Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lack of Redemption at The Hungry Cat

The Hungry Cat has some tasty cocktails to sip while analyzing movies seen down the street at the Arclight. I had a white rum, coconut and jalapeno concoction speared with a toasted coconut covered pineapple cube. His was jammy with muddled grape and bitters.

What separates man from animal?

The presence of a mind and the ability to choose a life of elevation versus a life of succumbing to the primal urge?

And what gives one precedence over the other?

Is there any redemption in either choice?

A glowing golden prize at the end, or merely the solitary walk to death as was the solitary journey from birth?

These were the questions plaguing me as I sat across the table at The Hungry Cat with the Cute Gardener this past Saturday after seeing an early day screening of The Master.

Delicious plate of hamachi, thinly sliced and accented with julienned yuzu, cabbage, pear and candied nuggets.

Mild bland greens dressed with crumbled, dry egg yolk and avocado.

Maybe it was the empty stomach feeling the movie left me with while not offering any kind of resolvable ending that had my eyes bigger than my stomach in ordering two salads for us to share prior to sandwiches.

I had really wanted to love this restaurant as I had been told about its great seafood dishes before. But I was a little underwhelmed when my lobster roll arrived. I was expecting big, messy lobster chunks swimming in something tart or tangy with aioli like I have eaten on the East Coast. What arrived was more like a prim and proper Hollywood starlet on a diet version of cold lobster meat diced in a tidy row on a small buttered and slightly stiff hot dog bun; this was accompanied by a massive soggy pile of French fries. For $25 this dish left me feeling like I had been cheated, and it wasn’t just my hangover from the blues-riddled film I had just seen.

As I tried a bite of the Cute Gardener’s fried, soft shell crab sandwich, I realized what was bothering me about the lunch. It had all the makings of a dripping hot, satisfying and savory gourmet seafood fest with a little more class than the beach side dive sort of fast food summer fare these two dishes are known to be yet they were totally stripped of any naughtiness, fun, or scandal and made way too pristine and sterilized to live up to their usual reputations. And that was sad, because just like in the film, it left me wanting not one or the other of either extreme but something balanced, combined and right in the middle. A little dirty AND a little clean would have been just all right with me.

I do have to note that Hungry Cat employs attentive and astute wait staff though. Our waiter, recognizing we were talking about The Master, jumped right in with his own two cents after overhearing mere nuggets of our conversation and added a whole other level of perspective to our still unresolved analysis.

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