What? No Cigar?

Hoeflinger & Chiarini could be good for these times, with a little more service

Darned if journalists aren't always asking overly complex questions. Mine being beyond my waitress's English, she got me another server, a bilingual and also very festive fellow named Mauricio, who did manage to take my order for one fish and one poultry box, immediately.Unfortunately, though, unlike the quality crabcakes and lunch/brunch food plus the few Peruvian dishes we'd had, H&C's "Oriental" dishes were a disaster. All items but one were so strenuously oversalted as to be almost inedible. The pan-seared mahi-mahi, the day's entrée special, was so overwhelmed by soy sauce that its alleged Oriental vinaigrette was undetectable except for some sesame oil overload -- no Asian spice taste, no vinegar taste on either the fish or the stir-fried vegetables accompanying it. The special appetizer of mussels and clams in coconut milk consisted of six tough, overcooked, oversize specimens in a sauce that had none of coconut milk's natural sweetness but did have, in spades (thanks to overstrenuous boiling), all of coconut milk's fattiness.

The regular menu's grilled curry chicken breast entrée had all the juiciness and tenderness of, roughly, petrified wood, and no taste of curry; a sprinkling of toasted coconut and an advertised peanut-scallion sauce on accompanying vegetable-studded rice were both nice but so scant as to be nearly negligible in taste. And the one relatively unsalty special, carrot-ginger soup, contained (aside from some unannounced meaty poultry stock that quite understandably distressed one vegetarian guest of mine) no discernible ginger. Aside from soy and sesame, Oriental Express Night's food featured no discernible Asian flavors whatsoever.

Light and airy and in need of a little service
Steve Satterwhite
Light and airy and in need of a little service

The special dessert also had, as would be expected from its name, Delicia Catalana, no Asian flavors, though the gelato-type frozen treat was very tasty in a dulce de leche sort of way. But it had basically melted on the way home since it was, after all, basically ice cream. Which would seem to make it a pretty obvious "no" for a take-out dinner box (especially since H&C has many homemade pastries that travel well, like a dynamite lemon meringue tart). So why? Good question. Hoeflinger & Chiarini has a good concept, with an iffy follow-through -- good try, no cigar. Yet.

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