Welcome to the Food Network’s new show, Restaurants That Haven’t Closed Yet. It’s where we take you to new and trendy eateries that people can’t wait to get into because they’re new and trendy, but will close as soon as the novelty wears off.
We start today with Conflict Kitchen. It’s located in Pittsburgh, and its shtick is that it only serves food from countries in conflict with America. But here’s the thing–you can’t go there to eat dishes from all the countries that hate America, because that menu would be about as many pages as a Stephen King novel, and just as scary.
No, Conflict Kitchen only, um, attacks one nation at a time. So, in the past, it has been an Iranian restaurant, a Cuban restaurant, an Afghani restaurant, and a North Korean restaurant. As I write this, it is a Haudenosaunee restaurant. More on that in a moment.
I’ve looked at some of their menus, and it seems like all the countries with which America has disagreements have one thing in common: their foods mostly sound disgusting. That may even be why America is always fighting with these nations: it’s not so much about spreading democracy as it is about spreading recognizable condiments on familiar foods.
Some of the ethnic cuisine at Conflict Kitchen is heavily chick pea-based. I know chick peas are really gross because not only do I not like them, my wife doesn’t like them. Barbara is much more tolerant of different food nationalities than I am. She likes quinoa, for example. She’s not even prejudiced against regular peas. She likes a nice split pea soup. But chick peas, in her opinion, must be stopped at the border.
The Iranian menu at Conflict Kitchen included a dish called Kookoo Sibzamini, which I thought was the name of a former professional wrestler, but which is apparently “pan-fried potato and onion patties, served with fresh herbs, torshi makhloot, grilled tomato and onion.” Now the first part of that sounds fine. In fact, it sounds suspiciously like potato latkes, a dish that the Persians obviously stole from the Jews when they conquered the Babylonian Empire in 536 BC (long story). But what’s up with the rest of that Kookoo dish? What the hell is “torshi makhloot?”
This is a pet peeve I have with all ethnic restaurants: don’t just translate part of a menu item. You’ll be in a Peruvian place, and they’ll have “Arroz con pollo–cilantro based chicken and rice served with huancaina sauce.” How about telling me what huancaina sauce is? How do I know if I’ll like it? It could have chick peas in it, for all I know! And I’ll ask the waitperson what it is and she’ll say, “Oh, it’s like the national sauce of Peru. They use it in everything,” which is not at all helpful, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what huancaina sauce is, either, because her accent sounds more like South Jersey than South America, so I end up ordering paella.
Where was I?
Right–Iran. And torshi makhloot. I looked it up, and it’s a mixture of pickled vegetables. Here’s a picture of it. No wonder they didn’t want us to know what it was. And how nauseating would something like that be on a potato latke! Apple sauce? Sure. Sour cream? Absolutely. Pickled vegetables? Not so much.
I kid, of course. Conflict Kitchen is all about understanding through stews. They even have programs that, for instance, educate you about what it’s like to be a child in Afghanistan while you eat your pakora, which is potato fritters battered in, of course, chick peas.
As I mentioned, Conflict Kitchen is now featuring the cuisine of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. I didn’t even know what that was*, but I think I like its people, not because the menu has items that are GF (gluten-free), V (vegetarian) and V+ (vegan), but because every dish on the menu is CPF (chick pea-free).
Anyway, I bet all this talk about exotic, repugnant food has you hankering for a nice, juicy steak. If so, hunker on down to one of New York City’s latest stupid trendy restaurants, Ikinari. This is the place to come if you want to get a delicious 7.1 ounce sirloin and some rice for just $18…and eat it standing up.
The very customer-centric concept of this restaurant is as follows: “we can sell more steaks, make more money and serve more customers if they are in and out in 30 minutes.” Apparently, this idea is very popular in Japan, but then so are “capsule hotels,” where guests stay in what amounts to morgue drawers, except (hopefully) warmer.
One idiot customer at Ikinari stated that she enjoys scarfing down her dinner this way because “I can burn calories as I eat. I’m standing up. Keep good posture. And eating some protein, so not bad.” Of course, studies have shown that you eat less food and consume fewer calories sitting down. But this perfectly-postured patron will come out ahead because she can’t have dessert at Ikinari, even if she wants one. Ikinari doesn’t serve desserts, or even coffee. Ikinari figures you can’t consume a steak and, say, cheesecake in under 30 minutes. Obviously, Ikinari has never seen me eat.
Finally, to combine the cuisine of our previous two restaurants, we have the perfect combination of disgusting and steak. I give you our President, Donald J. Trump, who was recently spotted in a D.C. steakhouse eating a New York Strip. Well done. With ketchup.
Classy, very classy.
See you soon.
*I looked it up and it’s sort of a NATO of Native American tribes across North America. Their conflict with the U.S. has something to do with the Dakota pipeline. Apparently, they are upset about land being taken from them and nature being destroyed and so forth. But their Neogë (grilled venison loin with acorn-chestnut puree, mushrooms, and salt-cured blueberries) sounds delicious.