It's hard to flirt with a waiter while dining alone at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Cute Waiter: You're pretty.
Me (coyly): Thank you. Umm, I don't really know how to say this, but . . . can you bring me another plate?
Cute Waiter: Another plate?
Me (looking fixedly at the floor): Thanks.
[The Cute Waiter begins to leave.]
Me: Oh, wait. I forgot to tell you something.
Me: I might also need a bowl for dessert.*
Really, I should never be allowed in buffet-style restaurants for the same reason that I should never be allowed to play putt-putt golf or become involved in a game of musical chairs. Those situations trigger my usually latent competitive streak and at such times I really, really want to win. You can't even imagine the amount of "reallys" I would have to pile into that sentence to modify how intent I become on winning. To me, the phrase "all you can eat" is a challenge, the words dyslexically transforming into a taunting "How much can you eat?" The diner stacking up the largest pile of empty plates wins.
(Last time I played musical chairs. . .)
The Cute Waiter, noticing the big gulps with which I consume my meal (or maybe he just has a prediliction for girls with a hearty appetite), brings over a plate of something. Just for me. Special. I didn't order it.
"Spaghetti!" he proclaims. "It is very delicious."
"Mmmm, yeah," I return with as much possible fake happiness as I can muster. Tomatoes are my least favorite food in the world and spaghetti, covered in their blood red sauce, seems just like a first cousin to them. Out of the food I dislike most in the world, spaghetti has to hit the top ten list. But my personal rule for eating anything given to me trumps my dislike. Besides that, it's free, and I do love the free.
(I also become competitive during events involving dancing, drinking, and/or Omar.)
After the Cute Waiter leaves, I poke the pile of spaghetti tentatively with my chopsticks. It is delicately coated in thin fish flakes, the type that visibly quiver while resting atop hot food items, leading me to believe, the first time I saw them, that the food was still alive. It's not. But a certain "Fear Factor" stigmata remains attached, in my mind at least, to the fish flakes.
I begin awkwardly gathering the spahetti strands into my chopsticks. They're thicker than normal spahetti pasta -- udon! I quickly verify as I take a bite. The bright red sauce that I was dreading turns out to be a type of hot sauce. There's probably tomato in there, too, but what with the intensity of the hot sauce and the little specks of chili freckling the strands, my taste buds have been bequeathed with a certain amount of numbness and can process little more than HOT. What's more is that the quivering fish flakes, which I still taste faintly, add a subtle tang to the whole thing. Tiny, surprise octopus tentacles make their way into my chopsticks as I continue to eat my spaghetti. The Cute Waiter was right: This is delicious spaghetti! Or delicious something. It definitely looks like spaghetti, especially if you take off your glasses and kinda squint your eyes at it.
(Photo of Sushi and Delicious Something)
Now divested of spaghetti obligations (I ate half and arranged the rest into a smallish-looking pile on my plate), it is time to take a new plate to the buffet and select my main course of sushi. There is a wide variety of sushi and thankfully the large number of patrons eating here ensure that it is fresh, not like the less popular sushi restaurant down the street where the chefs use spray bottles to squirt water on the dry, wilting sushi being presented in order to make it look more palatable, or maybe just to clean off the dust that has accumulated there.
I get orangey-pink salmon, eel in a sweet brown glaze, salty yellow fish roe that crunches when my teeth bite into it, fake crab which is rosy and bland except for the bitter mote of green wasabi used to adhere it to the rice ball, and several other fish I can't identify. I also get two pieces of egg sushi, which is a way of cheating at sushi, but it also tastes like the best omelet in the world which makes the cheating seem not so bad. And fries. They have thick-cut, seasoned fries in a hotplate, which make a satisfying, if unconventional, accompaniment to the sushi. Side soups include miso, mushroom, and soba noodles. I only get the first type of soup. Even a girl with high eating ambitions can't manage everything. Besides, I notice a dessert bar which offers, among other treats, patbingsu (red beans and ice), pastel balls of tteok filled with red bean sauce, and a sugar-coated dry ramen and chocolate mix. Who's up for thirds? Oh, waiter . . .
*Dialogue may be exaggerated, ala A Million Little Pieces memoir style.