In these modern and confusing times of information saturation and economic collapse, perhaps we could be forgiven for confusing “irony” with “karma.”
Or perhaps it is neither of those things when one week we praise the time-testing lunchtime cuisine of the Ala Thai on Ann Street … and then the next week we go to lunch there and have a truly putrid experience. Perhaps the key mistake (as so many in Alabama would have you believe) was diverging from tradition and into new and experimental waters. Instead of the ritual “Crazy Noodles,” for some reason, I decided to try the Singapore Noodles with tofu.
This was an error, with the resulting plate being covered with rice noodles, flavored with dish water. The parts that were flavorless were a welcome reprieve from the parts that tasted like a wash basin. The tofu cubes appeared to have been, for whatever reason, rolled in black pepper. All in all, I was prepared to grit my teeth and eat about half of it and go back to work dissatisfied but still relatively full (if not nourished).
That was when I saw something floating in my water glass. I hoped that it was an eyelash, I really did. There was a moment when I entertained the notion of forcing myself to say that it was, fish it out with a finger, and go on with my objectionable meal. Yet, I compelled myself to look and saw the feelers, the bend of a “knee,” and I knew that it was a leg.
It was probably a prothoracic leg, and the hairs were unmistakable. A dining companion agreed that it was unlikely to be the leg of a cricket and all were generally repulsed. Suddenly, my willpower to choke down the rest of the terrible Singapore Noodles had evaporated.
When I took the leg, still floating in its icy solution, to a server (quietly, not causing a scene at our table), I was met with extreme skepticism. Upon pouring part of the water into a sink and scrutinizing the tiny appendage floating in the remainder, it was agreed that my glass of water was inadequate. I was presented with a new glass of water in a (hopefully) clean glass.
Seeing my plate three quarters covered in food when the check came, no questions were asked about the adequacy of the food, nor my run-in with Periplaneta americana. I was charged full price for the food without a word of apology.
The worst, obviously, is not the leg in the glass itself, but what that says about the cleanliness of the overall situation in the kitchen. Had the food been delicious, it would have been perhaps easier to excuse the experience as an inevitable glitch in an imperfect world. But with the food tasting like garbage, it made me wonder what sort of sanitation was afoot behind the closed kitchen doors.
It’s too bad. I’m a big Thai food fan and the restaurant remains a favorite of my co-workers. But with the shoddy customer service response to my reasonable concern about the insect parts in the water, I’m not likely to be back any time soon. Totally avoidable and totally unacceptable.