RECOMMENDED:

Co’m Vietnamese Grill
4005 Buford Highway, Atlanta, GA 30096
404-320-0405, www.comgrillrestaurant.com

Good choices: goi salad, la lot, bún, “shaking” filet mignon with black pepper sauce,  fragrant rice with shredded pork, fried egg, shrimp cake and choice of another meat.
 
Chateau de Saigon
4300 Buford Highway, Atlanta, GA 30096
404-929-0034, www.chateaudesaigon.com

Fancier with a larger menu than Co’m. There are a good many Chinese dishes, but stick with the Vietnamese ones.

Good choices: burnt rice, rice paper wraps, pho, sizzling fish, clay pot dishes, bún.
 
Saigon Basil
1870 Piedmont Road, Atlanta, GA 30066
404-892-8688, www.atlsaigongroup.com

Good choices: Excellent bún dish. The best is #7, including spring roll, shrimp and pork atop the noodles. Tell them you want it served in a bowl, instead of the weird, compartdoementalized Styrofoam.

As usual, his gaydar was sweeping the room. He was infamous for never looking anyone in the eye during conversation. This had become almost desperate recently.

Like Robert, he was about to turn 50. By way of preparation, he underwent radical “work” on his face that made him look a bit feline, like the infamous Jocelyn Wildenstein. Robert felt an impulse to draw whiskers on his face.

The first course arrived. “This is goi salad. You won’t believe it,” Robert said.

Jay stabbed the big plate with his chopsticks and took a bite. “Mother of Jesus,” he said. “This compensates for the lack of hot men here. What the fuck is it?”

Robert rattled off the menu’s description: “papaya, green mango, Fuji apples, cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots, Thai basil, cilantro and mint, topped with crispy onions and roasted peanuts.” A meat could be added and Robert chose the lamb.

“So how is turning 50 for you?” Jay asked.

He sighed deeply, thrusting his pectoral implants forward.

“I’m on a husband hunt for real but I am more self-conscious than ever about my body. I hate that ritual of undressing at LA Fitness. Everyone faces their locker to avoid eye contact but you can feel yourself being checked out. Last week, someone stuffed a dollar bill in my briefs.”

“That could be flattering,” Jay snapped.

“Except that it was that 75-year-old man who spends hours in there creeping from the sauna to the shower.”

Jay laughed. Another starter arrived.

“This is also a favorite,” Robert said. “It’s betel leaves – grape leaves. I asked them to fill them with duck, although I often get the tofu.”

“I’m not much on Greek grape leaves,” Jay said. “They’re always too oily and taste old.”

“These are completely different,” Robert said. “Dip it in the fish sauce.”

The ubiquitous sauce is clear, slightly orange, and tastes a bit like vinaigrette. There’s nothing fishy-tasting about it to most people.

Jay did as suggested and rolled his eyes upward in exaggerated imitation of Food Network people, all of whom seem to think good food is delivered by god or birds, and requires talking with their mouths full.

“Mmmm. This is so good,” Jay said as he chomped.

For their main courses, Robert chose bún for both of them – big bowls of rice vermicelli with the usual herbs and veggies. Diners may choose from more than 12 combinations of other ingredients like the marinated, grilled pork and shrimp Jay received.

Robert ordered his with ground pork. The noodles should be anointed in the fish sauce with a shot of hot sauce, if desired.

The two grabbed the noodles with their chopsticks and slurped them down. “It’s not the most elegant eating,” Robert said. “And you can get the sauce all over your shirt.”

“Oh, like oral sex,” Jay said, winking.

“Whatever,” Robert said, having lost any attraction to Jay when he got to know him well. “You should come back. There are lots of rice dishes, too, although I never like them as much as the noodles.

“You should go to Chateau de Saigon, too. That’s where my favorite dish of all is – crunchy rice from the bottom of the pot. I always get it topped with their pork caramelized from slow cooking in a clay pot.”

Jay looked at Robert blankly, as many people did when he went off on a foodie tangent.

On the way home, Robert invited Jay to the upcoming meeting of the Food Porn Supper Club. Jay was intrigued but Robert knew he would not come unless he could be the center of attention.

 


Food Porn is a fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal.

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