Kids say the darndest things
It’s funny — not “ha ha” funny — how a lovely dining experience can be marred by the simplest thing, and sometimes it’s not even the restaurant’s fault, at least not directly. I know I’m being a something-ist when I say this, but I just can’t help my feelings in this regard: children under a certain age should not be brought into a formal dining restautrant, even when it’s not a formal dining evening.
Case in point, my recent visit to Le Colonial with friends Robert and Brian. Brian was in visiting from the peninsula where he works, commuting up from, believe it or not, Palm Springs where he shares a house and a pool with his significant other. Robert is my main squeeze and between the three of us, or four counting Brian’s absent BF, the total number of children being reared is zero. We were looking forward to a polite, chatty dinner with the boys last week, but the table next to us consisted of a father and his two beautiful, darling, intelligent, unruly brats who were uncontrolled and having a birthday or some such nonsense. I half expected Le Colonial Clown to come in with a giant frozen ice cream cake and funny hats for everyone.
I don’t hate children, per se. I just don’t want them around when I’m trying to carry on a conversation about pornography.
Le Colonial is a reliable favorite of mine. It’s situated in an alley downtown, but entering the establishment through its white portal and the long, lovely patio section transports one immediately away from the harsh outside world of business and finance, and off to some tropical port in Vietnam. Le Colonial wants to banish the daily San Francisco surroundings rather than bathe in them like some other establishments, and it does so by sequestering customers in an almost Disneyesque atmosphere of bygone French colonial days.
There’s an extensive bar upstairs with couches and chairs to sink into, and it’s usually overrun with city folk escaping their 9-to-5’s over G-and-T’s. It’s a dark, comfortable, adult establishment and you’re allowed to just let it all wash over you in unhurried grace while awaiting your table. Drinks are expensive, though no more than to be expected downtown. It’s a full bar, though, so no worries that your individual libation won’t be available. They’ll have it, and they’ll love making it for you.
We had an early reservation so there wasn’t really a wait, but we also arrived early so we took advantage of a long, low couch and a couple of relaxing alcoholic imbibements before settling in to the French-Vietnamese fusion fare.
One of the hardest things to do at Le Colonial is decide on what you’re going to have. Do you get the thing you had before that was so delicious you still remember it today (and how many dishes can you say that about?) or do you try something new? We elected to do both, enjoying some reliably delicious appetizers of Goi Cuon — cold shrimp with bean sprouts and mint wrapped in rice paper and dipped into a spicy peanut sauce — and a bowl of Pho Bo, not you’re traditional Pho, but still fresh and clean and salty, with big pieces of beef and crunchy shallots.
The main course can be shared, if that’s your bag, and we sampled each other’s choices, but the food was too good to let it slip away from you. I had Bo Luc Lac, comprised of garlic-soy drenched beef tenderloin with whole toybox tomatoes and potato chips (or crisps as they preferred to call them), while Brian chowed down on Cuu Nuong, big hunks of lamb accompanied vinegar dipping sauce that I must admit none of liked at all, even though the waiter insisted that it would do something special for his chops.
We all assumed he meant the lamb, but one never knows.
Robert made it a double-beef night be electing to go with the Thit Bo, a garlic and red pepper-crusted slice of thick Oregon beef accompanied by green papaya salad and cilanto frites. The french fried were amazing — and I do like cilantro, so that explains that. They were thin, shoestring cut and very hot and crunchy.
It was during this portion of the meal that the three of us couldn’t help but notice the amusing antics of the small girl seated two tables over. Or maybe it was one table over. She was switching chairs and screaming so it was hard to tell. The distraction was enough that we were all scowling and wondering if anyone at all was in charge of the waif, and if not, couldn’t the waiter bundle her off to the kitchen and serve her with a mizuna salad?
Luckily, we were re-distracted toward the desert when it arrived, a super-chocolatey melting cake concoction that, even on full bellies, we ended up licking the plate clean.
April 13, 2007