The Red Hen flew the coop..well not really. Red Hen Bistro just has a new name – Robert Andrew’s Kitchen, which is more suitable because it’s all about Robert. I’m not bragging about him; it’s just that he handles his kitchen all by his lonesome self. Why, because he’s a perfectionist at his craft and doesn’t want any dish going out beneath his standard of excellence.
And so we returned to the same location with only a different name on the door and some updated selections on the menu for spring. I don’t always like change, but this change is sublime. Quite honestly, my meal is not affected by the name on the door. We were seated at the table in the front window that faces all the other diners, feeling like we were looking upon our people. These were not ‘my people’ for sure. What has happened to eating etiquette?
Two tables in front of and perpendicular to us, there was a man in his 50s who received the succulent-looking pistachio-crusted rack of lamb. I ogled as he shoveled all of the vegetables forkful upon forkful into his gaping mouth. Echoes of my childhood filled the air: “Chew what’s in your mouth before putting more in.” It was like observing an eagle landing in a field with its wings spread to prevent a predator from stealing its food. Then, he began to attack the bones, picking them up and gnawing on them like a dog in training for a street fight. These were not ‘my people’.
We felt like we were hosting our own dinner party, and we were the guests of honor or royalty. The other diners glanced our way from time to time. I had fun pretending they were the peasants, but even jesters would have better manners. My attention was immediately pulled away from the savage beast when our appetizers floated down from the heavens onto our table: seared day boat scallops/fennel vinaigrette/parsley oil/blood orange salad/buttermilk foam/snow pea shoots (yes, that was one dish) and African adobo spiced tuna, seared/mango and avocado salsa/champagne cucumber noodles/crispy plantain chips. All the components played nicely together and were harmonious in color and contrasting textures. The hostess stopped in mid-question when she saw the enjoyment worn upon my facial expressions: “how is….” I said I hoped I wasn’t too loud with my mmmm’s.
My preference is to order a different entrée than my dining partner so I can sneak a taste of more than one. But the description of the new Chilean Sea Bass dish (pan roasted/caramelized shitake mushrooms/shaved asparagus with shallot and pancetta vinaigrette/crispy potato dumplings) hooked my selfishness to explore every morsel on that plate without having to share a bite and to be able to steal more of it if he couldn’t finish. During my last few bites, I glanced up to now see a 60-something couple directly in front of us, texting and playing games on their phones as their food is being placed in front of them. Really? I overheard the woman comment earlier on the amuse bouche (mushroom flan with vegetable ratatouille and braised short rib meat in an egg shell) how it tasted like rice pilaf! She was so immersed in her video game, she didn’t even taste or know what she was eating. It actually took some effort not to tell her that there was no rice in there. It was slanderous and disrespectful to Robert’s artful and carefully crafted creation. She was not worthy.
It took every spoonful of the banana croissant bread pudding to ease my mind and distract me from the kingdom of dining criminals before us. Oh, where has the honor gone for the culinary arts? I swear I am not a food snob; my mother just taught me how to respect and appreciate food and eat like a human.