This is a guest post from my friend Jerod. I couldn’t stop smiling as I read this post, and I think you will smile as well. It’s such a great story! Please feel free to leave comments for Jerod above. Also, visit his blogs: his personal blog: Primility and his professional blog: Midwest Sports Fans.
Is it supposed to be this easy? Sure, I’m talking about the food. After all, that’s what this site is about. And feeling a little bit of trepidation is natural when putting your dinner entrée choice in the hands of someone you don’t know. There is nothing easy about that. But I’m also talking first dates.
Like a first meal at a new restaurant, especially a meal you didn’t even choose, first dates should be accompanied by trepidation. Or they are supposed to. First dates aren’t supposed to be easy. To feel easy. To feel natural. Especially when you are meeting the person for the first time. Right?
Apparently they can.
I arrived at Mango Thai on Lovers Lane in Dallas around 7:10 on Thursday evening for a date scheduled to begin at 7:15. I’m punctual like that. There was just one other couple there, which surprised me. The online reviews for Mango Thai were excellent, and though it seemed slightly out of place at the end of a strip mall on one of Dallas’ less glamorous stretches of road, it featured a colorful, attractive outdoor décor and an interior that suggested good, well-presented food awaited.
Not too long after I sat down, I received the following text message: — “I’m literally hitting every red light!” — I responded: “Try driving through them instead. No need for violence.” I was admittedly proud of this reply. (Didn’t her profile say she found “wit” attractive? Why yes, yes it did. I might have fist-bumped myself were it socially acceptable…not that there was anyone around to judge.) Another text followed soon thereafter: “I parked.”
A dinner I had very much been looking forward to would finally begin.
I had decided earlier in the day to use this dinner as the source for my first guest post at this here blog. This was something of a risky move, seeing as how I had never dined with the charming young woman who was about to walk through the door (albeit after struggling a bit to get it open). But it also seemed like the perfect opportunity to test my instincts. Something told me that this was a girl who would be all about a spontaneous dinnertime adventure. I obviously didn’t know her well, but I just had that feeling. If I suggested it and she balked? No harm, no foul really. My instinct would be proven wrong, but dinner could otherwise go as planned. Maybe she’d just laugh it off and think I was “quirky.” Or maybe she’d think I was a tool. Either way, I was being myself and doing what felt natural, plus I’d learn something important about her; and I do know that is what first dates are supposed to be about.
Well, she was all for it from the get-go.
It’s true: somehow I was here on a first date with a girl who shared my music taste, wrote in complete sentences with flawless grammar, possessed an effortless smile that pictures cannot do justice, and was cool enough to go along with my crazy idea of having the waiter choose our food. An auspicious beginning to be sure. However, our waiter’s reaction to our order was not quite so auspicious.
In discussing our game plan for explaining our crazy ordering idea to the waiter, she and I decided that we would coach the waiter thusly: “Consider this your last meal ever at Mango Thai, with the possibility that it might even be your last ever meal period. You have to choose an entrée for yourself and for your mother (because we figured he would take extra special care choosing an entrée for his mother) along with drinks to accompany it, and you cannot tell us what it is until after the meal.” Our poor waiter looked dumbfounded.
The look on his face suggested that he was waiting for us to tell him we were kidding – we later found out this is exactly what the look on his face was meant to communicate – but of course we weren’t kidding. We were serious. And so off he walked, confused. He came back a few minutes later, however, with a new bounce in his step. He wanted to know if we meant alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, since he was underage. We told him the former, and he smartly asked the lady on my left if she preferred “sour or sweet.” She responded that she would not direct his decision – or the decision of the manager or bartender who would have to make the drink – but that rather the food choice should dictate the drink. This time he bounded off confidently. He had something up his sleeve.
Turns out what he had up his sleeve were two incredible entrée choices, and a couple of nice drinks to match. Some 13 or 14 minutes later, after my date and I discussed work, school, music and “weird things,” the food came. It looked, in a word, scrumdiddlyumptuous. My plate was an ocean of brown sauce accented with rivers of white the color of wave tips before they roll over. And like the tide, the sauce washed up onto a thick piece of salmon nestled ever so comfortably on top of a bucolic beach of spinach and broccoli.
His dish: As yet, still unidentified. As per their instructions.
Her plate was resplendent with bright hues of yellow, green, and red. A fried concoction of something stood tall like a plateau against a verdant backdrop of broccoli and asparagus. And beside it all, rising like a mountain on the distant horizon of her plate, was a heap of fried rice with shrimp embedded in its peak.
Her meal: A colorful delight!
Neither of us knew what to expect, but we dug in without fear. The tastes were spectacular. My food was hot but flavorfully so. And the white sauce helped to balance out the initial heat of the brown. The salmon was cooked just right, and the broccoli provided the perfect vegetable accoutrement, working well in tandem bites with the salmon or on its own dipped in the sauce. Her food was even better, nearly as sweet as she was when the delicious pieces of fresh mango were included in the bite.
We were impressed…and soon to be satiated.
Our waiter had delivered great drink choices as well. A tasty Cabernet for me, and a pink, lemony Cosmpolitan for her. Both drinks complemented the food well.
How could he have known? Our waiter’s choices were perfect.
And he had one choice left: dessert.
We had decided that we’d follow his lead on whether to get dessert or not, and if dessert was the suggestion then so be it. As any good waiter should, he was more than ready to suggest a dessert. A few minutes later he brought out a delectable treat with three oblong fried shapes and what looked like some kind of whipped cream – it was fried bananas and coconut ice cream, as we’d soon find out.
Fried bananas and coconut ice cream. May I have some, please?!?
At this point, she assertively asked him to sit down so we could thank him and find out exactly what we had eaten. He obliged, barely able to contain the smile on his face. He’d clearly enjoyed the experience. He first told us his name was Harrys – spelled thusly but pronounced “Aries” like the Zodiac sign – and then explained what he had chosen for our entrees and why.
My meal was the Green Curry Salmon with jasmine rice and coconut garnish – the white sauce. He had never actually eaten this particular meal but said that he’d always wanted to try it. I assured him that it was quite tasty and worth tying. I also admired his trust in the Mango Thai kitchen to bring something he’d never eaten himself.
Her meal was the Mango Sea Bass with fried rice, and he’d had it cooked mild. As Harrys explained, he did this because his mom was not a fan of spicy food. Needless to say, we were tickled that he’d taken our instructions so seriously. Then he described what he was thinking when we initially broached the subject of him choosing our entrees. He admitted to initially being nervous, as we’d thought. As he described it, verbatim, “I was like, fuck! I have to make the customer smile!” We laughed.
Harrys may be young, but he quite clearly has a personality, an easy charm, and a genuine honesty in his face that will open plenty of doors for him. We then asked to speak to his manager, who came out of the kitchen…eventually, and somewhat reluctantly. (Note: Portions of this part of the story may have been omitted…because they simply would not make sense out of context. It was one of those “you had to be there” moments that, if we ever come across Harrys again, we will all surely laugh about.) We met the quiet, unassuming manager with smiles, which he returned, and we told him how wonderful Harrys had been and how terrific the food was. He thanked us appreciatively before returning to the back.
We took a few more bites of our dessert before Harrys returned, wanting to share even more about the many thoughts that had run through his head while adhering to our crazy requests. He informed us that he too now wanted to suggest this idea to dates, and that he had been thinking about that – what entrees would be good for a date? – while choosing our meals. I assured him that he’d made an excellent choice for a date, because he’d given the colorful and special plate – the only one that included actual mangos at Mango Thai – to the lady. I could see the wheels spinning in his head. His next date is going to have quite the dining surprise in store for her.
Finally, after he had taken our check and was on his way out the door, Harrys stopped back by our table and said, “You guys just made my night.” That’s certainly appropriate, because he’d made ours too. Good food is one thing, but good food with caring and attentive service is quite another. And there was something extra special about the care and attentiveness we received given our rather odd request. It did not go unnoticed. Harrys, if you somehow stumble across this blog post, know that you made our night. A good server can do that. Harrys was a great server.
But all good things must come to an end. Our meals came to an end, the service came to an end, and so too did my first date with this intriguing girl with the unforgettable name. I walked her to her car, we made one final joke about making ravioli together someday, and then hugged before agreeing to have yet another restaurant ordering adventure at some point in the future. I look forward to it, as I hope she does too.
It’s interesting and ironic how things go sometimes, isn’t it? There were so many opportunities for awkward or uncomfortable moments on a night like tonight: a first date, an odd ordering request, the initial tasting of unfamiliar food. And yet, nothing was awkward or uncomfortable. Everything went as well as it could have.
That won’t always happen. In fact, it will rarely happen. Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing about it ever since I got home and am now near 2,000 words into trying to describe this thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying dining experience.
My words won’t do it justice, but hopefully they give you a somewhat descriptive taste of this great meal. It was a meal chosen and served by a great waiter, and I was lucky enough to share it with a great girl.
Yes Harrys, you did indeed make us smile tonight.
It was a night for smiling.
I still am.
—- (me too, Jerod!) – Thanks, so much. – Ker