"It's not much but it's ours"

Saturday, May 20, 2006



Book fairs, where ever in the world they may be, always make me think of that song by Was, Not Was from 1980. OUT COME THE FREAKS and, at the BEA they certainly do.

As you stand in the relative safety of one’s booth at a trade show, you see some of the truly insane people from around the world passing by, usually in fancy dress and trying to persuade some poor unfortunate to listen to their idea for a book. More often than not, the book is a 200,000 word essay on the history of the rail industry in Poland or, even more alluringly, a novel involving the struggles of a one legged man to bring up a family of fourteen on half a bag of rice every two years.

In between fending off these oddballs, we do actually manage to have some pretty decent meetings and so we did on day one of the fair. And, everyone worked bloody hard.

It was, however a tough day. Much of the UK contingent at the fair seem to have the same ailment as me and spent the day hacking up a lung as we tried to explain our wares to passing buyers. For me, also, still dosed up on Nyquil from the night before, it was even more tough and, by 5pm, I was ready to leave the rest of the gang to their own devices, head back to the hotel for a nap followed by a reviving shower.

We had an early supper planned by a colleague and while I feel a little bad about posting bad things after someone has gone to the effort of organising, this is a food blog after all and this is what I am supposed to do. That is why I am going to describe in full details the horror show that is

This is no criticism of the person who organised the evening. I am grateful that anyone would take the time to think about where I may like to eat.

However, this place is so irredeemably nasty that I can’t let it pass.

Situated in Georgetown, Mie N YU is a fusion restaurant bringing together Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Reading the reviews beforehand, the plaudits seem to be more about the room than the food and it was very clear when we arrived that the décor is where the money had been spent. Every room was different and decorated up to the nines in a range of styles from that of a Souk to the room in which we were seated that was like a scene from Lord of The Rings. That always fills me with dread as it means more attention and money has been spent on the room than the kitchen.

People at the table rolled their eyes when I said this but it is an undeniable law and it was soon to be proved true.

My chums really liked the room. I thought it looked like a whore’s sneeze, but that is purely a subjective view

The service was quite friendly but entirely overwhelmed. Our server was very agreeable but left to cope with about 50 people on his own. It left him totally unable to pay any table proper attention and there were at least three occasions where we had to ask a bus boy to get him to come to our table.

This was exemplified by the serving of pre-dinner cocktails. They insisted on bringing each one to the table individually and pouring them. A fine idea. But, when you have 8 people, it did mean that one end of the table was practically finished before the other end was served. The cocktails were not much cop either. All tooth rottingly sweet.

A few of us, eventually, were able to order starters. I cannot speak about the others but mine exemplified the second rate nature of the kitchen. A mango salad was floppy and limp. It shouted out that it had been prepared too far in advance so the shredded fruit was allowed to over marinade. Fierce shreds of raw chilli had been dumped on top giving plenty of fire but failing entirely to give the cleansing effect that is the raison of a salad like this. It displayed not a single level of dexterity in the kitchen.

Main courses, likewise. Halibut in Miso, braised short rib, Shanghai Shrimp and, in my case, a NY strip with wild mushrooms and blue cheese.

Again, I did not taste the others, but my meal displayed all the hallmarks of a kitchen without a clue. A perfectly decent piece of meat cooked to order ( black and blue ) which would have been fine on its own. Unfortunately, it was not. Slopped on top of it was a bizarre mixture of large chunks of blue cheese and luke warm mushrooms of no particular provenance. I was starving after my day at the fair, but even I could not bring myself to eat the accompaniments which I scraped off the beef and left on the side next to the soggy tempura onion rings. A dish as misconceived as selling Goodyear tires a la mode.

The short but well chosen wine list was probably the best thing about the place. I ordered a bottle of Albarino and a Telmo Rodriquez Ribero. Both worked quite well all though some seemed a little non plussed by the white from Northern Spain and preferred the red. I thought both were pretty good.

There had been huge gaps between courses as the poor servers struggled to keep up with the sheer volume of diners and, twenty five minutes after ordering our desserts, we cancelled them and went out to meet our waiting car. I feel hugely aggrieved for a waiter in such a situation. Why should he lose service ( 15% I think on a party our size ) by the kitchen’s inability to get food out in decent time? Bear in mind these were not desserts that took time to prepare. How long does it take to scoop out some sorbet, slice a bit of pound cake or pie? That is just a clear sign that there is not even a decent sous in the place.

As we left, a pasty faced looking white girl was performing bad belly dancing in front of a bemused looking table. It is that kind of place.

However, it was packed with lines forming outside of people clamouring to get a table. It would seem that style over substance is just as big a draw in the US as it is in London.
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