I’m giving this restaurant a five-star rating because I am taking a holistic view, evaluating the whole gestalt: a restaurant is many things, including its history, its food, its ambience, its staff and management, its guests, its setup, the view of the world that you get while you’re there. And last but not least, for me, the interesting and sometimes fascinating people you meet there, a handful of whom become friends, or provide a window into other modes of thinking.
But first, the food. I had a fabulous Pan Fried Fish with Mustard Green Pepper Sauce just the other day—succulent, with mashed potatoes and vegetables on the side: a hearty portion. I have also had some excellent dishes there in the past, and, thanks to being introduced to it by a long-time Dutch friend, this has been my most regular haunt during the previous 24 months. The Chicken Thai Yellow Curry used to be very good and dependable, with exquisite taste and lots of vegetables in it. Recently, Wut, the creative and adventurous owner, added tapas to the menu, and when he supervises its preparation, it can be inspired. I’ve seen others enjoy the Greek salad, the Chicken Salad, and the Chicken Cordon Bleu. I’ve had the deep pan pizza, and the beef steak, both of which can be quite good deals for the price.
But most of all, I enjoyed the people and the atmosphere, and the arrangement of chairs (I don’t like to sit in low chairs; I prefer the higher chairs), and the way they are set up, which is really so special about Blue Dolphin. As a result, you constantly meet new people—I’ve made a variety of friends or had conversations with people from Britain (including a Cambridge University alumnus who became a fan of my novel; Ned, a very funny, entertaining, and smart Englishman who never fails to remind me that his grandmother is from Calcutta; and Johnny, a Shakespearean actor who reminded me of Hamlet monologues from long ago—we had a Hamletfest on a couple of occasions); and from Holland, Germany, America, France, and Australia, among others. The total experience was rendered even better by the personal attention and smiles of Allee and Marie, both of whom, unfortunately, are not at the restaurant any longer.
Then, there were a group of waitresses who were a joy to banter with—Marie included. Noticing a dish on the menu titled “Chicken Madras”, I would ask them “You mean this chicken walked all the way from Madras? Or did it fly?” Or: “No, I don’t want Chicken Madras; it must be really tired. Do you have the Chicken From Prey Veng?” It took them a few hours to get the joke, but when they got it, they really laughed.
For all these reasons, and for the sake of the many friends I have met there and occasionally meet, and still hope to meet (some have gone away for the summer to Europe and elsewhere, and will return in the latter part of the year), I would continue to visit this restaurant, reasonably regularly, even if it just served white bread, butter, and jam. That’s my choice. I like to be where my friends—present, past, and potential—are, and a restaurant is, for me, far more than just food.
I hope they work to maintain their former reputation, and I owe many thanks to Blue Dolphin for the hospitality and the excellent food they have served me over 24 months, for the staff present and past who have shown so much warmth and generosity, and especially for the smiles and laughter.
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