Friday, February 12, 2010

Deli Vege - The Ugly Side of Hunger

Yesterday we went to celebrate a favourite colleague's farewell. Just three days ago, I just congratulated my vendor with a mini farewell celebration before we went for our meeting. Maybe the economy is improving, after all.

Due his dietary considerations, we decided to celebrate at Deli Vege, a rather hip looking vegetarian restaurant at South Bridge Road. I once walked past the place with Town Mouse and was intrigued enough to take a look at the menu. So lucky, that I finally get a chance to try, I was thinking last evening as I entered the restaurant.

As we were waiting for everyone to arrive, the lady waitress said rather ominously as she passed out the special Chinese New Year menu, "... by the way my boss says the prices have changed." *tremble*

We split into two tables, nine and eight persons respectively. You may wonder why I bothered to report on the number of persons sitting at the tables. But you will see why later.

We agreed to let our colleague do the ordering since he had been here before. Probably out of consideration for our pockets, he chose four dishes and advised us to order rice to fill our bellies. Wise words, indeed.

Since I was the hapless victim of a terrible company luncheon only that afternoon, I refused to eat E-Fu noodles again, so he ordered Shilin "Chicken", Hongkong Mee, Brocoli with Mushrooms, and "Sharks Fin" soup for both tables. We waited very long, warmed up by poking fun at one another before the food came.

They arrived in the order, as shown below:

The "Shilin" chicken was indubitably the nicest of the dishes that night. Literally, tasted like chicken. We asked for rice.

We all fought for the veggies, our ravenous hunger rearing its ugly head. Didn't even bother to spin the Lazy Susan. Ok, can taste the shrooms. Some may say it is delicately flavoured, others may say "what the fuck? Did the Dead Sea dry up?"

Only after we finished the veggies, did the rice arrive. My colleague insisted the rice was undercooked, while another colleague felt it was overcooked. I thought, it's 锅巴饭. We started fighting for the leftover gravy from the shrooms, in a vain attempt to make the rice edible. I tried to shed a tear to add a salty flavour to my naked rice.

Terrible. It tasted worse on the rice.

When the Hongkong mee arrived, three letters crossed my head. WTF? It looks more like E-Fu noodles, but tasted like crap. The noodles looks soaked in the photo right? But, I managed to taste uncooked bits. Gross. All of us made faces when we tried. We actually went downstairs to grab green chili to camouflage the nasty smell of the noodle itself.

I turned to the guest of honor and said, "you can believe how much we love you, to stomach this terrible food". (Yes, I was starting to behave very badly.) He knew, because he was quite a worried host, often walking to the stairs to intercept the waitress and check if our dishes were coming. He felt guilty for our unhappiness, the poor man. Meanwhile the usually vocal Teletubby was starved into submission, and silently, reverently appreciated every single kernel of rice in his bowl.

We all decided as a body that the food was simply not enough. So we ordered two additional dishes per table. The other table of 9 ordered mango salad prawns, and hot plate tofu. My colleague asked me if I wanted to order the same, but I didn't want to. I felt it was wrong to eat "prawns" since I refuse to eat prawns. So we ordered Homeland (Security!!!) tofu and monkey head mushrooms.

As I am typing this, I am grateful that only 17 of us came. Imagine if a full table of 10 sat down to that horrible meal? I think I would have had to upgrade my double cheeseburger to that prosperity burger McDonald's is selling (I ate at Macs later).

We started fantasizing about McDonald's chicken McNuggets, and we wondered if we could order a takeaway from Macs to the restaurant. keke. We were all behaving badly at this point. Ribald and lame jokes were dealt out to keep team morale up. At one point, I said to my colleagues, "I used to be an omnivore, but eating here has turned me into a carnivore".

The other table called me over and told me this joke in Mandarin.

"A little boy walks along a river and sees an old man pissing into it. He asks the old man, why is your weener so small?

The old man replies "(只要功夫深) 铁棒磨成针"."

The entire phrase came from an encounter between the famous Chinese poet Li Bai and an old lady grinding a needle out of iron by the river when he was a child. Since it was so difficult and took incredible effort, it inspired Li Bai to strive hard to become a famous poet. The morale is "一个人无论作任何的事情,都要花费一番心血。只有经过无数血汗、苦泪和功夫磨砺后,你才能成为一个成功的人物. (A person must spend his entire heart and effort in whatever he does. Only after he has experienced much blood, tears, sorrow and effort, can he become a successful person."

But I digress. Last night, I just stood there and gaped. I didn't get it. Was the joke that old man had a wizened weener? Or that the boy doesn't recognise one when he is supposed to have one himself? The boys were aghast that I did not get it. They explained that the joke was that the old man had much sex that his weener became small like a needle. Oh. Personally I belatedly feel that if the boys have added the front part of the line, it would have been much funnier and dirtier. They thought it was because my Mandarin was that bad.

Our table's dishes came first, one hour later, almost half an hour apart. Yea! High Five, we made the right choices. Ironically the boys at the other table had ordered Hot Plate Tofu, which was easier to cook. When it finally came, it was just two tofu squares plonked on the hot plate straight from the package and heaped with a dark sauce.

This homeland tofu is shockingly expensive. Two pieces a person @ S$1.50 a piece. Spicy, hot and scary. I reached for the remaining rice from my colleague's bowl. My colleague encouraged the youngest boy at our table to excrete throes of orgasmic pleasure as he was eating, ala those crazy babes on 综艺大哥大 (some Taiwanese variety shown in Singapore), for the pleasure of our hovering colleagues from the other table.

Monkey Head mushrooms cooked 宫宝 (Literally translated, Gongbao. Spicy black sauce) style. Edible. Not bad. I liked the texture of the shrooms, but suddenly the chef remembered that there was salt in the kitchen after all.

The boys' dishes came about fifteen minutes after we finished. Their Mango salad "prawns" was actually deep fried "prawns" drenched in mango sauce. The boys were forgiving and magnanimous enough to offer me one of the "prawns" but I refused to touch them. Their hot plate tofu was a no-brainer.

Service wise. Slow. We got a guy on his first day. Can't blame them, because the place was quite crowded and we ordered again. But the portions were SHIT for the prices we paid. They heard us singing a birthday song for the guest of honor, whose birthday it was next week as well, and brought over one bowl of ice-cream drenched in mango sauce for him. I wonder now if it was the same mango sauce on the "prawns" just now? Must ask my colleagues.

The meal? S$394.
The wait? Forever. (3 hours for six dishes)
The fun we had, despite the meal? Priceless.

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