Monday, March 02, 2009

Don't do Dido's

My mom wrote a blog post about our favorite Italian restaurant back home, Gloria's Little Italy. That got us craving some good home-baked Italian food but it was already so close to dinner time that we were already starving and neither one of us felt like making dinner. We had an appointment later on in the evening and thought we'd splurge a little and try out the new Italian restaurant that opened up on Road 9. Dido's al Dente, it's called.

We went up to the restaurant (it's on the second floor) and found it filled with locals. Completely filled. The place is tiny. They found room for us, though, and we ordered our food. Since we were starving we ordered some garlic bread for an appetizer.

When we saw the waiter approaching with our bread we got all excited. Garlic bread can do that to you.

But then he sat it down in front of us. It was green. Little pieces of toast smeared with an unappetizing paste of green.

Andrew and I looked at each other, swallowed uneasily, and picked up a piece of bread. You have to try everything once, right? And the restaurant comes recommended, so it was probably good, right?

We each took a bite, chewed slowly, and swallowed.

"This? Isn't right." I concluded.

"I'm pretty sure it's basil," Andrew said optimistically.

"No," I disagreed immediately, "It's not basil. It tastes more like seaweed than basil but I can't quite place it."

I sat, contemplating the flavor in my mouth.

"It's parsley! It's pureed parsley. This is pureed-parsley bread, not garlic bread."

I'm pretty sure that you are never supposed to puree parsley and use it as a spread. Ever.

Unfortunately, a quick Google search has proved me wrong. However, my opinion still stands firm. Parsley was not meant to be pureed. Would you puree a Caesar salad? Would you? I prefer my leafy greens leafy. That's why they're called leafy greens.

While I was busy sulking about the pathetic state of our "garlic" bread, Andrew was resourcefully using his butter knife to scrape the parsley spread off the bread. Genius.

"It's much better without it on there," he noted.

Rachel wouldn't take another bite after she had her first, but Andrew and I managed to polish off (read: stomach) the bread somehow. It was a good 45 minutes after the bread fiasco that our meal came out.

At first, when I stared at my painfully barren plate, I wondered how it could take them so long to cook up such a tiny portion but, when I stuck my fork in it and my lasagna basically dissolved before my eyes, I realized it was because they had cooked my noodles to death. My food came partially digested. It was disintegrating before it even made it into my stomach.

Rachel was excited that we had more food for her to sample.

I, however, was less excited. My lasagna was green, too. I have nothing against the color green. In fact, I even like broccoli. I can even handle Brussels sprouts. (Just not ground up, and put on toast.) My lack of enthusiasm was dulled by hunger pains and the cheese on top of my lasagna did look mighty good, but I couldn't shake the description I had read in the menu. Nothing could dull that.

Lasagna. With mice meat.

Egypt, Egypt, Egypt! Mince meat does not sound appetizing when you don't have a typo that turns it into mice. Everything here is mince meat. The word "ground" is descriptive enough, but at least it doesn't give me the heebeejeebees. And it still allows for categorization so you actually can rest assured, when you purchase your meat, what exactly it is you're eating.

"Is that ground beef or ground turkey?"

"Actually, this is just meat. Mince meat. Don't know what. Could be anything. Mice, maybe. They could have just stuck the en in there by accident. Whoever heard of mince, really?"

I probably shouldn't have gotten the lasagna, but nothing else on the menu looked very appetizing, either. So I ordered the lasagna and that's what was brought out to me. I think.

My first bite wasn't bad, but it wasn't the lasagna I had been hoping for. Rachel was just about crawling across the table to get at my plate so I gave her a bite, too. That was the only bite she asked for the entire time we were in the restaurant.

She spent the rest of the evening playing by the window. The second storey window. That was open. From floor to ceiling. And had no screen.

I made sure Andrew blocked her way to the open window and made her play on the window sill by the closed portion, which she was not happy about. It was like the glass was blocking her view or something.

Meanwhile, Andrew and I continued to try to choke down our meal. I was hardly chewing, primarily because my lasagna had turned into mush while I was trying to convince Rachel to not throw herself out the window (the restaurant wasn't that bad), but also because there were chunks of unchewable gristle and hard bone-like pieces that I just couldn't handle. And it tasted rather gamey to me.

"This? Isn't beef." I concluded.

"Sh-sh-sure it is," Andrew choked out, successfully not gagging up his meal.

"I'm pretty sure it's actually water buffalo. And probably the cheapest one they could buy, too." I suggested.

Not that I have anything against eating water buffalo. I've eaten it several times here (probably more often than I've known). Only the wild ones are endangered. Not the ones they have here that they work to death before slaughtering. Those things are so skinny and worn out there is not a whole lot of meat on their bones, which is probably why you get so much other...stuff...with it.

When I buy meat here, which I haven't done since September, I choose a cut of meat labeled "cow" or "beef" and ask the butchers to grind that. Then I know for sure that no other...stuff...accidentally got mixed in with my mince meat. I never buy the prepackaged mince meat because that usually is water buffalo. Not that I have anything against eating water buffalo, but...I just don't like "stuff" in my meat.

We finished everything on our plate because we did have to pay for it, but we definitely were not happy with our meal. It wasn't my worst dining experience. Definitely a bad one, but not the worst.

I mean, I didn't cry or anything. And I have cried over meals before.

Like the time I accidentally ordered a whole chicken (what?!) in Jordan and when they brought it to me it was bleeding still. Dripping all over my plate.

Or the time I found a chicken heart on my pizza in Russia. A whole chicken heart comfortably nestled under some innocuous-looking cheese. A whole heart.

Or when I showed up at our school in Voronezh for breakfast before teaching all day long (and I swear the lunch ladies stole our food) and all they gave us was one hardboiled egg each and some flower tea. And I was starving that day because my host mom had served mystery meat patties the night before and they were red inside still so I could hardly take a bite. And all I got for breakfast was an egg.

No, this was not a meal worth crying over but I certainly wouldn't recommend Dido's to anyone. Not even my worst enemy.

Well, maybe my worst enemy.


  1. Suddenly your very glamorous and exciting life is not something I envy. I think this is the first time since you left for this adventure! :)

  2. Maybe mice meat really wasn't a typo....from the sounds of it.

  3. I can't remember any dining experiences as bad as yours. I've tried some weird things but the situations weren't as stressful as yours sound. Maybe I'll start blogging about food for the next little while.

  4. Actually, most Garlic bread does have parsley in the Garlic Butter they spread on the bread because it gives it a tiny bit of colour...Jus' Sayin'
    Also, I would NOT order anything that said Mice Meat... was it salty?

  5. Ground water buffalo is gross. I learned my lesson at Carrefour when I bought what I thought was ground beef. Nay no, burrito. Water buffalo. Ugh. I'll make sure to steer clear of it. I'm ready for some good garlic bread, though. Crap. I'm hungry now.

  6. Don't worry everyone, I'm pretty sure it was not actually mice. They eat pigeons here, I know that for sure, but as far as I know they don't eat mice. And this was definitely water buffalo. As Lydia pointed out, water buffalo has a distinct gross taste. Impossible to miss.

    And, Abra, I'm fine with a little bit of parsley. That's what parsley is for, right? Color? Flavor? Garnish? I just have issues of parsley jam on my garlic toast, especially when the garlic is basically omitted. I don't know if they put garlic in the parsley paste, but if they did I could not taste it.

    Annik, go ahead and blog about food. I might be blogging about food for a while as well. Now that all these stories are popping up to haunt me!

  7. I wonder if it was a pesto... doesn't that have parsley in it? I think so, that's why it's so green right? But then, it has other stuff like pine nuts and garlic, and Parmesan cheese... so unless they forgot all that stuff, it probably wasn't Pesto.
    I just wondered what THEIR tomatoe sauce was like, if it was a salty as yours ;)

  8. Not pesto. Definitely not pesto.

    I LOVE pesto. Pesto is made of basil, mostly. It doesn't usually have parsley in it, at least not any recipes I've seen.

    Technically pesto is anything smooshed up, so I guess maybe it was "a" pesto. Certainly not a good pesto, though. My favorite pesto is this sun-dried tomato stuff that Andrew would bring home sometimes as a special treat for me. Yum.

    It's so expensive to buy ready-made here so we're looking at planting an herb garden so we can make our own. We'll see if that ever happens.

    Oh, tomato sauce. Bummer deal, no? I was totally expecting tomato sauce but there was none. I know.

  9. Okay, so Josie and I are not very good shoppers, so we couldn't figure this out ourselves--but where do you find the pesto to buy? We have about used up the ones you so graciously left in our fridge when you moved, and we want more, but we lack the shopping skills to discover their hiding place.

  10. I've seen them in a number of stores, but we would get them at Wal-Mart...they are so much cheaper at Wal-Mart, probably 40-60% less expensive than at a regular grocery store.

    Ummmm...I think they are either with canned goods or by salad dressings. Andrew would know better though so I'll ask him.

  11. That reminds me of a family reunion story.....Jenna "I love exotic foods"......

  12. I don't think I know that story.

  13. haha wow there are tons of amazing comments on this.. but yeah, i've had dido's a couple times and never had a problem.. then again, i just get pasta and veggies, which is pretty hard to mess up. idk i like it, but i haven't tried the "mice meat" there so who knows.........

  14. oh right basil, mom you can find it usually right by the canned spaghetti sauces...
    The exotic food story:

    I'll just post it on my blog because it actually almost caused a fight between Jenna and I...

  15. Oh and the sundried tomato is my favorite too... it's really good if you stuff chicken or steak with it and bake :)