We went to dinner at House of Nanking Monday night with our friend Rob, who's in town from Boston. Rob is a hard-core food nerd, the sort of person who will fly to Japan to try a restaurant. Next to him, I'm devotionless. Then again, Rob makes more money than I do.
Rob loves House of Nanking, and so do I. Some people–mostly blowhard Chowhound types–sneer and call it a tourist trap. But if you're coming from any place other than LA, New York, or Vancouver, this seems like exceptional Chinese food, brighter and more layered, and yes, somewhat Californicated. I love the fresh herbs and the fried sweet potatoes and the squid with vinegar sauce.
So it was a great meal, except for, well, me. You know how when you think you've probably offended someone, but you're not sure, you end up looking for ways to apologize without actually apologizing? That would be our dinner.
Rob got married last May in Las Vegas. We flew out for the wedding, but on the way out, I felt a cold coming on. By the next morning, I was feverish, aching, stiff-necked, and acutely sensitive to light. One long 6 a.m. trip to a walk-in clinic later, all we knew is that I probably didn't have bacterial meningitis. But they didn't know what it was.
I went straight to bed, dragged myself out for the ceremony, and left halfway through the reception. Photos show me glassy-eyed and bloated. Every step sent shooting pains up my back. I sent Scott out for the after-party and stayed in bed for another 24 hours until I swallowed a handful of Motrin and stumbled out once more for a pre-scheduled interview with a chef I was hoping to profile in Sunset.
If you ever find yourself driving down the Sunset Strip at night wearing dark shades to shield your eyes from the light, you'll be a Man, my son! No, actually, you'll know that Las Vegas is just about the worst place to be sick with light-sensitivity. But the chef had set aside his one day off to meet with me. He had invited other chefs over for a barbecue, just so I could talk to them. I couldn't miss it.
Unfortunately, Rob and Anna had scheduled a casual "farewell dinner" for their guests at the same time. And Scott, who is typically such a loyal, savvy, wise man, told them that I couldn't make it, not because I was in bed with the typhoid, but because I had to go "hang out with a chef." Maybe he said I had an interview. But he definitely didn't explain how bad it was, how much effort it took for me to make the appointment, how I really had no business being out of bed and around other people. So it looked like I was blowing them off, at their wedding.
Hence my greeting to Rob the other night: "Hey! It's so good to see you! Gosh, I think I haven't seen you since your wedding when I was so sick! Remember that, honey? The viral meningitis I had?"
During dinner: "So how's Anna? Oh, that's so cool that you're going back to Vegas for your anniversary! Maybe we could meet you there. Because I'd really love to finally get to enjoy the city, since I was so sick the last time we were there and really couldn't do anything except go to your wedding and do that interview that I was required to do. For work."
On departing: "Hey, it was so good to see you again. Let us know about Vegas! I'd love to be able to go there when I'm not sick and really celebrate with you guys."