blarg?

Baggage

I’m starting this entry in Guelph, my last night here before I take the train back to Ottawa. Arlene and I have been both wined and dined by the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, who are trying to get young physicians like her, and very much unlike me, to live and work there. The only reason they put any food or drink in front of me was because in addition to my being a talented fellow and debonair man-about-town, I am romantically involved with the person they actually wanted to speak to. I am talented baggage, basically. Debonair baggage-about-town, if you would.

I had mixed feelings about coming, mixed because time with Arlene is precious and Waterloo is where I’ve done some of the most irresponsible, reprehensible things that I’ve ever done. And believe me, I do not employ these superlatives to describe the biggest fish in a small pond. On the drive in the little things I recognized made me feel wierdly nervous about the whole process, like wandering a graveyard haunted by the ghosts of all my worst decisions.

Enough about that; I don’t want to wallow in it and you certainly don’t want to watch. It’s an old line that authors write because they have something inside them they have to get out, but in my experience most bloggers write because they have something inside them they have to get over. And no matter how cathartic it might feel, there’s no absolution in confessing to an empty booth. I went back to look at the campus and it was beautiful, it brought back a lot of faces and moments I haven’t thought of in years. Let us now move on to the good stuff.


Arlene and I were put up over the weekend in the Holiday Inn in Kitchener, notable I’m sure for being identical to every other Holiday Inn in the universe in any measurable regard, but certainly an acceptable place to stay a day or two. If you happen to be the person who set the fire alarm off at two in the morning our first night there then rest assured that I’d like to kill your entire family with my hands, but otherwise the place was civilized enough.

The next day, we got split up – Arlene got a tour of the hospitals around down and I got out to see St. Jacob’s, a very quaint little out-of-the-way place that turned out to be the most interesting of all the “quaint” places I’ve seen – it had the usual knickknack stores, the places that sell horrible sweatshirts with embroidered wolves on them and t-shirts with big eagle prints; you know the type. And, yes, the usual crowd of old women flailing their horribly-abused credit cards around indiscriminately, being followed around by their harried, load-bearing spouses. But there were also some great local bakeries and boulangeries, antique stores and local craftsmen doing some really cool, genuinely original stuff. It’s worth the drive to just look around if you’re in the KW area on a Saturday. Step off the main drag for a bit, though, and don’t shop in the micromalls.

One supercool shop was a restoration-oriented antique store full of ancient home furnishings, old doors and doorframes, restored mantlepieces and drawers full of old doorknobs, huge stone millwheels and all kinds of wierd miscellanea destined to restore some ancient edifice to its
original condition. It made me feel a little bit reverent, like I was walking around the unassembled pieces of a cathedral.

Sunday night, we headed to an Indonesian restaurant we’d been vehemently recommended by the locals called “Bhima’s Warung”, Bhima’s Restaurant in Indonesian. There’s very little I can say about Bhima’s; the description of the contents of my plate is going to take a lot longer than my overall impression of the meal. So, first, the meal:

This was the single finest meal I have ever eaten in any restaurant anywhere. The food at Bhima’s makes a meal at Canoe feel like a frill they’re using to glorify the elevator ride.

I ordered a szechuan-style, blackened & seared tuna steak, with a sauce made of shitake & portobello mushrooms, oysters, ginger & coconut milk, served with black sticky rice with pineapple baked in banana leaves and mixed vegetables lightly sauteed in garlic. The tuna was crispy and well-seasoned on the outside, and damn near sashimi a quarter inch in, and it was an inch and a half thick. The sauce thick, complex and flavorful. You could probably sautee a sneaker in butter and garlic, and it would come out OK; the vegetables were amazing. I had to fish around in the scraps of a banana leaf in an undignified manner for the last of the rice. I started the meal with a very fine Pearl vodka martini, ended it with a Thai iced coffee and just generally enjoyed the hell out of the whole thing. If you are in the KW region and you do not go to Bhima’s, then you should somehow just learn to cherish that black and empty void in your soul that’s fated to rest unfulfilled. More Bhima’s for the rest of us.

Christ, that meal was good.

I’m home now. The train is a wildly more civilized way to travel than the bus, and I got a surprising amount of work done between Guelph and Ottawa. I usually take the bus, so any work at all is kind of a surprise, but I got about five hours of unmitigated labor done on the train, and had a car all to myself for most of the drive back. Much, much better than the bus.

2 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. shaver

    Really, though, Canoe didn’t impress me all that much the last time I was there. I mean, if I’d cooked a meal like that at home I’d expect people to actually erect statuary in my honour, but given that they’re working with an entirely different grade of culinary materiel, I expected more for our (not inconsiderable) time and money investment.

    The first time I was at Canoe it was very good, but then someone else was paying, and they were making much more impressive wine choices than my subsequent visit involved. (And, really, anything you do with Austin around is more exciting, I think.)

  2. Mike Hoye

    I’ve been to Canoe once, and maybe they were having an off night, but where Bhima’s was transcendent Canoe was merely good. The view at Canoe is great, sure, and the decor was nice. But if you’re going to put all that money into the wallpaper, the stuff on the plate should be top-notch.

    I’m looking for an article on Kabuki, a Toronto sushi restaurant on King Street, but all I can find on that is a very negative review from the National Post. I suspect that the reviewer, like most NP employees, has some love for the taste of bile; his review is diametrically opposed to my own experience there, which was a very flavorful and well-presented meal amidst competent staff and pleasant decor. Also better than Canoe, whose sushi appetizer was second-rate. If you’re wondering.