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Welcome to ... Name that Cuisine!

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I do not review restaurants. I know nothing about "aromatic infusions" or "piquant sauces" or "amusing presentations." I do know enough to say, "That place was good." Or, alternatively, "That place is a menace to all good and decent people." In that spirit, I offer this challenge to you, the eating public: Occasionally, I'd like to write about restaurants in Chapel Hill that make an impression on me, either in a good way, or because, say, eating there induced record-setting bouts of hurling, whatever. As an amateur, I will not name names. Instead, I invite you eating members of the public to guess which restaurant it is!

Last night, a friend and I took my son to dinner, to celebrate his moving out of the house and into a condo. (He's been living at home again since college graduation, and after three weeks, trust me, this was a "celebration" for all concerned.) We went to a new restaurant in Chapel Hill. The bar was lovely: beautiful woodwork, comfortable chairs, intimate lighting, great drinks, a big-screen TV, and pistachio nuts. This could be the bar in heaven. Then, we were seated for dinner.

Now, I'm not saying it was the worst meal I've ever had. É Well, OK, it was the worst meal I've ever had. It was also the most expensive worst meal I've ever had. The fact that they charge anything at all is an affront to intelligent, discriminating, previously healthy diners everywhere (which, having paid the bill, gives you an idea of my own intelligence level).

We ordered an appetizer listed under "Hot." Loosely translated, this meant "Cold Enough to Freeze Saliva." Our sweet, apologetic waitress--who was from Bosnia, or Latvia, or one of those arctic countries where this appetizer would be considered toasty--promptly took it back, promised us a new one and said there would be no charge. This was fine, except five minutes later she brought a second, bone-chillingly cold "Hot" appetizer. We grabbed another handful of pistachios.

Then came the salad. At first, we ate politely, each in his or her own little Land of Gag, but finally my son proclaimed, somewhat loudly, that his tasted like the grass and dirt that was dug up to build the restaurant. We agreed. More pistachios.

What I ordered: a steak, cooked medium. What I got: a slice just cut from a live cow out in back. I asked her to cook it just a touch more, and it reappeared as charcoal. My son ordered what looked like a bowl of butter and cream, with a few noodles, and my friend got a shrimp and tomato sauce dish that looked--and tasted--like a Lean Cuisine, only not as good. We ate bravely until my friend began to chuckle, which was all it took for my son and me to completely lose it. We laughed so hard, little pistachios were shooting out of our noses. We had barely recovered when she brought the bill, which was $112, because they had charged us for the appetizer, which broke us up all over again. I haven't had such a good laugh since a student swore to me that memorizing was against her religion.

OK, y'all ... NAME THAT CUISINE!

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