You know what they say . . . "Try anything once. Do the fun stuff twice."
This little quote has been the key that has opened many a door to me to a variety of experiences, many of them extraordinary. I think I came across it about a hundred years ago when a Japanese family opened their home and shared their culture with me through costume, music, food and fun. One particular experience that I am sure cemented this little phrase deep within came along with a serving of Chocolate Covered Ants.
Most recently, we were out and about looking for a place to eat. Forgetting that one of our favorite Mexican restaurants was closed we took off driving, scratching names of restaurants off our impromptu list. Then we remembered one place we knew about but never tried, a little place called "Ten Ten Chinese Restaurant" that specializes in Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Instantly my stomach said, "Try!"
An aside: I've about had it with Chinese buffets. Recently I lamented how the fun is gone in going to a restaurant, ordering hot tea and Dinner For Four--you know: Soup, Egg Rolls, Chicken Chow Mein and Noodles all served in courses under hot covered dishes in the middle of the table. There's no culture left (ok, so most of the food is American, but follow where I'm going here). The experience of going to a Chinese restaurant is gone.
But we find Ten Ten and enter, not knowing what to expect. Immediately, we discover no rows of old food simmering under hot lamps, but tables waiting for us to sit and not one, but TWO menus to chose from: one Chinese, the other Vietnamese. I grab the Vietnamese, ready for something different.
Over my shoulder near the kitchen, groups of Vietnamese singers led by a live band belt out Vietnamese songs through hot mikes on an outdoor stange--a telethon to raise money for families "back home" needing medical help. This is as close to an explanation from our hostess as I am able to understand.
I have no clue what I'm ordering, so I look for something that delivers variety. I settle for "Hu Tieu Nam Vang", a soup containing shrimp, BBQ Pork, two quail eggs and rice noodles.
This surprising dish (eaten with chop sticks) delivered what I was looking for--an experience. It was gamey and loaded with flavor, especially with the cilantro, pickled turnips, lime, lemon grass and bean sprouts mixed in. I left the jalapenos out because I wanted to taste it without the sting. Every bite was intriguing. To be honest, I'm not so sure that was BBQ pork . . . but I couldn't stop eating.
Don't be fooled. That bowl is huge. And I was not hungry thirty minutes after. Nor two hours after. No room left for "Sinh To Bo" (Avacado Fruit Shake) for dessert.
There's a chance I may not order this again--but you know what? I tried it and venturing out into the unknown delivered a high level of refreshment. Something I've never done before.
We'll visit this place again. And again. Many more experiences yet to be had.