Fried Bone Clumps
I recently wrote about Chinca Chilcano, the best place I ate in Washington D.C., well now it’s time to tell you about the worst. I won't even mention the name of the restaurant because I don’t want this to be some sort of ranting Yelp review. I will tell you that the place is in Chinatown, and even if I did tell you their name, they don’t have a website so you wouldn’t be able to look them up anyway. So ha.
The whole family met there for dinner; myself, my husband, my brother, mother, father, aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandmother all sitting at a large round table in the restaurant’s basement. Headless roasted chickens hung by their feet in the entrance windows, and I was excited for an authentic Chinese meal. When they brought my aunt her glass of wine, they had filled it to the very top. I mean it was in danger of spilling over the brim when she first picked it up. This should have been my first hint that maybe this wasn’t the place to take food risks, but I desperately wanted to go on a cultural cuisine adventure, so I continued on with reckless abandon.
We studied the menus, it was about five pages long with very small font, there must have been hundreds of items on it . To be honest, I wasn't in the least bit hungry. We had had breakfast, late-morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack so I really didn’t want another bite. I didn’t want to be rude, it had always been the plan to meet for dinner at six and the fact that I filled up beforehand was my fault. My days of sitting at a table watching other people enjoy their meals are behind me, so I scoured the pages for an item that would peek my fancy. The dishes ran the gammet from conventional sesame chicken to stranger things, I seem to remember “cold blowfish” being an option. I thought as long as I wasn’t exactly starving, I would seize upon the opportunity to order something I couldn’t get everyday. I ordered the frog. At least, I thought I ordered the frog.
About twenty minutes later, a plate of what looked like butterfly shrimp was placed in front of me. For those Futurama fans out there, they most closely resembled popplers. They looked delicious! I selected the biggest, most scrumptious looking piece and bit down hard.
This was a bad choice. The first thing I thought was “Oh no, I found a bone!” I took a second bite, “Oh no, another bone.” A third bite, “Oh no … it’s ALL bones.” It turns out that these crispy bites were mostly comprised of one ingredient, you guested it, bones. There was hardly any meat in them at all, just dozens of frustratingly tiny little pieces of cartilage and, there’s that word again, bones. I tried to eat them like chicken wings, but the problem was there weren’t in any sort of leg or wing shape, they didn’t even seem to be connected to each other in any way, it was impossible to know where they where without biting into the clump blindly. It truly seemed as though a bunch of tiny singular bones were battered and thrown into a fryer together. I took the tiniest, gentlest bites, trying to strip away any bit of meat that I could find. In the time that it took everyone to finish their dinner, I had successfully de-boned about four fried tiny clumps. The process was arduous and thankless. The fact that I was not in the least bit hungry in the first place made it easier for me to leave my plate behind and to respectfully decline their offer of a doggy bag.
Even though my meal was terrible and I had left with a scratchy throat from swallowing frog bone fragments, this was one of my favorite dining experiences. I hardly ever get to see this side of my family, and now we have a great memory of a shared meal. We laughed a lot about my horrible meal choice, and it’s surely going to be brought up for years to come, “Hey Maddy, remember when you ordered bones?” I had to admit, the whole thing was very funny, and if I had to do it all over again I would. It was a nice reminder of the beauty in a shared meal. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to include edible flowers or gold leaf. Heck, it can taste terrible and still worthy and positive. At least you will have experienced something, at least you’ll have the story, you did something you’ve never done before, you’ve lived a little more. I’ve had great sesame chicken plenty of times, I’ve never had fried bone balls. Now I have.