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

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.


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