Dishes 140-142: Thousand Layer Bread at Rangoon, 112 N. 9th St., http://www.phillychinatown.com/rangoon.htm; Bu Nuong La (grape leaves stuffed with grilled beef) and Bun cha gio chay (spring roll vermicelli) at Vietnam, 221 N. 11th St. & 816 S. 47th St., http://www.eatatvietnam.com/
Dish 143: Banger Sandwich at Pub & Kitchen, 20th and Lombard, http://thepubandkitchen.com/
At the culmination of a dreary week, during which I took solace in Vietnamese food and a new season of Glee after getting doused on more than one run, today dawned clear and crisp. The minty and Greek-inspired bu nuong la, grape leaves stuffed with grilled beef, and the mild, cabbagey warmth of the bun cha gio chay, spring roll vermicelli, nearly forgotten with the nasty weather they battled. The thousand layer bread from Rangoon, a chewy, crispy pancake paired with a potato curry reminiscent of an Indian dish, is merely a file stored in memory, grab this one when you pass through Chinatown again. Today is a fresh day, a dazzling start, a sun-kissed stroll downtown to quiet south 20th street for lunch with Mystery Man.
There is something so wonderful about not having to choose a dish from the menu, to have it pre-determined, especially at restaurants with a variety of delicious-sounding choices. I never have to worry whether the sandwich is too many calories or if soup will be messy, never have to regret my choice when MM’s dish comes out looking far better, never have to stand in judgment while my companion wonders if I need a side of fries. The food pre-determined, I can sit back and enjoy the company, like the calm moments on Thanksgiving between the last string beans being cut and the table being set. The food will be unforgettable, I already know. It always is. And when it arrives,
gorgeous, juicy, yolk running seductively over salty, buttery white, I can take a bite, enjoy, and then return my focus to MM, who compares the house-made banger to the summer sausages of his home state. “The combination of spices,” he says, “and the higher-quality meat.” He nods, looking at me, as if to say, Today is a good day. Today is going to be a very good day.