A Ballet Poster

Some people’s sole purpose in life is to make others around them miserable.

The Task

I have a task for you…”, she said staring into the air above my head with a dreamy look on her face.

A task?  Wonderful!  Only 2 weeks into the new job, I was all ready to prove that there was nothing I could not do.  Even though the exact opposite was probably closer to the truth, I was inclined to type E-mails, organize things, make coffee and answer the telephone around the clock, if need be.  I would make this job happen, if it kills me.

Polite attentiveness and alert desire to please registering on my face, I kept waiting for my young hip boss to word it out.  She was beautiful, smart, professional, and she took her time.  She always did.  If I were the person who hated inconveniencing others and putting them in an awkward position, feeling the need to fill in all the uncomfortable silences, she seemed to actually take pleasure in making people wait and feel uneasy by creating as many pauses, as humanly possible.  I was not even sure she actually had a task in mind – it was probably just that one of those business self-help books piled up on her disgracefully cluttered desk must have had a chapter on the importance of keeping the lowly subordinates busy.

Speaking of desks – what was it with prom queens and their innate ability to make a mess around themselves?  I mean, seriously – if you want to be perfect, why not start with throwing yesterday’s sandwiches in the garbage bin instead of pushing them to the side of the desk and camouflaging them with documents, only to bitch to the cleaning lady later for not finding them and allowing the place to stink of stale mayo and last-week’s tomatoes?…  The cleaning lady was, of course, expressly forbidden to move the papers on the desk, poor woman.  She had the nerves of steel, though, every time patiently listening to Her Highness’s complaints about life’s imperfections in general, and her way too small office in particular, and just going about her cleaning routine as usual.

I could not believe myself now that I once thought Her Highness to be nice and awesome.  A few days into the job I remember sharing my sincere admiration of her with a girlfriend, saying how wonderful it was to have a boss who was young, smart, beautiful, and not a bitch.  When this same girlfriend then bumped into the two of us exiting the office together a couple of weeks later, she could not hold herself, and called my cell seconds after, shouting at the top of her lungs “You mean SHE is not a bitch????  Open your eyes, girl!”  To my credit, the eyes opened quite fast after that, and my initial rosy impression of Her Highness did not survive the first month.  The phantom “nice and awesome” creature was replaced with a harsh reality – the “I’m too busy & important” snow princess.  And the ballet poster played an important part in the process of opening my eyes.  But I am getting ahead of myself….

Her Highness was not even exactly my boss.  My real boss, who I was hired to assist, barricaded himself behind a locked door, barely saying a word to me, and she gladly assumed the task of “breaking me in” and molding me into a perfect employee.  She made it clear, that she took up this mission out of the pure goodness of her heart, and it was already a lost battle …  But then – nobody’s perfect, and she would just have to try to make a cookie out of the crappy ingredients she got.

…So, I was thinking….”, she suddenly woke up from her contemplative trance, and smiled in my direction in an almost tender and loving way.

She was obviously not seeing me, but enjoying the reflection of herself in the glass door of the shelf behind my back.

We have this important client, Mario, you know, he was just here a couple of months ago…

But of course!  I have only been here two weeks, so sure, I absolutely and definitely know Mario!

He is a hu-u-u-uge ballet aficionado, and when we were driving to this fancy restaurant downtown one evening, I remember him pointing out a poster on the street – something about the tour of The Bolshoi Ballet Company, or something…  And I was just thinking…, you know…, how ma-a-a-a-arvelous it would be if we could send it to him…”, she sang, looking closely at her nail, contemplating if it was just the right shade of pink.

I loved all those fancy words she had a habit of sprinkling her tirades with, all pronounced with a fake French, or bigger-than-life American accent with all the rolling “r”s!)

Uhm…, send what to him, exactly?…

The poster.  You see, in client relations, it’s these personal touches that make all the difference.  Wouldn’t it be absolutely sublime to courier him the poster he noted a couple of months ago?…

… and probably forgot about completely”, I was itching to add, but held my tongue.

… just to show how much we care”, she finished, satisfied with herself, and obviously impatient to see me getting the fuck out of her office.

I was not buying it just like that, though.

Uhmmm…  But what kind of a poster was that?  What was on it?

What?”, she snapped out of her pink nail polish meditation, and stared at me with open disgust.

What was there on the poster?  Since I have not seen it, and was not there with you, when you were driving through the city to dinner, it would help to have some idea what I should be looking for.

Oh, you know, it was just a ballet poster…  A shape of a ballerina with a background of the Bolshoi or something…

Or something?...”

Well, I happen to have more important things to remember!…  I have to run the whole business development side of this company, you know?!  It was a ballet poster, it was all over town, it’s easy.  Use the Internet – you can find anything there!  Now, excuse me, I have a telephone conference with a potential client, so why don’t we both get down to work?

And with a wave of her pink-nailed hand I was dismissed.

A ballet poster.  Nice.  Was all over town 2 months ago.  Fuck, that is just what I need!  Rummaging through the shreds of my memories of the last 2 months, I could not, for the life of me, remember seeing anything with even a distant resemblance to what was described by Her Highness.  How the fuck am I supposed to find something I have never seen, something that has been vaguely referred to me as “a ballet poster”?…  The fact that I could not NOT find it was not an option.  I had to.  Find it, or die trying.

The Search

I sat morosely at my desk, wrecking my brain as to how to tackle this treasure hunt mystery.  Googling “ballet poster Bolshoi background” did not bring any remotely fitting results.  It did open my eyes to the fact that, apparently, ballet porn was an item, but we seriously don’t want to go there…  Still trying to erase some of the images I stumbled upon from my memory, I decided to tackle the problem in an old-fashioned way: by phone.

One of life’s little mysteries is that while I absolutely hated talking to strangers on the phone, and was probably the worst liar one could imagine (I literally felt my ears burning and nose getting even longer every time I was trying to make things up), this was exactly what I did next – I picked up the phone, and started lying my socks off.

I called The Bolshoi Theater administration in Moscow, and boldly inquired whether any spare copies of the theater’s ballet company latest tour in St. Petersburg were available.  The bored voice bordering on obnoxiousness on the other side asked who the hell wanted to know.

Uhm…  I am calling from St. Petersburg.  From the Mayor’s Office.  My name is Victoria, I am the secretary of the Mayor (and I gave the name of the then City Mayor).

If I am going down, I might as well go all the way!

The voice immediately woke up and almost visibly directed a big Cheshire green into the telephone, simultaneously hissing to somebody by their side:

Hush, you idiots – it’s the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office!

I repeated my question once again, this time to a much more receptive audience, with every word expecting my fake cover to be blown, and the voice threaten me with the cops, or at least demand some sort of proof of my announced identity.  Nothing like that happened, and if anything the voice only grew sweeter and more scared by the minute.

How wonderful to hear from you!  What can we do for the Mayor?  How can we be of service?  Tickets to tomorrow’s premier, maybe?…

No, no, thank you”, I interrupted, “This will not be necessary.  If you can just point me in the direction of that poster, I mentioned, the Mayor will be much obliged”.

My nose was getting longer and longer by the minute.  Shit, I was good!

Oh, but of course!  Which poster would she like?  We have just ordered an anniversary one – we can send the 1st copy directly to St. Petersburg next week!

No, no, it’s your previous one, in fact.  From the tour in St. Petersburg, you know?…

Of course, of course, I see!  Your wonderful city!  How lucky are you to be living there!

The voice was openly gushing, and I could almost see the middle-aged lady on the other end jumping in fake excitement.

Let me check which one exactly was from that tour.  We keep all the extra copies, you know?!

Thank you so much, this would be wonderful!

Shall I call you back in just a couple of minutes, or would you mind awfully to wait?…

Yeah, right – call me back in the office and call my bluff?  No, thank you!

I’ll wait, no bother at all!

Oh, you are so sweet!  That’s St. Petersburg manners!

I was rolling my eyes.  Together with the red face and the Pinocchio nose I must be a really pretty sight right now.  Thank god Her Highness barricaded herself in her office for her important call, and I could hear her cooing and laughing into the telephone behind closed doors.

There!  A ballerina with the background of The Bolshoi.  Are you sure your boss wants this one?  This is not our best, to be honest…

I assured the voice that this was exactly what the Mayor of St. Petersburg was dreaming about, and no better substitutes were necessary.

How many copies would you like?  Fifty?  A hundred?…

No, no, just one will be OK.

Just…. ONE?…”, the voice started sounding suspicious.  “But what if…

Of course!” I interrupted.  “I was just kidding.  Let’s make it 5, or better 10, if that’s all right with you.

Absolutely!  We will courier them to you right away!

What?  Fuck!  I did not expect that.  What the hell would I do with the posters couriered to the Mayor of St. Petersburg?  Think, think, think!

Actually, it’s a bit of an emergency, if you know what I mean?...” I had no idea myself, but the voice expressed full understanding.  “Would you mind if our representative picks it up from you this afternoon?…

Of course!  If this is not an inconvenience!…  What an honor!  Everything will be ready by lunchtime!

Thank you SO MUCH”, I exhaled.  “You can’t imagine how helpful you’ve been.  I will be sure to mention this to the Mayor.  Our courier will drop by in the afternoon”.

I dropped the receiver as if it were about to bite me.  So far so good.  Now, where on earth am I about to find a courier to pick up the bloody things up?…

The Pick-Up

A quick mental tally of people I knew in Moscow came up with the total number of 4.  Three were relatives, and thus unreliable.  The 4th one was a former childhood friend I lost touch with about 10 years ago, so also out of the question.  Then, suddenly I remembered: when I was interviewing for this job, they said something about having an office in Moscow.  This would be perfect!  Who can I ask about it?…

My choice wasn’t too big – in two weeks on the job the only people I interacted with were Her Highness and the office driver we spent hours at the airport with, picking up visiting clients.  Bingo!

I dialed his cell.

Igor, hi, it’s me.

Why are you whispering?

I don’t know.  Listen, I am kinda in the shit, and need your help!”

Fuck, did we forget to pick somebody up, or something?

No, no, all good.  We do have an office in Moscow, right?

If you can call it that….

Do you know anybody there?  Anybody at all?…  Preferably not an asshole…

Ha-ha, any other requirements?…

Nah, just somebody I can call and ask for a favor of.

There’s this girl, Anna – she is a kind of an office admin, and runs all the errands there.  Try her.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  A Big Mac is on me!!!

I hung up.  A Big Mac was not just an empty promise.  After about a week of our airport vigils Igor and I worked out a procedure.  We would leave the office 10 minutes earlier and stop by at McDonald’s on the way to the airport.  I’ll have a cheeseburger with coke, Igor will have a Big Mac with fries, and breathing fast food and ketchup on each other and later on the unsuspecting clients, we would continue on our way.

I cherished the airport pickups.  Not only did they give me an excuse to escape Her Highness, but also provided a rare opportunity to eat.  When I was in the office, one of my tasks was to answer the central telephone line, dedicated to clients and other important communications.  The office was small, and if I did not answer after three rings, the call got transferred to Her Highness, and if she could not be bothered to pick it up, to the Big Boss after her.  Since Her Highness expressly stated that it was not her job to do mine, I was afraid to leave my desk even to go to the bathroom.  Going to the kitchen to heat up some food, or chop a salad, was unimaginable luxury, so I was happy about visitors, as they provided much needed food and toilet breaks.

I looked up Anna on the company telephone list, and dialed the number.

Hi, Anna, my name is Victoria, I am a new girl in the St. Petersburg office”, I started.

Hi, yes I know.”  Anna sounded ok, but very business-like and in a hurry.

Sorry to bother you, but I don’t know too many people in the company yet…” – I wanted to say “I don’t know anybody yet”, but although it felt real, it was not technically true. – “I need your help!” I blurted out.

Sure”, said Anna.  “What is it?

It’s for….”.  I gave Her Highness’s’ name, and Anna visibly tensed.

Yes?…

If you don’t help me, she’ll eat me alive!

Ha-ha, she can, can’t she?”  Anna laughed, and repeated in a friendly tone: “What can I do for you?

I need somebody to go to the Bolshoi Theater, and pick up some posters from them for one of our clients.  Today.

Posters?  From the Bolshoi?…  This is something new!

Can you do that?…  Please!!!!!

Sure.  I actually have an appointment nearby at 2 in the afternoon, can drop by there right after!

Oh, my God, I don’t know how to thank you!!!!

Don’t mention it!

Just one thing – tell them you are from the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office.

Really?…

Don’t ask…

OK.” Anna sounded unperturbed by her new affiliation.  “Anything else?  What shall I do with the bloody things afterwards?

Is anybody travelling to St. Petersburg from your office this week?

Not that I know of…

No worries, I am sure we will have somebody travelling to Moscow soon, I’ll ask them to pick the posters up.

Sure. They’ll be in the office.”

And with that my Moscow savior hung up.

The Delivery

I spent the rest of the day fidgeting and checking my watch every 5 minutes.  I calculated and re-calculated the times: Anna said her appointment as at 2.  How long was it for?  Half hour?  One hour?  Two?… How far was it from The Bolshoi?  She said she would pop in right after…  When would it be safe to call?

My patience lasted till 5, when I dialed the Moscow office number again.  Anna picked up on the 1st ring.

Hello?

Anna?  This is Victoria.  I am very sorry to bother you…

I got your stuff,” she interrupted.

Really?…  Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  You are the best!

Not a problem at all.  They were actually quite nice there, in the Bolshoi.  Tried to push some premier tickets on me.  I barely escaped.

Did they ask for an ID, or something?

Not even my name.  I mentioned the Mayor of St. Petersburg, as you said, nearly pissed myself how friendly everybody got right away!

Anna, I owe you.  Thank you so much!

Yes!!!!  I pumped both fists in the air!  I did it!!!!

By the end of the week, one of the colleagues frequently travelling between Moscow and St. Petersburg dropped a roll of posters, carefully wrapped in several layers of paper, on my desk. 

Trembling with excitement, I grabbed them, and marched straight into Her Highness’ office.

Here,” I announced beaming.  “I got it!

Got what?” She looked mildly annoyed.

The ballet poster.  For Mario!  As you asked!” I announced.

Ah, yes, the poster…  Very good.  Just leave it here, I’ll take a look after my conference call.

I can send it to him right away, if you give me the address!”  My energy knew no limits.

Just close the door when you go.  Thank you!

Nothing could spoil my triumph.  I did the impossible, I beat the odds, I found the unknown and outdid myself!  I was chuffed.  Surely, when her stupid conference call finishes, she’ll see the posters, and even if she would never admit this openly, she would see that I was not as useless as she made me feel.  I might even be able to make it through the trial period!

The End

A year later, when Her Highness was finally offered a bigger office, it was me and the cleaning lady, who were left to pack up her stuff and move it to her new digs.  She flew her coup the moment she heard the good news, and left the two of us to fight the debris.

While throwing away old sandwiches, digging through piles of magazines, books and papers on her desk in a futile attempt at organizing the chaos, I saw a familiar-looking tube, wrapped in several layers of paper and half-squashed with a heavy dictionary.  I took it and unwrapped the paper.  Inside were 10 copies of the ballet poster.  A ballerina on the background of The Bolshoi.  My ill-gotten and lied for trophy.  It did bring back memories.  I stared at the posters for a good 5 minutes, and then threw them in the bin.  I did not even swear – admirable self-control!…  I probably should have kept a copy as a souvenir.  Of my entrepreneurial skills, of my stupidity, or both…

I did not say anything to Her Highness.  What would be the point?…

Eating All Over the World

Having travelled through a number of places around the world, eaten badly and well in all of them, and taken my share of food pictures (in places I’ve eaten well, naturally!), I am ready to share the gems found on the way.  In no particular order or preference, here is my totally biased food guide for nowhere in particular.

If you happen to be in any of the cities on the list – do take the time to get a bite in these amazing establishments!  Several are of the more “fine-dining” variety, but most won’t break the bank, and I can guarantee you will not leave disappointed or hungry.

For those visual types out there, I include the photos of dishes you should not miss.  Have fun!

Robert et Louise – Paris, France

Address: 64, rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris, France
Tel.:  +33 1 42 78 55 89
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 18:45-23:00; Sat 12:00-15:30 & 18:45-23:00; Sun 12:00 – 23:00

Robert et Louise’s open grill

An authentic and long-running family restaurant in the heart of Paris, famous for their meat.  A huge open-fire grill in the back, and the mouthwatering smells give away the main attraction the moment you step in the door.

It is not easy to get a table, and the best thing is to reserve (sometimes days or weeks in advance).  They speak English, so this should not be a problem, even if your school French is rusty these days.  You might, however, get lucky, if you show up 5-10 min before the opening time, as they have several communal tables you can share with other chance-takers.

Order Cote de Boeuf pour 2 personnes (beef rib for 2) – it comes with a salad and side order of potatoes (if I remember correctly), and will definitely feed the hunger of two people.  Their wines are lovely, not overpriced, and go well with meat.

The famous Cote de Boeuf (or what’s left of it…)

Trattoria Monti – Rome, Italy

Address: Via di San Vito, 13A, 00185 Rome, Italy
Tel.: +39 06 446 6573
Opening hours: Mon – closed; Tue-Sat 13:00-14:45 & 20:00-22:45; Sun 13:00-14:45

Tucked safely away from the busy downtown crowds on a side street near Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II, Trattoria Monti is well worth tearing oneself away from the gems of Roman architecture, if only for their absolutely magical “Tortello al Rosso d’uovo”.  These giant tortelloni-like pasta is hand-made fresh every day, and is filled with ricotta & spinach with a runny yolk in the middle, that oozes out the moment you cut through this deliciousness.  The Tortello covers a decent-size place, and is listed under starters. 

All other food in Trattoria Monti is delicious, and their wines compliment everything perfectly, but it is the Tortello that makes it stand out among the most elaborate dining establishments of the Eternal City.

The magical Tortello al Rosso d’uovo

The place is rather small (with a very narrow inner door – be careful, you might not fit through it if you enjoyed the food a little too much!), and elegantly decorated.  Reservations are strongly recommended, and they do speak English.


Katz Delicatessen – New York, USA

Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, USA
Tel.: +1 212 254 2246
Opening hours: Mon-Wed 08:00-22:45; Thu 08:00-02:45; Fri 08:00-all night; Sat – open all day; Sun – open until 22:45

Operating in New York’s Lower East Side since 1888, Katz’s has always been popular in the neighborhood, but got country-wide fame with their “Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army” campaign during the 2nd World War.

World recognition came with Meg Ryan’s timeless fake orgasm scene, in “When Harry Met Sally”:

Katz’s walls are lined with photos of their famous customers, and Harry & Sally’s table is well posted by the sign hanging over it.

No matter, if this is your first, 2nd, or 200th time at Katz’, their famous pastrami sandwich with a pickle is an absolute must!  Be careful – the thing is huge, and can easily be shared between 2 medium-sized adults with moderate hunger.  You may work up an appetite just waiting for it – on most days the line of people queuing to get into Katz’ snakes around the block.

The beautiful Pastrami Sandwhich – photo courtesy of Katz Delicatessen website

The pastrami sandwich tastes as amazing as it sounds, and it is well worth the wait!

“Our finished product can take up to a full 30 days to cure, while commercially prepared corned beef is often pressure-injected (or “pumped”) to cure in 36 hours.  Yep, you read that right. 30 days vs. 36 hours.  Now, which sounds like the better meat to you?”

Katz Delicatessen

Chekhov – St. Petersburg, Russia

Address: Petropavlovskaya Ulitsa, 4, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197101
Tel.:  +7 812 234 4511
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 12:00-00:00

Chekhov interior – photo courtesy of the Chekhov Restaurant website

You need to know about this place to find it.  The sign is nondescript, and the big-door high-ceilinged entrance of the 19th-century classic St. Petersburg building is shared with a dental clinic (of all things!).  But the moment you open the restaurant door, you find yourself in a carefully recreated interior and atmosphere of a 19th-century middle-class house.  Complete with canary birds in cages in the windows, rows of home-made preserves and pickles on the shelves, and waitresses wearing the starched white aprons of the Anton Chekhov stories.

“Chekhov” is like a time capsule, where you sit down, and don’t want to leave for a long time.  Make sure to reserve in advance (they speak English), as there are not more than 10 tables in the restaurant.  The food is as authentic and mouthwatering, as it can get.

Start with ordering an assortment of traditional Russian starters (there is no set dish, you need to order each separately): veal in aspic (served with a proper horseradish & cream sauce on the side), salted (not marinated!) mushrooms, the traditional layered beetroot-herring-potatoes cake (aptly named by the Russians as “Herring in a Fur Coat”), eggplant rolls and salted cucumbers will make a great start for your meal and may already leave you sated.

Save some space for Pelmeni – traditional Russian ravioli filled with ground beef & pork and served with a side of sour cream (you can find them under “hot appetizers” on the menu), and have Vareniki with cherries and berry sauce for desert (also on the “hot appetizers” list).

Be sure to order their home-made Kvas and Mors.  My favorite game with visitors is make them guess what Kvas is made of.  It is a traditional non-alcoholic and very refreshing drink, known to every Russian, and never heard of outside of the country borders.  I’ll keep the suspense – you have to try it yourself, and figure out the ingredients (all 100% natural!).


Desnivel – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Address: Defensa 855, C1102 San Telmo, Distrito Fderal, Argentina
Tel.: +54 11 4300 9081
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12:00-01:00; Sun 12:00-00:00

This is definitely a local place.  Those in the know have been coming here for years, but kept quiet about its existence.  From the outside, Desnivel does not look like much, and with an abundance of meat places in Buenos Aires, it rarely attracts the attention of frequent Trip Advisor & Yelp readers.  Located on a busy San Telmo street among numerous bars and eateries, Desnivel hides its true restaurant self with a meat counter at the front, so it’s easy to take it for something and anything else.

If you squeeze past the meat counter, the restaurant inside is quite spacious, and serves some of the best steaks you’ll ever have.  Go for therib eye, accompanied by a bottle of Luigi Bosca Malbec from Mendoza – both will be amazing and very reasonably priced!  The staff will speak little English, but you can gesticulate and point, smile and wave, and you will get by – it’s impossible to leave hungry in the meat & wine capital of the world!

Desnivel’s mouth-watering steak

The Purple Pig – Chicago, IL, USA

Address: 500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Tel.: +1 312 464 1744
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:30-23:00

A busy and happening spot, with a bar fully stocked with mostly European wines, and a tiny open kitchen, chucking out amazingly beautiful and tasty dishes.  If you can elbow your way through, you can observe the delicate and well-orchestrated kitchen ballet.  The tiny kitchen of the Purple Pig manages to accommodate at last 7 people, who are permanently cooking, moving over each other’s heads, shouting friendly obscenities at the waiters, and generally looking like they are having a good time

The place is always full, but I will give you a tip: there is a waiting room in the back, where you can order a cocktail and rely on your luck of getting the next free table. Don’t go there! You are much better off just filing into the 2nd [or 3rd] row behind the bar, and waiting there.  If you order a bottle of wine (even the cheapest one they have), your chances of getting a spot to sit down will progress exponentially, as the staff will see you for a serious customer you are.

The menu changes depending on the season, but if you are lucky, you might be able to try the octopus with green beans, or crab with asparagus & mushrooms – both will be works of art, and will melt in your mouth!

Crab with asparagus & mushrooms
Octopus with green beans

Harry’s Cafe de Wheels – Sydney, Australia

Address: Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo
Tel.: +61 2 9357 3074
Opening hours: Mon-Tue 08:30-01:00; Wed-Thu 08:30-02:00; Fri 09:30-03:00; Sat 09:00-04:00; Sun 09:00-01:00

A Sydney legend, now having several places around town, but originating from Woolloomooloo Cowper Wharf, where Harry’s customers still have to fight for their food with the over-sized hungry seagulls eyeing every bit of food with a disapproving eyes of bean-counting accountants.

Opened in the late 1930-es by Harry “Tiger” Edwards, the place has not only been the home of Sydney’s best pie since, but also a stage for Elton John’s “in-caravan” press conference in 1970-es, and a favorite pie pit-stop for a wide number of celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Sir Richard Branson, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Billy Crystal and Pamela Anderson, and became the name of Peter Blakeley’s 1990 platinum album.

Harry’s is definitely an institution, but history aside, it’s the food you go to Harry’s for, and it is just delicious.  Make sure to order Harry’s Tiger – a simple meat pie with gravy and mushy peas on top.  And then another, and, maybe, one more, just to be sure – they ARE that good!

The delicious Harry’s Tiger
…and two more!

Dim Sum Library – Hong Kong

Address: 124/Level 1, Pacific Place, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Tel.: +852 3643 0088
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:30-22:00; Sat-Sun 10:30-22:00

The bar at the Dim Sum Library

If you thought dim sums were those nifty little round dumplings – think again!  They come in all shapes and sizes (from round bite-sized thingies to flat envelope-like wraps and fist-size buns), and Dim Sum Library on the underground floor of the Pacific Place shopping mall in Hong Kong definitely took them to the state of art height. 

I usually stay away from shopping mall restaurants, as they all seem to have the flavor of a food-court…. Not the “Dim Sum Library”, though. The place is stylish and you quickly forget it is situated in a mall. The restaurant is huge, but fills fast, being very popular with the lunchtime and dinner crowds, so the best time to enjoy the food at leisure is in the odd hours in-between.

Crystal har gau – shrimp dumplings, Crystal blue drunken crab meat dumpling, Black garlic siu mai pork & shrimp dumplings – no matter which one you choose, they will be guaranteed to be absolutely delicious, and will fill your body with fragrant mouthwatering happiness.

The envelope-sized Black garlic siu mai pork & shrimp dumpling
The more traditional-shaped and -sized Crystal har gau – shrimp dumplings

The Kitchen – Ko Lanta, Thailand

Address: Moo 3, Klong Dao beach, Ko Lanta 81150, Thailand
Tel.: +66 86 593 0617

A cozy and friendly place with amazing authentic Thai dishes.  Watch out – if the menu says “spicy”, it definitely will be!  The best way to experience the food is to order several dishes for the table and share them all.  They will all be delicious.

The curries (try their Paenang Curry – you will love it!) and soups are amazing, and the salads will be tangy, fragrant, and some (like the spicy pork & onion salad) will make your eyes water.

The delicious Paenang curry
The spicy shredded pork & onion salad

The Kitchen has a lovely bar, and an assortment of tables, ranging from big communal ones, to tiny intimate seating for two – all with romantic lights among trees and flowers. The place is very popular, so it’s best to reserve in advance – either on the phone, or just by swinging by on a scooter and talking to the staff the evening before.


Trattoria La Fiasca – Sirmione, Italy

Address: Via S. Maria Maggiore, 11, 25019 Sirmione BS, Italy
Tel.: +39 030 990 6111
Opening hours: Mon-Tue 12:00-14:30 & 19:00-22:30; Wed – closed; Thu-Sun 
12:00-14:30 & 19:00-22:30

Although a random tourist does find their way to Trattoria La Fiasca (if they’ve been smart enough to find it on Trip Advisor), it’s mostly the place where locals eat local foods, and enjoy their time.  Simple interior in a centuries-old building, with checkered red and white tablecloths, amazing local wines, sumptuous pasta, local meats and lake fish dishes – La Fiasca is definitely worth finding in the maze of Sirmione streets and alleyways.

Tagliatelle with rabbit ragout is amazing, and so is their lasagna.  Finish your meal with a delicious Crème Catalane, or tiramisu – and your evening will be well spent!  All wines are from the area, and if you like the bottle you are having for dinner, you can easily google the vineyard and visit it the next morning to stock up.

Tagliatelle with rabbit ragout
The delicious lasagna

Cafe Mela – Worcester, UK

Address: 22 Foregate St, Worcester WR1 1DN, UK
Tel: +44 1905 28989
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 18:00-23:00

Cafe Mela interior – photo courtesy of the Cafe Mela website

Don’t be deceived by the non-pretentious sign over a little door, leading into a tiny lobby with two chairs – like a magic rabbit hole, the place opens up to a huge and elegantly decorated restaurant, joining inside the front building and the backyard covered with a glass roof.

The food is fantastic and very decently priced, the service is excellent, and a great evening will be guaranteed for all!  Reservations won’t hurt, but the wonderful staff will do their best to accommodate you even without, and the scent of spices will make your mouth water the moment you step in the door.

The menu is extensive, and makes the choice very hard. The adventurous types go for the triple-spicy Naga Ka, but even if you decide to go for the classics, you will not be disappointed. Their onion bhajees will melt in your mouth, and the tried and tested Tikka Masala or Butter Chicken will fill not only your stomach, but your soul as well.


The Banyan Tree – Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Address: Jl. Pantai Gili Trawangan, Gili Indah, Pemenang, Kabupaten Lombok Utara, Nusa Tenggara Bar. 83352, Indonesia
Tel.: +62 878 6239 1308
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 07:00-22:00

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy the beautiful and delicious fare that this modest-looking place chucks out on its tables.  Their breakfasts are the best on the island, they have fantastic coffee and cakes, and as if this would not be enough – the food looks absolutely amazing!

Make sure to try the tofu wraps, and if you want a sumptuous but healthy breakfast – go for the smashed avocado toast.  Anything you will order in this culinary oasis on the biggest of Gili islands will be made with love, and served with a smile. 

The colorful and delicious tofu wraps

The interior is air-conditioned (which comes in handy on a hot Gili summer day), but you can chill out on the open terrace deck as well and enjoy the sunset over the Bali Sea from the beach.

Smashed avocado toast with fried mushrooms

Elephant & Castle – Dublin, Ireland

Address: 18-19 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel.: +353 1 679 3121
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 08:00-23:30; Sat-Sun 10:30-23:30

Chicken wings, chicken wings, chicken wings!!!!  Served in a basket with the blue cheese dressing and a celery stick, they are absolutely to die for, and will feed you for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  That is, if you manage to get a table.  Located in the heart of Temple Bar, this is one of the few places in the area packed not just with tourists, but with locals alike.  You may have to wait on a bench at the front for a table, but the wait will be absolutely worth it.

Chicken wings!

The place gets crazy busy at the weekend, with the brunch crowds of locals travelling across the town for Elephant & Castle’s culinary delights, so reservations are highly recommended.

It’s not just the chicken wings, true – all other dishes are absolutely delicious as well (try the avocado and sheep cheese salad, if you are in for a healthier option), but the chicken wings rival the best of the North American variety, and made the fame of Elephant & Castle spread far outside of Dublin, or the little green island of Ireland.

The avocado & sheep cheese salad

Osteria Le Vecete – Verona, Italy

Address: Via Pellicciai, 32a, 37121 Verona VR, Italy
Tel.: +39 045 468 0738 
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 12:00-16:00 & 18:30-23:30

With walls lined up with dusty centuries-old wine bottles (unfortunately, all empty), and the bar stocked with the best wines of the 20th and 21st (all full), Verona’s oldest tavern will appeal to even the pickiest of wine connoisseurs.

Le Vecete hides in plain sight bang in the middle of Verona, on one of its numerous narrow side streets, and you can be circling around it for hours before finding yourself on its doorstep.  Once you do – there is no holding back!  You may have come for the wine, but the food is equally amazing.  Risotto all’Amarone cooked with rice soaked in the best regional Amarone wine and served with a hearty seasoning of Parmesan will make you fall in love with Verona and its cuisine.  The pastas are all seasonal and local, and will delight and surprise you.

Risotto all’Amarone – photo courtesy of Osteria Le Vecete FaceBook site

If you are not really hungry, but want some nibbles for your wine, they have a wide assortment of finger food – mostly tiny sandwiches with amazing local hams, salamis, pickles, and what not.  You will leave happy, a little drunk, and will want to come again!