20 December, 2009

The Quest for the Perfect Steak

I have a problem. Which is more important in a restaurant: the food or the service?

I'm a bit fussy about steaks. Ok, more than a bit fussy, I'm down right obsessive about it. Screwing up a steak is a crime and anybody who murders a good steak should be whipped to within an inch of their lives (yes, I feel quite strongly about this).

Living in Southern Sydney presents a challenge. It seems no restaurant is capable of cooking a medium rare steak. I have travelled from one end of the Shire to the other searching for a decent steak only to be let down time and time again. Nobody was prepared to serve anything thing less than well done. I have always thought that “well done” is an interesting term for completely destroyed. It's like saying China was “well done” after Genghis Khan popped in to say hello.

I had one particularly depressing incident when it took over an hour for the waiter to bring me my steak. As soon as I attempted to cut it I realised it had been cooking for the entire time I'd been waiting. I couldn't take the let down of a bad steak again and I knew that I had been defeated. I was going to have to travel further afield if I wanted my steaks a little bloody.

It's often the case that a major breakthrough happen when you least expected it. Last night I went to a restaurant I had driven past a thousand times and never thought to try.
“What the hell” I thought, “I'll give it go”

I was a little nervous at first. There were no table cloths (one of my prerequisites for a decent restaurant) and the only thing adorning the table was a can of salt, the type you see in fish and chip shops with the screw on lid with holes in it. My nervousness increase after the order was taken and I was given a steak knife that resembled a Bowie knife. This was one serious knife and could have easily been used to kill a bear. What sort of steak required a knife that would have made a Gurkha proud?

The steak arrived. I prodded it a little with my serious knife, pushed it around the plate with trepidation. It looked ok but there was only one way to tell. I made the first bold cut.  There it was .... perfection.  My heart sung with joy! Finally I had found my Nirvana. The searching was over. I felt like the Crusaders standing on Temple Mount looking over the Holy Land (ok, I might be getting a little carried away here).

I was in such a good mood after the thrill of finally getting a medium rare steak that I was going to lash out and have a cheese platter to finish. It was to be the perfect close to a wonderful meal.

And that's when it all started to go wrong. The waiters mystically vanished. It was like we had outstayed welcome and we were expected to lock up on our way out. Our empty plates were eventually cleared and I waited for the staff to return with the obligatory “Would you like to see the dessert menu or would you like some coffee?”

Waiting ...
Waiting ...
Waiting ...

It never happened. At first I was patient. I still has my post-steak after glow and nothing was going to upset me. But that couldn't last. I was ready for a little piece of cheese on a cracker and when I finally realised that it was not going to happen I felt robbed. I became surly and wanted to sabotage the can of salt by unscrewing the lid so it falls off next time someone picked it up but it was obvious that it wasn't going to be a waiter who picked it up. From my seat I could see the entrance of the kitchen and when I saw the waiter sitting back having a laugh with the barman, I snapped.

“We're leaving.”
           "But what about the cheese?”
“Stuff the cheese. We're going.”
          “But I was looking forward to the cheese...”
“I don't care.  We're leaving.”

By the time I managed to get the bill I was furious. I had to send a message that they had ruined the perfect steak experience with their crappy service. I left a $1 tip.

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