Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pane or Rice

Back in 1999 TP and I travelled to Singapore to visit her relatives. While there TP's aunts took us out to a restaurant in one of the five-star hotels called Paolo's and Ping's. It was an Italian-Chinese retaurant, which was great given that they are my favourite foods - me being Italian and TP being Chinese that's not terribly surprising.

Anyway, we examined the menus - there were two (one for Italian and one for Chinese) and I settled on the Osso Buco, which is a dish I adore and I regularly cook it at home. As it had been nearly a month since I had cooked anything - Singapore is a place where you eat out most of the time - I was getting a little home-sick and chose some comfort food. If you don't know what Osso Buco is then briefly it is a thick veal shank in a tomato ragu slowly cooked in the oven (never on the stove top as some French heathens have been known to do) for several hours. Note the several hours. Most restaurants prepare them beforeheand, pop them in the freezer and microwave them when ordered. Osso Buco - as with most ragu - tastes better a day or two after it has been prepared.

We made light conversation and then dinner arrived. I dived into my Osso Buco with glee. Unfortunately, I almost broke the knife. This was no veal shank cooked to perfection which is supposed to fall off the bone. With this it was difficult telling where the bone ended and the meat began. I suspect it was a fully mature cow or maybe buffalo or bullock - if it was bovine at all. It was hard, intractible and inedible and I quickly sent it back to the kitchen.

Singaporeans pride themselves on their food and my sending food back to the kitchen caused a great deal of consternation amongst the restaurant staff. They were very apologetic and then after consulting with the chef the maitre'd himself came over to utter the immortal words:

The chef says he will just fry you up another one. It should take about ten minutes.
I sat at my table and watched as the chef did exactly that, poured ragu over it to heat up and then plated it up. As you might expect the second steak was no better than the first.

Ever since I've had a deep phobia about restaurants offering specifically both Italian and Chinese cuisine. TP knows this and likes to taunt me. So surprise, surprise today she comes in from the letterbox carrying a menu from just such a restaurant. I bet she wants to try it out. Fortunately Osso Buco isn't on offer.

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