The Hole in the Wall
Their online reviews are impressive, and the restaurant’s only a few blocks from my place. Funny, I don’t remember a restaurant being there. Once we arrive, I notice the banner above the door, the fogged up windows, and realize I’ve passed by this place multiple times but would never have expected it to be so highly rated. It’s just a hole in the wall.
We enter to discover we’re the only people inside the restaurant. We wait a few seconds, and someone appears from a hole in another wall to seat us. We browse through the menu and come up with our selections.
An elderly gentleman enters the restaurant, and I look up. His gait is deliberate as he looks around. He notices us and walks over.
“Have you been here before?” he asks. We shake our heads. “Everything here is fresh and only freshest ingredients. No thermos flasks, no ‘essence of’: all fresh. And we’re the only Indian restaurant in San Francisco that makes our chapattis fresh. And unlike other restaurants, if you don’t like the food, you don’t have to pay.” I wait for the word of the day to make another cameo: fresh.
Before the evening is over, the gentleman will cajole us into ordering appetizers, two entrees, rice, four chapatti, two mango lassis, two desserts, and tea, but at the moment, he fails on the raita. As he disappears through a hole in the wall, O, who is sitting across from me, remarks, “That guy’s quite the salesman.”
“Would you have the guts to tell him if you didn’t like the food?” I ask him.
O laughs. “It would never even occur to me to say something like that.”
It doesn’t take long for the convoy of food to arrive at our table, and none of it disappoints. It’s a slow, relaxed dinner, and I honestly cannot recall the last time I spent almost three hours at one restaurant chatting with a friend.
Then the moment of truth arrives. “He’s going to ask us about the food now,” O says.
“Do you want a free meal?” I ask, laughing.
The Salesman enters. “Was any of the food not to your liking?” he asks.
We both respond with variations on the following theme: “The food was very good, thank you.”
So he brings back the bill, we pay, and get ready to leave. As we go, O asks how long the restaurant has been around.
“How old are you?” asks the Salesman.
“I’m twenty-seven,” responds O.
“This place is older than you. Thirty-five years!” We’re surprised that the place has been around so long as we leave. Good food but sparsely populated… reminds me of Cafe Tibet in Berkeley.
The hole in the wall is called New Ganges, and I’ll be back soon.