A little shy of 48 hours in London and I’m reminded why I so badly need to move to a place that offers a diverse and vibrant restaurant scene. From homey Indian takeout at Usha’s home, to a tapas lunch in Kensington/Chelsea with authentic Spanish morsels served up by cute Mexican waiters to Renuka and me, and a “Oh that looks nice let’s check it out,” moment in Notting Hill which took bum chum Ranjit and myself to a gem of a Chinese restaurant – neither take out nor a chain – in a strip otherwise occupied by the likes of KFCs and Mickey Ds, I’ve had quite the world tour of kitchens. In Cairo I often complain that even the best restaurants are high end of mediocre, which is only a slight exaggeration. Okay so there are great exceptions which I have to write about to be fair, but the variety is severely limited. Here in London on the other hand, even the mundane out in the ‘burbs was on the not-so-low-end of great. As in super. Yum.

Indian takeout included stuffed karelas (bitter melon – a subject I must put on my food blog) and a spicy handvo flavored with methi leaves and with a crunch topping, plus the classics that Ramesh and Usha get routinely — parathas and kaddi. I’m mentioning just the highlights, there was actually a whole lot more that we got and consumed. If not the very first night then the next morning and lunch as well I reckon, tho I was gone by that time to well my tapas lunch.  Which had the two crazy foodie cuz’s ordering up half or at least a third of the menu, with a sangria to wash it all down. Only I had the latter, Renuka being pregnant and wisely avoiding wine as well some other favorites but as soon as she delivers we are going to treat her to a plate of stinky cheeses (can’t you see why she’s a person after my own heart???), a glass of red – nah make that a bottle – preferably in Paris!

Now to explain the lotuses in the title. Well aside from the fact that it’s alliterative (lo-lo-lol) and that it is what my name means, the real reason is because it was one of and possibly the star dinner items last night. Now I’ve included them in my other blog (labeled simply as lotus root in the born of the water section) but never had them like this. Thinly sliced and gently sautéed so it was still crisp-tender, with bits of garlic and Szechuan spices, it was a masterpiece of texture and flavor. But let me back up.. the restaurant we went to is called Seventeen. As I said, two old friends (we’ve known each other since our kindergarten days) reunited and went to town looking for a place to eat. Most places we passed in the burbs were closed or just didn’t feel interesting enough and so we drove to North London. Parked the car in a reasonable looking spot and started to walk. At first it seemed as if all we saw were chain food joints but then this place with interesting decor caught Ranjit’s eye and we walked in. We looked over the menu and were about to order, when I asked the waiter what he recommended or if there were any specials. Do you like spicy food, he asked. Wehll-huh- yes! I said enthusiastically as both R & I nodded vigorously. Then you’ve come to the right place, said the waiter before whipping out a second pair of menus with their Szechuan offerings. Thereafter we did what I’ve come to learn is the wisest course when a waiter or chef cares enough to talk to you. Leave the meal to them or at least take their suggestions seriously. And sure enough we didn’t go wrong.

I just looked up the place on Google and found several reviews including a description of the fish dish we got. Water-cooked fish it was called and now I remember a dish at a New Haven Chinese place that served up a water cooked meat dish with a similar sauce. There was also a twice-cooked pork (excellent), a plate of skewered morsels that was appetizer and for Ranjit, a veritable love at first bite. Another appetizer of duck – basically duck confit in pancakes Peking-duck style at Cheema’s insistence tho god knows there was enough food and the classic rounding up with noodles in this case a bowl of translucent potato-based noodles in a spicy broth. Too much food. Yes! But we did a fairly good job, lubricating the way down with an excellent Argentinian Malbec, and also, this way various kids – Tanvi here with lotus and noodles, Cheema’s kids with fish and pork (which will be thrice cooked now) – get a taste of our meal.

I still don’t have a job other than an extension at Cairo and am still worried about all that but I’m a simple soul. And perhaps the lotuses have turned me into a lotus eater of the Odyssey losing my grip on reality, but hey, it’s hard to be unhappy or anything but optimistic  when you’re replete with good food.