Jim Leff

Ever since that traumatic experience at Bo this weekend, my chowhounding instincts have failed me miserably. I’ve been looking for chow in all the wrong places. It’s not been a day to be proud of, but seeing as how this is a tell-all journal, I’ll confess the whole sordid matter. Be forewarned: It ain’t pretty.

I had lunch at my neighborhood last resort, a Korean fast-food counter situated under a green tent in a parking lot. I realized, intellectually, that this might not be the best choice, given that my favorite Korean restaurant had just broken my heart. And I didn’t particularly crave their $5 utilitarian fishball soup, splashed into my bowl by a stern, sourpussed matron straight out of the Seoul production of Oliver Twist. Yet I found myself walking there sans intent—like an automaton. On such a beautiful spring day, I dimly rationalized, it might be nice to take lunch alfresco.

There was nothing nice about it. The soup was spicy hot, but it wasn’t a hearty, restorative spiciness; rather, it blared a shrill, persistent monotone. The fishballs had a certain charm (explanation: they’re not made on-premises) in their spongy, tasteless way. And the kimchi completely flatlined. But what was most unsettling was that I was actually taking grim pleasure in my lunch’s mediocrity. That’s not standard eating procedure for me; I’m no mealtime masochist.

For dinner, thoughts turned toward comfort food at Kabab Cafe, the Egyptian hole-in-the-wall that’s my refuge when I lack the get-up-and-eat to scout forgotten Italian joints in Staten Island, secret Harlem barbecue trucks, semi-private Albanian social clubs, Midtown Japanese-businessman haunts … or any of my other various missions and quests.

But I’d procrastinated endlessly, and it wasn’t until 10:30 p.m. that I stalked out of my apartment in a roil of lightheaded, ravenous hunger. Once again, I had no destination in mind as I drifted through the neighborhood with the stumbling gate of a dowser seeking water. Finally, I arrived at a glaring no-frills macho Pakistani place near the subway. While I’m a big fan of the cuisine, chowhound intuition had previously prevented me from checking out this particular spot. Their tandoori-roasted meats did look pretty good, and might have quelled my kebabish cravings, but something snapped and I ordered—what was I thinking?—curried goat. Before I could come to my senses, the gruff counter guy scooped a ration of the stuff from the steamless steam table (where gristly nuggets of goat floated in pools of oily ghee), slammed it into one of several industrial-strength microwaves, and handed me a 13,000-calorie takeout bundle I could scarcely imagine eating.

I headed home, where I ate a few bites of the goat and all of the rice. There was no choice but to seek comfort in Pepperidge Farm Sausalito cookies. Here’s the descent-into-shameless-squalor part: I didn’t even warm them up first. I ate them cold, with their chocolate chips hard and unmolten.

I think I’ve hit rock bottom. 

For information on good places mentioned (and better alternatives to some of the bad ones), click.