Chow, Baby: Wednesday, September 27, 2006
My Name Is Chow, Baby

Hot off the internet, from a page that contains big Hebrew letters so it must be accurate: “It is customary during the period before Yom Kippur [which begins at sunset Sunday this year] to visit ... any person whom one may have somehow wronged or spoken ill of in the past year and ask forgiveness.” This can’t be just a Jewish thing; there’s a guy on tv who does it every week. Should Chow, Baby try it? Speaking ill is part of its job, after all — but maybe it gets carried away sometimes. Like the off-topic slam on a manager who dared get on Chow, Baby’s nerves (“Off the Track,” May 17), which overshadowed perfectly reasonable gripes about the restaurant’s food and décor. First stop on the mea culpa train: lunch at Jack’s Off the Wall (2731 White Settlement Rd.)

Well, that was easy. To start with, Chow, Baby’s server, Hedaya, was knowledgeable and competent, impossible to trip up with any dish-name-spelling, daily-special-ingredients, or what’s-the-deal-with-this-music question. (Bet she also speaks Italian.) With no server distraction, Chow, Baby was free to heartily enjoy its smoked-in-house chicken sandwich ($7), with extra flavor bursts from provolone and a French dip of hearty chicken broth. And the huge “side” Caesar salad ($4) was beautifully dressed with thick curls of Parmesan. All in all, a wonderful lunch. Come on, group hug!

The owners of the Tommy’s chain made a good point after Chow, Baby complained about unrequested mustard on its burger this summer (“Eat Here, Get Gas,” July 26): Why didn’t Chow, Baby just ask for a re-do? So last week Chow, Baby visited several Tommy’s locations and tried to atone for this lapse. Unfortunately, each burger came out right the first time, because every order-taker asked how Chow, Baby wanted its burger instead of slopping whatever on it. It’s hard to react properly to servers’ mistakes if they refuse to make them. But Chow, Baby will keep trying.

Chow, Baby’s first take on Xouba (2301 N. Collins St., Arlington) was perfectly fair: The place is gorgeous and the service friendly, but the food was lousy and it cost too much. (“Cold Fusion,” April 19.) So this revisit was not to ask Xouba to forgive Chow, Baby — it was to see if Chow, Baby would forgive Xouba. Chow, Baby would kill to have a local restaurant featuring Peruvian cuisine, a modern, global cuisine with diverse influences from delicate Japanese stir-fry to earthy Andean tubers and spices. More precisely, it would kill to have a local restaurant do this cuisine right. Chow, Baby wants this relationship to work.

Alas, Xouba didn’t meet Chow, Baby halfway. This meal began nicely with freebie plantain chips and a scrumptious dipping oil with chopped cilantro, garlic, and parsley. And a starter of beef tataki ($9) was a delight: thin slices of seared tenderloin drizzled with soy-lime sauce. But things got glumpy after that. Deep-fried shrimp and scallops were spectacularly unsubtle, in the ranks of bar food. Empanadas were drowned in heavy-handed sauces that recalled condensed mushroom soup. As on the last visit, the entrées (seafood paella, chicken with mango, stir-fry beef tips) looked great on the menu — but Chow, Baby can’t be fooled twice and didn’t want to cry over another $100 tab, so it stopped eating right there. Chow, Baby can’t reconcile all by itself.

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