It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m staring out my dirty windows trying to write this post before I get started on more work. Three months after moving into this brand new building, I still have to look past the grime covering the windows to get a glimpse of the beautiful sun shining through. This is what I had to do with Momofuku Má Pêche’s Hue-Style Chicken Soup.
I almost didn’t get to try it on Friday because, after arriving, we were told by the host standing outside that there was a private party going on and the restaurant wasn’t even officially opened yet. She said the Chambers Hotel was still serving a limited lunch menu on the Mezzanine level, but she didn’t know if they were serving the soup. We walked upstairs to look at the menu, and, hallelujah, the soup was there!
As the host took us to our seats, I started sweating because it was so damn hot and humid inside. This was going to be a not-so-great experience if I had to eat hot soup in a hot environment. But ask and you shall receive, and the cool air
was finally turned on. Supplementing the cool air were a bottle of beer and a special Arnold Palmer ($5) made from Má Pêche’s calamansi lemonade (calamansi*, lemon juice, simple syrup, mint) and jasmine iced tea, which had a refreshingly delicate citrus flavor.
I was both expecting and not expecting a mind-blowing soup because the Momofuku name was behind it. I had Momofuku ramen a few times (and it still needs a review on this blog), as well as dinner at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and each time I’ve left unimpressed and annoyed that I spent a lot of money. However, Momofuku still has an incredible reputation, so this was me hoping that I could see past my bad experiences and finally enjoy something I would rejoice about.
To my dismay, that didn’t really happen with their Hue-Style Chicken Soup. I enjoyed the mix of ingredients that were in plain sight – fresh slices of mushrooms, real tender pieces of chicken, fresh cilantro, fried shallot flakes and Asian rice noodles. The more hidden ingredients that my palate could figure out – star anise, lemongrass and fish sauce – provided some pleasant company. But, at $12 a bowl, I wondered if they used about $9 worth of salt. In fact, all of their dishes had salt dumped into them. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as noticeable in the soup if I wasn’t eating the sodium-ridden side dish, too. At this point, I was thankful for my many drinks so I could wash it down.
Why didn’t I just stop eating? Well, I was investing $12 just for the bowl of soup, and wasn’t about to waste my money and spend more money to fill up my stomach. So I forced myself to get over the saltiness, delight in the parts that I liked, and finish it.
This is similar to how I handle my personal relationships. As I invest more of myself into a relationship, my expectations increase. I expect the same that I give. Over the years, however, I’ve realized, after a number of disappointments, that the only way I could lessen these disappointments was if I changed my own expectations and, from that, changed how I interacted with certain friends. For example, flakers get invited less and less, but I’ll still be able to have a good time with them whenever we happen to see each other. They’re still fun people, after all.
I’ve been a work in progress, trying to look past the rough spots and enjoy the shining moments underneath. This doesn’t mean I never feel let down anymore, but it does mean that I feel happier overall. If you rub enough salt on the wounds, though, and don’t provide me with an ounce of happiness, then my investment ends there.
So, Má Pêche, I think you’ve filled me with enough salt for a lifetime, and I won’t be coming back.
*Calamansi is popular in Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, and is also called “lemoncito.” It is often described as a cross between a tangerine/mandarin orange and a kumquat.
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