When it comes to food, I'm not a gourmet. I grew up in a family where the Sunday speciality was well-oiled raw kibbee with a side dish of crunchy raw onions. The day began with a breakfast of thick coffee, toast and shankleesh, a fetid cheese ball with a fermented greenish-black pocked surface. As for the kibbee, a merger of ground round steak,wheat and a few herbs, we hung in there and ate heartily despite warnings from folks with less-conditioned stomachs that raw meat was an open invitation to deadly tape worms. My parents each lived into their 90s.
I thought of those daring days as I ran across a review in the New Yorker of a new restaurant in Manhattan called All'Onda, which referred to things you get from the sea and prepared with Japanese and Venitian influences. Clearly a fashionable approach for foodies and quite distant from the perilous dishes served by my mother.
But after a few paragraphs into the piece , I realized that my lexicon of stuff that you can readily drop into your cart at supermarkets was hardly sufficient to cover the upscale terminology of All'Onda's in-crowd.
Try this thought from the review: "All'Onda has fashioned a lovely menu of seafood-driven crudi (or is it creative sashimi?) and homemade pastas, for a sophisticated foodie crowd." My italics. Google informed me that both words refer to "raw". Now we kibbee eaters are getting somewhere.
Next came uni, which I looked up. You can imagine how my mother would have felt if I told her uni were the gonads of sea urchins! There were ecstatic allusions to the eatery's sardines cut in chunky parallelograms and sweetbreads with "pale pink bonito flakes, which dance in the air, as if alive."
Let's stop right there because I'm not getting hungry. There's also the downside of knowing that there's a chichi culinary world out there that thrills overs miso-cured eggs, monkfish liver, peekytoe-crab garganelli and soy-sauce gelato. The latter is too much to bear for a guy who dashed for the first gelaterria in every town I ever visited in Italy. You don't mess with gelato.
The reviewer did say, however, that a lot of very nice people worked at the restaurant. . Just like my mother.