Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Russian, a Korean, and a China Man Goes into a Restaurant.

San Soo Gab San
5251 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 334-1589

Dear Reader, I am sure that through my writings you are able to deduce that I approach disappointment with a certain amount of equanimity; I am perceived as the living embodiment of grace. But sometimes, I know, you need not file a dissent, I can have a temper. Depending on the situation, time, and person, what would be perceived as a mild injury can often be turned into an act of war. I am first to stipulate that this is my major character flaw, I internalize too much, every mistake is perceived as an affront to me. But running parallel to this is my recovery time. I may not forget, but I usually forgive quite easily. San Soo Gab Son injured me, and quickly it made reparations.

While milling about a bookstore, I received a most fortuitous message from Vladimir (aka Dr. Liarski) inquiring to my evening plans. Originally I was going to go home and eat a jar of peanut butter while read the Omnivore’s Dilemma. Scratch those plans I thought, Vladimir wants to hang out! But like a summer romance, happiness is often fleeting, Vladimir suggested we do Korean bbq. Back to peanut butter. I am not a fan of Korean bbq, mainly because it makes my clothes smell like meat. Every time I take a whiff of the cashmere in my closet, I go into a carnivorous frenzy.

“Are you paying for my dry cleaning?” I asked.

“No. Sam wants to go.”

“What? He just got back from Los Angeles. There is plenty of Korean food and bbqs over there? What, he didn’t get his fill of drive by shootings?”

“Nice. Attorney, he wants Korean.”

“Doctor – fine, we will eat where Sam wants. Where?”

“San Soo Gab San.”

“Where is that?”

“I don’t know, use your iPhone.”

“What, this is ludicrous. You not only named the place, but now you want me to research?”

“This is why you are single.”

“Bitch. Ok, what time?”

“How is 8:00?”

I choked, “Wait, it is 5:30 right now. You want me to wait two and a half hours?”

“Well Sam is coming from downtown. He is teaching a class.”

A Filet-O-Fish, and a BigMac later, I arrive at San Soo Gab San at 7:30. I arrived early for two reasons: I had nothing else to do, and it was Friday, so I assumed there would be a wait. Well there was no line, so I told a waitress that I would have a party of three. She told me to wait near the door. This was most mystical to me considering the number of open tables in the restaurant. So I waited, between 7:30 and 8:00 there was a mad rush of parties. At first other parties asked if I was waiting, but I told them to go ahead because I was still waiting. Well by the eighth party I was getting irritated, and I started to notice one thing, middle aged Korean women (and woe to the ones who date the balding white man for a green card – oh yes, this is one of those restaurants) did not even give me the courtesy of asking why I was loitering near the door. They just clutched their Louis Vuitton and made a beeline for the waitress.

My temper started to rise, I was getting pissed. I immediately called Dr. Liarski and Sam, but neither one of them picked up. I was incensed. TWELVE, a dozen parties have already been sat and I have not. And what was most galling was that I got the perception that tables with White Men were getting better service; the waitresses seemed to have no problem in sitting anyone who came from an imperialist heritage even though their party did not fully arrive. I was eying them jealously. They didn't even order and they were already feating on a bunch of small dishes. I was being discriminated against because I hailed from the same continent as they did! Dr. Liarski and Sam arrived 15-20 mins late, and they saw the look in my face.

Dr. Liarski approached me with one foot near the door “Ummm… hi.”

“Sam go talk to them, they are your people. Koreans hate the Chinese. I have been waiting here for almost an hour. A fucking hour! I should bill them.”

“You don’t have billable hours.”

“Fuck you Sam, go talk to them.”

“I am afraid of them.”

“What? My god, you are a fag.”

At that point I resembled an eggplant, but luckily within another five minutes - they sat us near the bathroom.

Without missing a beat Dr. Liarski suggested we order a Soju. I just looked down at the menu and continued brooding. Beef Short Rib. Marinated Beef Short Rib. Broiled Specially Marinated Beef. Marinated Beef. Broiled Beef. How many meet dishes could they make from same cut of meat? The menu would have been a statistician’s wet dream.

Since Sam is Korean, we made the tactical decision of making Sam order. Big mistake. Sam is a fucking genius. He is an English professor and is going to release his first book this August. And no, this is not some self-published pamphlet on Amazon, this involves a real publisher, Borders and Barnes and Nobles. I feel like a literary troglodyte when I sit next to Sam. But even with Newtonian like ingenuity and Herculean effort, Sam had trouble ordering. Apparently Sam was born in Latin America and his accent is not Korean enough for the waitress. Seeing that Sam is a sellout, the service got even worse!!!

“How is this possible? I waited an hour for this table and all I want is water. Why couldn’t you be conceived in a proper continent? Dr. Liarski, you are White, tell them I need water.”

Dr. Liarski raises his hand.

“Don’t do that. That is rude.”

“These people made you wait.”

“Flag away.”

Well Dear Reader, guess what, it still took minutes to get my water. It was like Sam’s accent was a taint on our table. We were forever marked with his Latin stain. The Soju came, but I couldn’t get any water. Sam told me to drink the alcohol. In fear of criminal and civil litigation I waved it away. I just wanted water.

As I sulked and the others talked about the others talked about life, the universe, science, religion, politics, shopping and men, all I wanted was decent service.


I snapped my head to the table, the waitress brought over some banchan. For the uninitiated, banchan are the cold dishes served in Korean restaurants that accompany your meal. They come in various forms and textures. Most are actually quite disgusting, like marinated mung beans, and weird pickled seaweed, but some banchan are quite resplendent. There were eight dishes, what the hell! Why did the other tables get so much more banchan than we did. People who have not ordered, got more banchan than we did. Sam was in a dark mood, he was getting pissed too. Being the Russian Buddha of the table, Dr. Liarski just ate away, but a cancer was eating at the Asians. You can discriminate against us, but do not give us less food. It was time for me to act. I raised my hand.

Sam scanned the room and he immediately tried to intercept me, “No she is the worst one. Last time I was here, she was so mean to me.”

“Wait, she was mean to you, and you still want to come here?”

“I wanted Korean.”

“You only date white guys, don’t you take them out to Asian food all the time.”

I didn’t care if the woman was a shebeast, she was going to answer to me.  She spoke in almost perfect English, “Ok, ok. You dinner is coming out soon.”

Vladimir was watching this Kabuki theater with amusement. Sam tried to hide under the table.

“Oh that is ok. Don’t worry. I was just wondering if I could have more tofu.”

“Of course, but it will cost you $15.”

I started to flirt, “Oh don’t worry, please put it on his tab (pointing to Dr. Liarksi), the tofu is so good.”  I batted my eyelashes.

“I will be right back.”

Dr. Liarski dug Sam out of a mountain of coats.

“Well, she wasn’t that bad.”

Dr. Liarski responded, “I think she likes you.”

“Well naturally, history of my life.”

Another five minutes later, no kidding,  more than 20 plates hit our table – 2 of which were tofu.

Sam was flummoxed, “I don’t get it, you are Chinese, she should hate you the most.”

“It is my sunny disposition.” But that is the thing Dear Reader, my mood suddenly shifted. It was like a chorus had walked in and tried to sing above the noise of sizzling meat:

Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why,
You had to hide away
For so long where did we go wrong.

Hey there Mr. Blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do,
Everybody smiles at you.

“Wait, why is there a sexy woman on the Soju bottle?”

Vladimir stared at me is disbelief “You just noticed that?”

“Sorry, I was in a bad mood. Hey, where is Dustin?”

“I told you he was sick. My God, don’t you listen?”

“I would have been listening if you were here on time.”

“This is why you are single.”

1 comment:

  1. I've always wanted to check this place out. Thanks for saving me!