Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Meal at Mastro’s, or “Hoi Polloi, Oi!”

Thanks to the gentle prodding (ouch! You sharpen your tuning forks?) of Yumi, I am making myself finish this blog entry about my first experience dining at Mastro's Steakhouse and Inferiority Complexery, where the dining experience alone has more personality than I do - not to mention more money, class, and pleasant odors. It is a fine establishment where just mentioning the word "ambiance" adds an extra $15 to your bill. Where the waiter will spend 10 minutes dutifully explaining every single item on the menu, including where it was caught (next time you are there, ask about the artichokes...funny story, that), what type of $300 wine goes best with it, and how high of a credit score it requires to order.

"Why, yes sir, this particular lobster was hand fed filet mignon and given regular deep exoskeleton massages (my, your shell is so hard! Have you been feeling crabby lately?) for the ultimate experience in tenderness. A bottle or three of the 1963 Riche Aristocrate would go splendidly with your meal, assuming of course you have a credit score of 2200 plus 25% gratuity."

In other words, it is one of those a la carte fancy pantzy steakhouses where the waiters have the little combs to brush off your table when you are done eating. Also included in the decor are artsy miniature lamps with soul-black shades on each table with actual candles inside that, due to the tint of the shades, give off absolutely no light.

Our table happened to be in the middle of a lifelike recreation of the Arctic Circle, or so the frigidity of the air conditioning suggested. But, knowing how well-catered-to one is at a restaurant like this, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a special waiter kept around with a hammer and an ice pick to break off the nosecicles as they form.

When we were ushered to our table, already sitting on the table were some neatly placed white cloth napkins. When we sat down, the usher seating us asked us both individually if we would like a black napkin. We both said yes, and they proceeded to artfully place a folded black napkin on our laps, and removed the white napkin from the table, presumably to be taken outside and beaten for not being good enough.

At one point, our waiter came up to our table, frowned at our lamp, which had gone out, and went to re-light it. We hadn't noticed that it had gone out because it didn't change the lighting of our table one bit. He re-lit it, and I still couldn't notice a difference. It went out later - again, unnoticed. So the waiter came up, took it away, replaced it with a lamp from another table, and lit the new lamp. This one stayed lit as far as I could tell, and by that I mean the waiter didn’t come back again to re-light it, so I assume it was lit. It was, you guessed it - still as dark as ever.

I almost felt a little guilty when the waiter would come up to re-light our lamp, as if he got paid in direct correlation to how many lamps were lit. Similar to the busboys at less-elegant restaurants like Soup Plantation who seem to be paid on a per-plate-cleared basis.

"May I take your plate, sir?"

"No, I'm not quite finished ye--Hey! Give my plate back!"

*running away* "23 plates! My children are gonna eat tonight!"

Part of me suspected that our waiter thought we had blown the lamp out. It probably takes all the restraint that those waiters have to refrain from shaking their heads while giving you a snide look of disdain and saying “Look what you’ve done.” And you know if you let out the slightest snicker they’ll bust you right in the chops.

“What’s so funny? Huh? My family's been table sweepers for five generations, way back to my great great great grandpa Bissel Hoover, who could sweep a table four times this size in just three strokes, with half of a broken comb! Oh, and then there was my father, Sweepy McGee, who swept his last table with just one stroke. I’d imagine all the shaking and his eventual collapse and death on the table itself did away with most of the crumbs.”

Of course, the best part of the evening was when the food came. And on 7000 degree plates, nonetheless. Our waiter warned us several times not to touch the plates, so naturally I had to touch mine. It actually wasn't as hot as I thought it would be, and the flames that spontaneously erupted on my finger were easily extinguished in my glass of a more modest choice of wine, the Frugale Farte.

I got the 28 oz. Prime Rib, Medium Rare, Dripping and Wiggling. I ended up eating about 20 ozs of it before my stomach threw the white flag, which was quite bloodied by this time. Strangely enough, my steak wasn't super warm, so I ended up pressing most bites against the nuclear plate to warm them up a bit.

When we left, we couldn't just get in our car and drive away. No no no, that would be too easy! Mastro's only offers valet parking (slogan: "As if you weren't paying enough already"). We had to wait for the valet manager to put in a call to whichever guy was currently joyriding around in our car and tell him to bring it back within the hour. Funny how our culture has convinced us that spending money to have someone else park our car for us and then waiting several minutes for it when we are ready to leave is better than parking our car for free and leaving immediately. Oh well, I guess they have to pay those busboys somehow.

Of course, I wouldn't have been able to go if it weren't for Erica budgeting for it and generously offering to take me there for my 24th birthday. Thanks 'Ca. :-)

Are you looking for more? I bet you're still wondering how the artichoke was caught.

Why, by a firm grip around its neck, of course.

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