant conversation (as mellifluous as any morsel we’d eaten) we had after the meal, I decided to try a beer. They were out of Belgian beer, so I decided to try something called “Old Chubb” which was described as Belgian-like.

You know what? I’m tired of writing this. I’m out of analogies. Old Chub is to Belgian beer as McRib is to proper BBQ. That should summarize things quite nicely.

Go to Founding Farmers. Eat there. But do your drinking somewhere else, don’t hope to carry on a conversation, and if you see the bartender that fed me $28 worth of sooty booze, feed him his teeth for me.


June 9, 2011

So. A few days ago, I posted an article and deleted it the next day. This is because I have what I like to call a 0.3/3.0/30 policy: if I have a BAC above 0.3, and write something in less than 3.0 minutes, I have to delete it within 30 hours. You know, to avoid future recriminations and such.

Anyway, the gist of the post was that one night, for dinner, I ate two watermelons and a six pack of beer, and it was perfect. Anyone that wants more out of life is greedy. Also, I came home from the fitness center and had forgotten that there was a 2 litre of ice cold Fanta Orange in the fridge, and it was the best moment of my entire life.

Anyway, there’s an addendum to that story. Tonight I went to the convenience store. There’s a Dairy Queen on the way back, and for the first time I can remember, I got an iced cream cone. It’s 100 degrees and 99 % humidity out.

Walking down the street with an ice cream cone in one hand and a six pack in the other is the sort of thing that makes me think “go to hell, fancy advertising men, I don’t need no fancy outfit for to have a nice evening.”