WESTSIDE BISTRO EQUALS CHUCK YEAGER’S FEAT AND BREAKS SOUND BARRIER
By Bob Vickrey
As my friend Jamie and I made our way through the front entrance of the fashionable bistro, the first wave of deafening noise from inside almost knocked us backwards toward the Wilshire Boulevard curb.
I’m quite certain the initial blast had registered a significant reading on the Richter scale. Former Cal Tech seismologist Lucy Jones would surely have a full report on the eleven o’clock news later that evening.
We speculated the trendy cafe in Santa Monica had become the first dining spot in America to have officially broken the sound barrier. And surely history would reflect that the owners of the restaurant had successfully matched legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager’s achievement decades earlier—but had done so without ever leaving the ground.
Upon entering the chaotic scene, I was so disoriented that I thought perhaps we had walked onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during a furious rally, until I looked around the room and observed the beautiful people of L.A.’s Westside savoring their lobster bisque while screaming at one another across their tables.
I imagined the late satirist Dorothy Parker walking through the door and exclaiming: “What fresh hell is this?”
We were promptly seated at the only unoccupied table that was located directly in the middle of the room. I figured we had a better chance of having audible dinner conversation sitting in the percussion section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I yelled at Jamie across our table, “We’ll talk later after we finish eating.”
When I used the term “our” table, I was slightly exaggerating by identifying it as our very own. The tables are situated so close to one another that I felt compelled to introduce myself to those sitting around us and share some recent family pictures.
It occurred to me that if we finished our meal before our new friends at adjacent tables, we might need an overhead crane to air-lift us toward the front door. Just for fun, I tried sliding my credit card between tables and it became wedged there. The waiter arrived and after rearranging the furniture, kindly returned my card.
We each ordered a couple of items from the menu that were listed under the designation “small plates,” so we could sample several dishes from the restaurant’s renowned kitchen. When the food arrived, we realized it wasn’t the plates that were small; it was the food that was small.
I could barely see over the edge of my gigantic bowl, but I was able to spot several tiny bites of ricotta dumplings that were barely visible and floating in sauces at the very bottom of the cauldron. They looked rather lonely down there.
I quickly remembered the bread basket we had ordered earlier and realized this could serve as the emergency back-up kit to help us make it to the next meal—or home—whichever came first. I think the owners of the restaurant had adopted the old adage, “Always leave them wanting more.” And sure enough, they had.
In order to appear a good sport, I gave Jamie the hi-sign after I had taken my first bite. I did the same with our waiter, knowing she would likely never have heard my compliment regarding the delicious—but ever-so diminutive dumplings. I was quite certain the waiters there were trained in sign language skills as a basic requirement for employment.
We soon became immune to the thunderous noise and found ourselves entertained by the young couple sitting beside us who were obviously on a first date. (My apologies, but I’ve already forgotten their names.) They were considerably more animated than diners seated around them. They laughed much too hard at each other’s comments, but soon appeared to have run out of dinner conversation.
When we last looked in their direction, they were each staring down at their phones and texting. We became curious if they were actually texting one another from across the table, or if this was an early indication the relationship had already run its due course.
It suddenly occurred to us as we were being air-lifted from the restaurant that we could have easily employed the same technique. We could have enjoyed our meal and communicated with each other as we alternated bites and texts.
As the crane gently placed us safely near the exit, my last text of the evening to Jamie would surely have read: “thnx—had grt time— i hope u rmembrd the bread”
Bob Vickrey is a writer whose columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle. He is a member of the Board of Contributors for the Waco Tribune-Herald and a regular contributor to the Boryana Books website. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.