Monday, December 7, 2009

In a Lonely Place: Seoul

Mendez pulled the fedora off his head. "This case has me jumpier than a trampoline on the moon. If these murders keep up, we'll lose our audience." Hans inhaled the Chesterfield smoke and scanned the street. In New Haven there's nothing but trouble. Hans and Mendez have lost two weeks of sleep sleuthing around New Haven's most and least desirable areas: bank robberies are foiled, diamond necklaces are returned within seconds. Now they must solve... The Case of Energy Drink Fueled Night Club Murder.

But first they must dine. With the final sips from a flask, Hans and Mendez stroll towards Seoul, a Japansese Korean restaurant on Crown Street. Crown Street is where vice hangs in the air like vultures, it's hat and coat are securely checked for a long reserved stay. Look at someone the wrong way and you might end up washing up on the Long Island Sound. It's where Hans and Mendez feel at home. Not initially on the "where to eat list," they went to Seoul because they missed lunch hour everywhere else. As they walked through the puddles of Crown Street, cloaks and daggers following them like steam on oatmeal, a lonely deep saxophone sounding behind every corner they opened the door of Seoul, instinctually knocking out, "shave and a hair cut, two bits." They were sat next to a divider covered with trinkets and knick knacks. The deer in the baby carriage stands out. When they first walked in, they were taken aback by thumping instrumental techno. As soon as they were seated the music stopped. They were the lone diners who now must fill the empty air with the sounds of their voices. The second hand on a Hans's wrist watch was now audible, deafening even.

The waiter approached, "What will you two gentlemen like to drink?"

"Two scotch and sodas, and uh, a shot of whiskey with an egg on the side. As for him, I don't know," Mendez barked.

"I want a glass like this", Hans pointed to the water glass. "And I want it filled with gin up to here." He pointed to the rim. The two sleuths also ordered teriyaki salmon and a spicy fish soup called Jam Bong. The latter for namesake alone.

The salmon teriyaki was too crispy to be fish, but perfect to stop a door. It matched the dilapidated gray sky which gloomed through the windows. One positive aspect of the salmon was it made the table treats taste even better. The cold, steamed broccoli in a spicy, almost mole like sauce and the seasoned cucumbers were absolutely delicious. The vegetables beneath the fish were non-descript looking, and tasted like their colors (potato gray). The Jam bong was served in a bowl large enough to do a weeks worth of laundry in. The broth was spicy and the shrimp chewy. The portion was too large for a dish that was both very spicy and very simplistic. For the preparation time, one expected more to be delivered from the food. Or maybe the long delays were intentional, as various people peered through the windows. Were any of these people goons sent out to bend Hans into a pretzel, or tap dance on Mendez?

Seoul has a very large and impressive looking dining room, leading the slow in- between lunch and dinner hour diner to imagine that the restaurant does get busy and the Korean techno does blare. It's not that Seoul is a terrible restaurant, that the servicemen and women are rude or that the food is inedible. The downfall of Seoul is that it is mediocre. In order to be a destination in a town that has more Asian restaurants than parking spaces, ranging from the cheap Chinese take out joints to Sushi restaurants with fifty dollar rolls, an Asian restaurant has to be excellent. It has to have a quality that makes it stand out from the rest. Seoul lacks soul. It does not have the originality that will make it a destination for the seeker of good eats or of good times.

Hans and Mendez's solitude was finally broken. Sat next to them, divided by the deer, were four she Yale grad students. They were cute, but they weren't gorgeous. In a town with more beautiful women than there are...

Hans and Mendez paid the bill and refilled their flask. Crime never sleeps, but sleuths gotta eat.