Who is game some Taiwanese for Stinky Tofu?
I had heard about this fermented tofu dish served at Yummy Kitchen, but I wasn't sure I could find anyone willing to go for this food adventure. However, my friend Cheryl (already made a blog debut) was willing... and able to recruit her friend Robin. Robin has dined in Taiwan before, but has never experienced Stinky Tofu. 5 bonus points for finding some willing participants for this outing!
I love an excuse to drive down Bellaire and take in the amazing display of Asian restaurants and shops. Metropole Plaza is in an older area, that I haven't visited. So much to do besides dine. We could have gone for a Chinese Foot Massage after our meal. 2 bonus points for checking out a new plaza!
Kary ranks high on my list of restaurant owners!
Kary greeted the 3 of us right away and was eager to help us figure out the most authentic dishes on the menu. She guided us towards the complimentary, self-serve soup table and she recommended a visit to a nearby shop, when we inquired about ordering some beer. Despite the fact the small restaurant grew more crowded as the evening progressed, Kary made regular trips to our table to show us how to stir our noodles properly or to bring us small glasses for our newly purchased Taiwan beer. She was so friendly, we offered to share our beer. "No." She frowned and shook her head. "I had too much to drink last night." Later she did walk by with a small glass of beer and she toasted with us. 10 bonus points for Kary. That's the highest ever given to an owner or server!
I love the coziness of this place. Yummy Kitchen is a good name, because it felt like we were dining in a cozy kitchen. I loved the odd curtain, covering half the doorway to the restrooms. It looked like grandma's apron. I loved the soup table where we could help ourselves, just like we do at home. The bigger round tables had (very helpful) lazy Susans. And unless it was out of my view, there was no TV!! That seems to be rare in my international dining these days! 3 bonus points for cozy and no TV!
The dining crowd was all Asian, except for our table. I'm not sure how many were from Taiwan, but at least Kary was. The menus did have English as well, but for the most part, I felt as if I might be eating in Taiwan. (Although Robin said she didn't remember most of these foods from her visit to Taiwan) 3 bonus for authenticity...as far as I could tell.
The food kept coming!
The noodle dish above, slithered down easily with green onions and just a little spice. The 2 taco looking treats (STEAMED PORK BELLY BUNS!) were my favorite. Who would have guessed that "soft, fatty belly with pickled greens, cilantro and crushed peanuts and sugar" in a squishy bun could be so yummy. I trusted what I'd read on YELP and I agreed it was very good. The Stinky Tofu, above right, is another story...later.
Steamed Veggie Dumplings and Piping Hot Shrimp!
I was beginning to feel full by the time these dishes arrived. I will remember less about flavor and more about how comical it felt as I attacked the squishy, fat dumplings with my chopsticks. Don't try to pop the whole thing in your mouth! The shrimp had some good zip, in spice and heat! 5 points total for food at Yummy Kitchen!
But what about that Stinky Stuff?
Here's the scoop...it really is stinky! My first bite was so hot, I was distracted by my scalding tongue. "It's not that bad." I insisted after I finally closed my mouth and swallowed.
My second bite was worse. The fumes were rising with my chopsticks. Cheryl tried spicing the sauce up, but there's no disguising that manure-like smell! At one point Robin leaned towards the dish, took a whiff and spoke firmly. "I'm sorry. I just can't eat that." Her words of defeat didn't match her confident expression. This cracked me up, because I've just met Robin, but I can tell she's pretty gutsy and game for things. She raved about every other dish and moment of our evening. She was even the one who raced off to get our beer. But when she admitted she was not capable of sampling even one smelly square, it made me all the prouder. So I ate one more...and almost gagged. We determined they get worse the longer they sit. Dear Kary had to remove our remaining tofu from the table! 10 points for having Stinky Tofu at our table...eaten or not!
A surprise from Kary!
I guess Kary was just having fun with us. She brought us some mussels, drizzled with an oily sauce. "Not on the menu!" She announced, proudly. I didn't mention writing a blog, so I don't think she was trying to sway us! We just happily accepted her gift! 3 bonus points for surprise!!
What I learned from my People Encounter...
I noticed the table beside us had a dish, sizzling over a flame. Kary said it was something with intestines. As I stole another peek, I made eye contact with the man on the right. I used much facial expression and pointed to the dish and asked slowly, "You like?" or maybe even worse. "Is good?" The man graciously smiled and answered with more of a Texas drawl than I have. "I don't know. My friend ordered it." Luckily he didn't seem insulted that I assumed our table was the only one in the whole restaurant with English speakers! I think I learned a good lesson. They were all good sports and raised their beers in good posing humor! 5 points for my lesson!
46 points for Yummy Kitchen? Wow! Did I count right? I'm really bad with numbers. But I'm also extremely generous with bonus points when I'm surrounded by positive people! This score is off the charts on the dining blog. I might need to get more serious in the future.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.