27. December 2013 01:47
“Every earthly thing has a beginning and an end.” Wrote a three-star General in a book on winning warfare. Planning for the end gets one ahead he said. He referred to wars, countries and relations. Not silly, civilian things like restaurants. And yet, given our relatively short time on a very long-lived planet, pets and restaurants are the few things that we outlive routinely. I ate at Wild Ginger in Seattle and was overcome by having outlived so many of my favorites.
It’s hard to quote pop-culture because of its increasing bankruptcy. But there was a scene in The Walking Dead where a character known as “The Governor” (played with repellent brilliance by David Morrissey) performs a monologue about his departed wife. She called him before the apocalypse and he didn’t answer. She didn’t leave a voice mail. “What did she call about?” he muses. If he had known that that was his last chance to speak with her, would he have found the time? What if I knew that on May 2nd, 2009, I would eat at Vong for the last time? Would I have ordered more? Would I have tipped better? I don’t know. 12/16/2010 was my last meal at Opera and 12/30/2010 at Red Light. Any dinner in the West Loop neighborhood usually began with a Mango Martini and tuna appetizer at Red Light. I miss it greatly.
The tuna tatakke at Red Light. The vegetable curry pizza at Vong’s Thai Kitchen. The multi-prepared Duck at Opera. The Chao Tom (shrimp over sugarcane) at Le Colonial. Save for the Rush-street located yet inexpensive Vietnamese, not a single restaurant remains. This is a travesty. In 2009, Elizabeth Gilbert gave a TED talk in which she said that she realizes that her greatest accomplishment may very well be behind her. There is great insight in that statement because it’s so often true with many things and many people. The pop culture name is “one-hit-wonder.” It would be a great shame if Chicago’s best accomplishments in Asian cooking are getting more distant in the rearview.
Anyway, Wild Ginger: there is not a single dish I’ve had here that wasn’t stellar. But the duck is in a category alone. It’s far superior to any I’ve had before or since and I would not be surprised to discover that they sprinkle it with dopamine reuptake inhibitors. If you like the Shrimp/Sugarcane at Le Colonial, you’ll love the lettuce cup here with sea bass. The price, though, you may not. I thought that about the prawns but given how many showed up on the plate, I suppose the average price per prawn was fair. If you recall Red Light and the Mango Martinis…the Mango Daquiri at Wild Ginger is required. I ended up wolfing down so much that I could barely move. This happens every time and can result in an abbreviated evening as we just go home and fall asleep in our clothes since we’re too full to bend over and untie shoes. I do this routinely at steak houses and a place in South Beach called Barton G but this is the only Asian place capable of hitting me in the belt. Trust me, this is saying something.
Seattle is not known for its excellence of service. Although not as bad as LA, Seattle is still West Coast when it comes to energy and speed. Wild Ginger (and Toulouse Petit, Toulouse Petit review) is a shining beacon of exception. I cannot recommend Wild Ginger to you more strongly. Eating there will expose you to flavors you may have forgotten existed. You will receive service so exemplary that it alone pulls up Seattle’s dismal average. You will be reminded of a class of Asian restaurant that has all but left Chicago. Perhaps you, like I, will sprinkle your epicurean evening with a few flakes of nostalgia. And, if you had the privilege to know them, great memories of dear departed friends.