Emil is a genius. What he does with food is more like alchemy than cooking. The dishes that come out of his kitchen might not be food any more. Are they edible, you wonder, presented at table to be tasted and smelled, or should they be apprehended with other senses, looked at or listened to maybe, or simply avowed like menu epiphanies? You can forget getting a reservation to his restaurant. Nobody I know has been there. But what a reputation, for audacity, for exclusivity! The food is literally incomprehensible. All right, I admit it; I did get a table once, the hard way. The auditor in my department had a reservation. I had him fired, and when he couldn’t afford the table minimum, I went in his name. But as it happened, Emil had an off-night. Was that karma? My date, the auditor’s girlfriend, obsessed for weeks about the place. She fasted the two days before. But then Emil’s sinus headache, and his troubles with immigration, and he didn’t perform his usual prestidigitation. Still, some of the effects were stupefying. She ordered the shrimp, which takes an eternity to prepare and comes on a platter like a hubcap. A membrane of parchment the color of bubble gum expands to the size of a basketball, then slowly splits and emits the essence of sushi prawns. Surprisingly filling for a vapor dish: Market Price; prep time 80 minutes, during which we witnessed appetizers equally illusory. Afterwards we compared notes over cheeseburgers from a drive-through takeout window and made out. With every bite we felt the grease drip down our chins. I’ve called Emil’s daily since for another reservation. The auditor’s girlfriend will go nowhere else. We’ll see what we can do, they tell me. Do we have your credit report?

Copyright © April 16, 2007 David Hodges

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