We’ve taken issue with Anthony Bourdain for always naming the same damn places in his ubiquitous “best of” lists (Gray’s Papaya, Holland Bar, etc., etc.) — but we have to hand it to him: In last night’s episode of No Reservations, he finally admitted to talking out of his ass. Or, as he put it while enjoying a pan-seared beef heart at Marlow & Sons with Peter Meehan: “It’s the damn beef heart and the bone marrow which breaks my heart a little, confronted suddenly with my own mortality, the squalid depths of my own mortality, my pathetically shallow ignorance in my own city.” Bourdain also sighs that he’s “unhappy about everything I’ve missed out on and will miss out on as I quickly and inevitably spiral into incontinence and irrelevance.” Poor guy.
Anyway, to Tony’s credit, he goes out of his way to make amends by enlisting some old sidekicks (Chris Cheung of Vue, Carlos Llaguno of Les Halles, Famous Fat Dave, and Floyd Cardoz of Tabla) to visit (respectively) the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing for Chinese lamb burger and hand-pulled noodles, as well as Sunset Park for dim sum, the Los Hermanos tortilla factory in Bushwick for beer and tacos, Sam’s in the Bronx for soul food, and Ganesh Temple in Queens (a Padma favorite), where he realizes that “vegetarian food doesn’t have to suck.” (A scene at Diner also features the obligatory semi-reconciliation with grass-fed beef.) And Tony also extends an olive leaf to Staten Island by having David Johansen of the New York Dolls take him to a Sri Lankan restaurant (New Asha) and a tiki bar (Jade Island). Not included in the episode, but viewable here, is a scene where Tony and Fat Dave visit a Jamaican jerk joint, the Feeding Tree.
The money shot, however, comes when Tony and David Chang (another carryover from the “lost New York” episode) visit Flushing. Chang confesses he hasn’t been there since he was a kid (“I’m a terrible Korean”) and it’s on to Sik Gaek, a Korean barbecue that Tony describes as “the real thing, an authentic hipster-free slice of Korean-food mania — the best kind of slice: a table, a burner, a bucket, and lots and lots of seafood, shochu, and beer.” There, they have the “cheolpan (a steaming Everest of seafood)” as well as a dish comprised of octopus that’s still squirming on the plate. Says Bourdain: “There’s no cruelty issue here: It is dead, it’s just too dumb to know it's dead.” Then there’s this bit of dialogue:
Chang: “I want to put it in my pocket.”
Bourdain: “Oh, we’re getting nailed for this scene.”
Chang: “They were going to be cooked one way or another.”
Bourdain: “Rationalize it all you want, my friend — there are two of God’s creatures dying slowly in front of us for our amusement.”
Will this help David Chang’s case with the vegetarians? Probably not. But boy, did it make for good television.