February 23, 2010

I Can't Complain

It's been a pretty decent week.

Got a pedicure the other day ... nice when you wear sandals all the time. Skipped out early yesterday for cocktails on the beach at sunset. Got a massage (Valentine's Day gift) tonight after work, my Friday. Treated myself to Indian street food. And I plan to head to the beach tomorrow.

Nope, can't complain at all.

The massage was great. It was in a hotel spa downtown, an oasis of calm in the middle of chaos that is that neighborhood.

Afterward, I went in search of vada pao, sometimes called wada pav. I know I said I hit the Indian food wall the other day, but not really. I've just cut back from many times a week to once or twice.

My colleague has been writing about delicious Indian street food. Here and here. (And yes, this is the same woman who gave me the most valuable information to date: How to make papadam in the microwave.)

I finally find myself in the right neighborhood and I ask the doorman at the hotel where to find the vegetarian snack restaurant. He asks someone and tells me to go down the street and it's right next to the El Dorado theater.

This is good news, because I actually know where the El Dorado theater is. So of course, once I find it, I discover it isn't the right one. It's actually a satellite version, much smaller and specializing in sweet Indian street food.

I call my colleague, apologize for interrupting her personal time and tell her I don't see what she is talking about on the menu. She asks to speak to the guy behind the counter. They speak ... I don't know. Hindi? Bengali? Probably.

He hands the phone to me and she says: You're at the wrong one. Ask him for directions to the restaurant. I hang up and think this isn't going to work out so well, since I had to call her in the first place because the guy didn't speak English.

He tells me "Straight, right at ADCB. Very tall building." So you know I've mentioned the whole address and directions thing. These directions would work much better if I had any idea what the ADCB building was. And I didn't. And telling someone "very tall building" means little when you're in a downtown area filled with high-rises.

Meanwhile, I've received a text -- after I've set off -- that says: Tell him to give you precise directions to their main spot, on Salam Street, behind the ADCB bank's HQ. I'm mumbling to myself. Precise directions? He doesn't speak English. No directions here are precise. But whatever.

Onward I go, undeterred. I cross the busy street via the underpass and make my way toward the water. I'm going straight. The last building before the big-dig construction site that is Salam St seems to have an ADCB on it. I turn right. I'm along the side of the building, next to where Salam St would be if it weren't a gigantic construction site and there is nothing behind this bank building.

I look to my right and see a gas station. I worry that the restaurant is actually across the construction site, on the other side of Salam St. But nobody told me to cross the street. So I wander some more, discover a Thai restaurant I had been wondering about (Aha! There's the Royal Orchid!)

Finally, I find it. By behind the bank building what everyone really meant was behind the bank building and through a construction area one street over and back two blocks through a parking lot.

Of course. But I've found it! Victory!

The waiter is nice (I have been warned that he might not be, and not to take it personally). He brings me a bottle of water, gives me some time to look at the menu, and I look for the wada pav, as it's called here (as opposed to what it seems to be called in Mumbai). There it is, right where it's supposed to be. By now I've forgotten what wada pav is and just know that I want to try it.

I order one, for Dh4.5 ($1.23). Spicy, medium or hot, he asks. Medium.

I am surprised when it comes out. It's an overstuffed sandwich that I am apparently expected to eat with my hands since no utensils have come with it. Imagine a dinner roll -- sort of like the sweet, doughy ones they used to have at Kentucky Fried Chicken. (I'm sorry! That's what they remind me of!) Between the two halves is a fried potato pancake, chunky and golden. There are chopped onions and chutney in there somewhere. The whole thing has a sweet and spicy delicious taste. Flavors I've never had. It's very, very good. I think if I were to discover this at a street stall, I would be amazed.

The waiter asks if there is something else I'd like to try. I get another text: If you are feeling really hungry, order a masala dosa. So that's what I ask for. There are more than 80 items on this one-page menu. I recognize only a few words -- aloo (potato) gobi (cauliflower) and daal (lentils) .

My masala dosa arrives. I don't know exactly what I expected, but this wasn't it. A fried crepe, slightly sweet, stuffed with seasoned potatoes. And it comes with three sauces that, presumably, I am supposed to pour over the crepe, or dip into. I'm not sure which. I get a spoon and a fork, but no knife. And the thing is huge. The first one was a small sandwich with big filling. This is a folded crepe the size of a large plate.

It was unusual and tasty and I can't wait to go back for more. Afterward, the waiter gave me a take-away menu and marked some things I should try next time. He explained that one column was south Indian and another north Indian.

My colleague's final words: That place is a treasure trove! Will require multiple visits.


Anonymous said...

For the love of God, post something new!

Leah Oberjuerge said...

I'm sorry to leave you hanging, Michael. I'll scour the land for something interesting!