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The Single Most Disappointing Meal Of My Entire Life (Bethel CT)

Jim Leff Jan 9, 2011 05:14 PM

In retrospect, it's perversely exciting. Tonight I had the single most disappointing meal of my life. It was extra disappointing because the disappointment wasn't due to some dramatic twist or noteworthy turn of events. It was disappointing for the very worst of reasons: utter mundanity.

I'd worked many hours without pause on a new project I've been plotting. I forgot to eat, forgot to get up, forgot to move (shades of my Chowhound management days). At 7:30pm, in a dull rush of ravenous hunger, I was roused from my chair and propelled to the refrigerator, where I spotted nothing that might be made edible within my window of, say, three to four minutes. So I ripped out into my car.

I'm residing for another couple weeks in a village in northern Fairfield County called Bethel, and the one local restaurant I've not tried is a shopping strip Japanese called House of Yoshida. It has a reputation for quiet competence.

I was going to order sushi, but the sushi chef was Dominican. I gave him a hard look, but decided this wasn't am earnest outsider who'd diligently learned the sushi trade. Rather, it was some random dude pushing fish and rice together. So I contemplated the cooked dishes. The simplest, most foolproof sounding one was Pork Ginger (according to the menu: "sliced pork & variety of vegetables marinated & seasoned with ginger sauce").

First they brought me the expected grim house salad of cheap wilted lettuce and hard carrot shreds topped with cloying ginger dressing. And, finally, they brought me a sizzling hot metal dish which contained slices of pork tossed over a bed of simmering salad.

Incredulous, I probed the burning hot, wet lettuce, hoping I was wrong and that it was cabbage. It wasn't. I swallowed a piece of pork, and realized, against all my assumptions about how low a kitchen might ever go, that they'd simply poured the ginger salad dressing over it all.

I stared hopelessly at my plate of bubbling hot broiled salad with chunks of pork doused with bad salad dressing. My first thought was that this was something an eight year old might concoct. And then I realize that no eight year old could ever be so hateful.

A full plate in front of me, I requested the check. The robotic busboy and waitress didn't blink. The dish was cleared while they kept up their fake cheerful robo-patter, a check was brought, and I paid, for this, the most disappointing thing I've ever been served, eighteen frickin' dollars and fifty frickin' cents.

I grabbed takeout Chinese, which was abysmal. But much better.

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  1. jfood RE: Jim Leff Jan 9, 2011 05:36 PM

    hopefully you went to Sycamore or Dr Mike's to get the blood flowing again after the lousy chinese * 2.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jfood
      Jim Leff RE: jfood Jan 9, 2011 05:52 PM

      Nope. Sunday night, remember. I hit the Chinese takeout in Dolan Plaza for some rubbery chow fun. As I said, it was abysmal. But much better.

    2. Veggo RE: Jim Leff Jan 9, 2011 05:59 PM

      I used to work in Bethel and lived on Candlewood Lake, you will find some nice spots in Brookfield and New Milford on the lake when you are less hurried.
      Random strip center japanese and chinese are longshots, you know that.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Veggo
        Jim Leff RE: Veggo Jan 9, 2011 06:40 PM

        There are lots of decent places, sure. This one wasn't random, though. Place has a decent rep.

        1. re: Jim Leff
          Veggo RE: Jim Leff Jan 9, 2011 06:58 PM

          Some days there ain't no fish.

      2. g
        givemecarbs RE: Jim Leff Jan 9, 2011 07:10 PM

        Wow that is harsh Jim. Might have been better off fasting he he! There is actually a thread about fasting on chowhound you can still read. Commenting, not so much. :)
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756414

        1. TrishUntrapped RE: Jim Leff Jan 10, 2011 01:51 AM

          What a horrendous sounding dish. I too hate "that" salad that is all too commonly served at Japanese restaurants. I won't touch it. Imagine getting it again, just hot, yuck! And you're right House of Yoshida has a decent reputation. Perhaps this is a downhill alert.

          While you're in Bethel...have you come across any good spots for soup? I love Plain Jane's, always on the lookout for more in the greater Danbury area.

          -----
          Plain Jane's Restaurant
          208 Greenwood Ave, Bethel, CT 06801

          1. s
            scapegrace RE: Jim Leff Jan 10, 2011 04:10 PM

            Wow, that's a shame. We live in Redding and eat at House of Yoshida pretty regularly (once every four - six weeks +/-). I don't think I've ever had a bad meal; certainly not anything like what you're describing.

            While I wouldn't rate it a 3 or 4 star dining experience, I've always found their service to be very friendly and the sushi quite good. It may not be Bar Masa, but for northern Ffld Cty, it's pretty good. I've actually never been there when one of the two owners weren't there. Granted, I've never eaten there on a Sunday night, but still. Next time, try the maki and the appetizer specials; they're generally pretty reliable.

            Better yet, if you're in town for awhile, try La Zingara - very good Italian or Pizzeria Lauretano - excellent wood-fired, brick oven pizza. And finally, the burgers at the new Greenwoods Grille and Ale House are almost as good as the fabled Cherry Street East burgers in New Canaan.

            -----
            Cherry Street East
            45 East Ave, New Canaan, CT 06840

            Pizzeria Lauretano
            291 Greenwood Ave, Bethel, CT 06801

            La Zingara
            8 P T Barnum Sq, Bethel, CT 06801

            2 Replies
            1. re: scapegrace
              Jim Leff RE: scapegrace Jan 11, 2011 05:52 AM

              Oh, they were friendly. Kabuki friendly. Painted-on masks of robo-cheerfulness. They cheerfully whisked away an absolutely full plate, amiably brought me a check, and happily wished me a good night. It was like no one was home. And I don't think this was just an aberration. I really doubt that "throw pork chunks on salad, drench with salad dressing, and broil" is a move they do only on off nights.

              Not to be too hornery, but I find La Zingara appalling. The same sort of amateurish, childish cooking. I once had a cod special, and they hadn't purged the salt from the cod...plus they added salt to the dish. Lots of horrendous gaffes like that. Lauretano is "meh", and Greenwoods is the same. And when I eat around here, it's with lowered expectations to begin with, so it's not that I'm being impossibly picky.

              I loved the italian wedding soup, mushroom soup, and crabcakes at Biksbees, though they're a bit downhill. I loved Sycamore's burgers five years ago (also downhill). And I love the white pizzas at Stanziatos, the new Pakistani place across from Meeker Hardware, the pricey Italian at Rraci's and the stuffed cabbage and chicken paprikash at Goulash Place. My Place in Newtown is the rare place that's actually improving (and the beer bar is ace). And I think Caraluzzi's is the best supermarket this side of Super Wegmans. So I CAN be pleased.

              -----
              La Zingara
              8 P T Barnum Sq, Bethel, CT 06801

              Biksbees
              211 Greenwood Ave Ste 8, Bethel, CT 06801

              My Place Restaurant
              8 Queen St, Newtown, CT 06470

              Goulash Place
              42 Highland Ave, Danbury, CT 06810

              1. re: Jim Leff
                TrishUntrapped RE: Jim Leff Jan 11, 2011 08:50 AM

                This is really sad. I was trying to think of another spot to recommend to you other than Plain Jane's for its soup, and I couldn't think of anywhere else in the area. Glad you are still patronizing Goulash Place. I guess I will always have a soft spot in my heart for that one. I love the beef goulash there.

                Oh I know... Do you like fried chicken? Ancona's Market on Route 7 in Ridgefield does a great job with it. Just make sure they give you the fresh stuff. Also, many nights they have some good hot meals with Prime Rib or Baked ham. I think Ancona's has very good produce too and great customer service.

                Have you tried the soup at Soup Alley or the burritos at The Burrito Shack, both also on Route 7? That's about the best stuff in the area that I can recommend.

                Bon Appetit Cafe in Wilton (located in a Stop & Shop Plaza) has excellent short ribs if you're in the mood. This hole in the wall joint is overlooked, but I think it's a real gem.

                -----
                Plain Jane's Restaurant
                208 Greenwood Ave, Bethel, CT 06801

                Goulash Place
                42 Highland Ave, Danbury, CT 06810

                Soup Alley
                239 Danbury Rd Ste 3, Wilton, CT 06897

                Bon Appetit Cafe
                5 River Rd, Wilton, CT 06897

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