Cheap EatsBy Dan Leone
See me, feel me
HERE'S A BIG greasy helping of gratitudinous gravy for all the people who wrote me their condolences after I wrote about my divorce. Not to mention earlier this year when I lost my nephew/godson to a fucking tree in North Carolina. It's been a rough year for me (three moves, too), and since I am what I write about, it's been a rough read for you.
Thanks for bearing with me, thanks for all the e-pats on the back, and thanks for being you. Whoever the hell you are. You know, there's a common strand of spaghetti runs through my Cheap Eats e-mail, and that's I feel like I know you or, the flip-flop of that, You don't know me from Adam.
Yes I do. And so do you, because we're all basically the same person, right? Or connected if in no other way than through our utter aloneness. Well, we're all in the same soup, if you'll pardon the hippie shit. Now, before I start singing "We Are the World," I want to tell you about a blind guy.
I was eating at the Taiwan Restaurant on Clement Street alone, so I had lots of things to look at. This old guy came in with a much younger woman, maybe his daughter. He was blind. They sat at the table next to mine, blind guy's back to the door so that when she got up to use the rest room, me and him were facing each other.
There was a pot of tea on the table, and there were two little cups in two little saucers. You would think if you were blind you would wait for your friend to come back to pour the tea. But that's because you're not blind. (By you I mean me.) You're the same person as this guy, only he's blind and you're not.
So now you get to learn something: how a blind guy pours himself a cup of tea. He feels with both hands on the table in front of him for his cup, finds it, and turns it over in the saucer. Checks the depth of the cup with his finger, feeling for the extent of its emptiness. Leaving one hand on the cup, he gropes for and finds the teapot, moves his hand around the perimeter of it until he gets to the handle. Lifts it, then brings his two hands more or less together right in front of him.
Now, he's holding the teapot by the handle, and he's got the cup cupped in his other hand, right? This being a Chinese restaurant, there's no handle on the cup. So, still cupping the cup with three fingers and a thumb, he wiggles his index finger away from the others, like a little antenna, until he finds the tip of the teapot. Then he tugboats the two together and carefully starts to tilt, removing his index finger from the spout and letting it dangle just a bit over the edge of the cup, see? So he can feel when to stop pouring.
I'm thinking, you're blind, you've got an index finger made of asbestos. You have to. It's Thanksgiving. I thank that blind guy for letting me see. And he can thank me for his asbestos finger.
You're welcome, blind guy. My food's here. Gotta eat.
One of the boys I play baseball with, Doug, he recommended this joint to me on the grounds that it wasn't gloppy. Not gloppy is good. Chinese food: good. The number-one knock against any Chinese food is if it's too gloppy. Or gloopy or gooey, as some people describe it.
So anyway this place on Clement was supposed to be cheap and good and not gloppy, according to Doug. And I had no reason not to believe him. He's a clutch hitter with opposite field power. Hell yeah, I'll have what he's having.
Actually, I don't think I did have Doug's dish. He told me, but whatever he said, it didn't stick. Musta not of been gloppy enough for my sievelike brain to hold on to.
Or, in my defense, maybe I might have been distracted by the lunch specials $3.50!!! With soup, rice, fruit, and whatever. Oyster sauce beef, for me. It was gloppy. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. The soup was good and black peppery, with egg and tofu and just general gloppiness. But that's the way egg-drop soup is.
I'll go back, and I'll try Doug's dish from the regular menu, which is huge and includes five-spice pork ears. But probably I'll have a hard time veering from the lunch specials. There are 13 more. And, best of all, they have a very generous interpretation of lunchtime: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. That's a five-hour window, a window in which I for one have been known to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Guidance.
Taiwan Restaurant. 445 Clement (at Sixth Ave.), S.F. (415)
387-1789. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sat.,
10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Takeout available. Beer and
wine. MasterCard, Visa. Wheelchair accessible.