Wednesday, August 4, 2010

International Market and Restaurant

Saturday July 31st 2010
International Market and Restaurant, Belmont and Bernard, Nashville, TN

The place appeared to be closed when we showed up. I tugged at the door several times, to no avail. I could even swear I heard the clicking of a locked deadbolt hitting the doors frame as I pulled. We peered into the windows, searched for a list of hours, when without warning the door was flung open from within by a small Asian woman who struggled to keep it from slamming closed against the pressure and suction created by their enclosed entryway. “Try harder next time.”, She told me. A good general tip.
In the back of the second room, partially hidden by stacked boxes and overstocked storage, is their cafeteria. To get to it you pass through two areas of dining tables, walls decorated with bedazzled rooster cutouts and Thai tchotchkes, intermingled with various shelves and coolers, making up the market half of the business. The cafeteria set up is quite typical, bringing back memories of school, hospitals, maybe jail for some. The major differences being quality and type of food, and pleasant, attentive, helpful service, the kind you just don’t find at the previously mentioned places.
Many options to choose from. Lots of colored slops, impaled chunks of meat, darkened noodles. I ended up going with the Pad Wan Sen (a dish of thin noodles, bean shreds, chicken, and egg), the green curry chicken (with which the server managed to sell me some white rice, claiming that I “might need it”), a curried vegetable egg roll, and to ease it all in there I mixed myself up an Arnold Palmer at the soda fountain.

The Pad Wan Sen was an impulse selection which ended up being good, a little sweet, but good. It’s just that after starting in on the curry it became more of a retreat, a relaxing vacation home on my plate, a place to get away from all the stress at the office. Rather than a tasty dish I enjoyed at my leisure, it was only an antidote, it’s where I sought refuge.
Green curry, hot on its own, had added to it bamboo shoots, chicken, and the overkill addition of an unidentified hot green pepper cut up into slices, floating around on the top. I instantly became very aware of the shape of the inside of my mouth, it became highlighted by the heat and began to feel like a separate entity. I was spice high, stuck in a tunnel vision trance, my mouth became the sun with the rest of my body and mind revolving around it.
This resulted in the immediate decimation of the Pad Wan Sen and the white rice, the rice my server had been so right in suggesting. Each tiny piece of it, each neutrally flavored absorbent white sponge was necessary to my cure. Bless that rice! By the time I’d moved on to the curried vegetable egg roll, I couldn’t tell if it was spicy or if I had just permanently permeated my taste buds that way.
How over sweetened the lemonade and iced teas were made the Arnold Palmer more like a carnival dessert, reminiscent of a melted slushy, than a refreshing drink, but cold liquid of any kind was just about the only thing I had on my mind when I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to win this fight, and threw my gloves down with the curry bowl still a third full. A champion had been named and it certainly was not I. I sucked on left over ice cubes while I mixed up another foul drink at the counter, waiting for the cashier to stop screaming at someone in Thai in the back room so I could give her my 25 cents for the refill. I ended up just leaving it on the counter.
Did I enjoy myself here? Well, the place looks cool inside, its nice to hang out there, cafeteria dining is definitely a change of pace, I just cant help but think my American Yankee roots will need to be severed before something this spicy is a regular satisfying meal to me. Chicken fingers and grilled cheese were my meals of choice until my late teens, I kept it mild for a while, so what’s basically a soup of devastating seasonings does have its consequences.

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