for the last nine months, i've been suffering from a heavy load.
it's been bothering me for a while; sometimes weighing me down.
but now the burden is gone, because tonight, i've been to vlado's,
and i've been enlightened.
you see, i've seen eugene (he's in charge of ca's glenn iris office
in melbourne) several times in the last nine months. i've eaten
a few meals
with him - both sushi and steak - in steakhouses and japanese restaurants
in new york, new orleans, and australia. we've been to some pretty
good places, and eaten some pretty good steaks. but every place
we go, and during every steak we eat, eugene invariably says "it's
good, but it's not as good as vlado's".
this is the burden i'm living under. whenever eugene does this,
he strangles the conversation. every steak ends up being compared
place that only he has been to. it's a bit frustrating - especially
when you're enjoying one of the best steaks you've ever had (and
i've had a lot of them), only to hear that there's better stuff
out there. but i usually laugh it off; in fact recently this has
become a running joke between eugene and a bunch of us - whenever
something is really good, we say, "yeah - but it's not as good as
anyway, tonight eugene, trevor and i went to vlado's. on the way
over, eugene told me the history of the restaurant: vlado is an
old croatian who started the small restaurant in melbourne
36 years ago. apparently, vlado takes his meat pretty seriously.
in order to get the perfect steak, he raised his own cattle. in
the 70's, he switched to argentinian beef, because he found a
there where the quality was even better than his own cattle. and
starting 10 years ago, he found a local australian cattle ranch
that supplies him good beef. well, it supplies him more than the
beef: he buys the whole animal. vlado goes to the ranch and hand-picks
the cattle that he wants. i can picture him walking through the
fields as australia's grim reaper of cattle, choosing the victims
that will grace the tables of his restaurant.
the menu at vlado's is pretty short: salad, appetizer, two choices
of steak, and two choices of dessert. that's it. the waiter brought
out the salad and the appetizer: a few slices of sliced filet mignon,
plus some other choice cuts of meat.
eugene's big like me, so i know he appreciates his food. i watched
him closely as he took the first bite. eugene is very interesting
to watch: he tucks his napkin into his collar, rolls up his sleeves,
and grabs the knife and fork. then he cuts a small piece, puts a
dab of horseradish on it, and raises it to his mouth. he closes
his eyes and places it on his tongue, chewing softly. now he starts
to beam, and breaks out into an expression of pure ecstacy. he swallows,
opens his eyes, sits absolutely still for a few seconds, sighs,
then repeats the process.
i decided that i should follow eugene's example, and eat exactly
as he did. if he found something that works, i might as well try
it too. so i tucked my napkin around my neck and rolled up my sleeves.
our timing was about the same: we each would cut, raise, close,
chew, smile, open, pause, sigh repeat. again and again - first through
the appetizer, then through the main course.
the three of us ate silently - all you could hear was the clinking
of the forks and knives on the plates. nobody spoke a word from
the first bite until the plates were clean.
as eugene and i finished our last mouthful, he opened his eyes,
and stared at me. he was content. i've never seen him so peaceful.
he asked me what i thought of my steaks. as if he couldn't tell
by my own expression.
what was i to say? trying to describe the quality was impossible.
the meat was absolutely incredible. unbelievable. ah who eat till
encrypted russian). you couldn't rate it - it was so far off the
end of the scale that to try to put words around it would demean
both the taste and the entire experience.
so i said, "my steak was as good as vlado's".
eugene got it. and so did i.