The Hungry Cat – Oysters, Shrimp and Getting Past "Chicken"

the hungry cat restaurant, hollywood, los angeles, ca - peel and eat shrimp
It may appear from the words on this blog that I am friendly, outgoing, outspoken, loud, aggressive, borderline obnoxious, and when it comes to “party,” well hell, it just isn’t one until I get there.

Appearances, they say, can be deceiving.

I am under the impression that people who write on their personal blogs are very true to themselves. Their blogs are not merely an online extension of their normal, everyday selves, but a totally transparent floor-to-ceiling plate glass picture window into their souls. What you read is what you get. The way they write is the way they speak. The thoughts they put out there are exactly what they are thinking. Every other blogger out there behaves in real-life the way they “behave” through their writing.

Every other blogger out there in the big bad blogosphere, it seems, except me.

In real life, I am not even distantly related by fifth marriage to a second cousin thrice removed to the “big” personality that comes through on my blog. Or at least, the personality I try to convey.

It’s almost like my blog is my alter ego. Let’s break it down, SAT-style.

Clark Kent : Superman :: Sarah : The Delicious Life.

One side is “real-life” and the other side is “super-alter-ego.”

But which side of those colons is “real life?”

Strangely enough, my blog is my real-life persona, and it is this off-line life that is my alter ego. The Delicious Life is who I really am, and it is in this off-line, or “so-called real” life, where I have been programmed to be another way.

Proper. Put-together. Quiet and demure. Mature. No swear words. I am shy. I don’t talk much. If we’re at a party, I’m usually hovering around the food, peeking out from behind a cocktail, just watching. And that’s assuming I’ve even gone to the party. More likely than not, I am grateful for the invitation. “Thank you so much,” I say, “but that’s the night I upload photos to Flickr. But really, thank you.” A polite decline with a reasonable excuse. I don’t even use my Flickr account, so there you go. I stay home and listen to KOST 103.5 hoping to hear an anonymous dedication of Sade’s “By Your Side” from a secret admirer to me.

This is the reason I blog, for fox ache. Because I am very bad with off-line, real-life, social situations and would rather hide behind this electronic veil. On my blog, it is just me. In real life, there are *gasp!* other people around. On my blog, I am fearless. In real life, I am easily intimidated. On my blog, I am a goddamned wordsmith. But out in the real world, I stutter. I stumble over my words, and that’s only if I can find the words to begin with…I am a nervous, neurotic, train wreck of a girl.

In person.

For other bloggers, normal bloggers, this seems not to be the case. The blog really is just an outlet for…writing. It’s not someone else’s made-up face they put on in this grand masquerade ball called The Internets. And these normal bloggers like to meet each other outside The Internets. They like to socialize in person. They make friends.


That scares me. I am… *squawk!*


Food bloggers have invited me to social “food blogger” gatherings before, and though I don’t really try to not go, I am utterly relieved when I realize I simply can’t make it because I really do have a prior engagement (not just UL-ing photos, but like…waxing my upper lip. Just kidding. Sheesh, I’m Asian. I am basically hairless.)

Only once before have I ever gone out and “met” a blogger, and it took a lot for me to even light-heartedly reply to the email with a “Sure!” As if I did it all the time. As if it were no problem. As if I’d just *taptaptap* it into my Palm Pilot and not think about it until my Palm alarm preset-for-60-minutes-before beeped at me.

I thought about it. For three days before Jen and I met up at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, I thought about. “What if she thinks I’m totally lame? What if she hates me? What if she blogs out loud to everyone how weird and awkward I am? Maybe I shouldn’t meet her. But then she’ll think I’m a flake. What if I flake and she blogs about it and tells everyone I’m a flake?” I was doubting myself into a giant hole. I was really nervous. More nervous than going to a third-round case interview. More nervous than meeting his parents. More nervous than going on a blind date. Okay, not that last one. I have never been on a blind-date.

Needless to say, I worried about it for three days for nothing. Meeting a blogger in real life isn’t so bad after all.

The thing is, I don’t seem to learn from experience.

So when the Scent of Green Bananas wafted her way across the Pacific eastward to LA and invited me to dinner with perhaps a few other LA-based food bloggers, I was… Well, I was a little more than intimidated. Again. As always. Meet bloggers? Like face-to-face? And like, actually speak and have a conversation? With words?!?!

My feathers were ruffled in the most chicken poop kind of way possible.

But as much of a social retard as I am, I am also not completely stupid. The only way to get past some weird hang-up is to yes, 1) realize that it is a weird hang-up, then 2) take the paddle attachment on your pink-is-for-power KitchenAid mixer at top speed and spank your fear into the ground.

Or maybe just start at Level 1 and ease your way up from there.

Santos and I exchanged emails about date, time, and most importantly location. Westside? Eastside? Right in the middle. When she finally suggested The Hungry Cat, I knew our first-time meeting wouldn’t totally fall apart. Even if she found me to be dreadfully dull, at least she would enjoy the food and drinks. The Hungry Cat…made me *meow*

Santos, Yoony (immaeatchu), and I took a table outside. The Hungry Cat inside is small, dark and high energy at the bar, but the acoustics, as part of the larger warehouse-like shopping center to which it is attached, can be a little clamorous for a dinner where conversation and “getting to know you” is the focus. It was a pretty fabulous summer evening for sitting on the patio.

We ordered drinks right away. Whether that was out of a nervous need for liquid calm, simply out of habit, or as a preparatory lubricant for the impending conversation, I am not quite sure. Perhaps some combination of all three. Yoony had sparkling wine, I, Citron/soda, and Santos ordered a deep dark scarlet/burnt-orange cocktail, the name of which e
scapes me. Negroni, perhaps? I only remember that she was able to identify all the liquors in it by taste. Impressive. I like her. :)

Ordering dishes is hard enough as it is, particularly at The Hungry Cat, where the tendency is toward…everything, even the Pug Burger (not made of pugs, just named after one) at this decidedly seafood restaurant. Toss that with three people from totally different lives who know nothing about one another, along with the added strangeness that indeed, they do know something about each other from reading one anothers’ blogs, and ordering becomes a cautious, slightly awkward pre-pubescent first dance. One person makes a shy, tentative step, retreats, then politely waits for another to take her step. “What do you think of…?” “How about…?” “Oooh, this looks good…”

Eventually, we made decisions, and that was after aplogetically shooing our very patient server away at least twice because we hadn’t even started to look at the menu.

the hungry cat restaurant, hollywood, los angeles, ca - raw oysters
screw the summer months!

Against standard brainwashed judgment regarding how we spell the months of the year, we started with oysters on the half shell because the server assured us they were fantastic. I love raw oysters, but aside from drowning them in a Molotov cocktail of Tabasco, horseradish, and their own obscene seepage, then sucking them down like…well, sucking them down, I know nothing about oysters. Briny vs. sweet, large vs small, Pacific Northwest vs. anywhere else. The server brought us a sampling, pointed and identified their names for which I nodded and smiled as if I would remember, then left us to it.

Even faced with which oysters to try, the three of us were overly polite to the point of – dare I say it? – ridiculous. No one wants to be “the gluttonous, greedy, selfish one” at the church picnic buffet line by going first, and at The Hungry Cat, we were the same, graciously deferring to one another to “go ahead.” The fact that the iced tray had two each of each kind of oyster made it even harder for us, as inevitably, each one of us would be omitted from a taste of one. Eventually we made it through, and I’m pretty certain than none of us felt shafted for not getting to try all three. Screw the summer months! The oysters were fabulous.

the hungry cat restaurant, hollywood, los angeles, ca - peel and eat shrimp
playboy bunnies of the prawn world

Peel n’ Eat Shrimp were so huge they could have been a mutant pygmy strain of lobsters. Big, pink, voluptuous, and perfectly accessorized with flakes of parsley, they were the Playboy Bunnies of prawns. They certainly looked good on the outside, but once they were out of their shells, they were disappointingly, a little bland. (Wow. The analogy worked better than I thought!)

Though the three of us had been courteous and cooperative and collaborative in ordering everything else, I have to admit that I might have been a little selfishly aggressive in suggesting the Braised Clams with Chorizo, which blew me away last time. Some may find that the greasy, spicy, strongly-flavored chorizo overwhelms the clams, but that is exactly whyI love about the dish. As you pluck tiny clams crammed full of chorizo out of the bowl, then use the empty shells to go back and scoop up more of the sausage out of the braising liquid, a shimmering scarlet halo of oil and spices gradually appears around the edge of the bowl where the braising liquid has lapped up against the sides then retreated. More than anything though, I love the grilled bread that come with it.

the hungry cat restaurant, hollywood, los angeles, ca - salad
the dish i don’t remember
the hungry cat restaurant, hollywood, los angeles, ca - scallops
good scallops, but slightly out of order

We had a couple more dishes, one which I don’t even remember, partly because I don’t think I tasted it, and partly because by the time we had gotten to it, I had completely lost my head to the company and conversation. The other dish of thinly sliced scallops marinated in citrus was good, but probably a mistake on our part to order after eating such strongly flavored clams and chorizo. Next time, it’ll have to come right after oysters.

Next time I go to Hungry Cat.

Or next time I meet up with bloggers. Yes, there will be a next time. I’m kicking that KitchenAid mixer into high gear.

The Hungry Cat
1555 North Vine Street (@ Sunset Blvd.)
Hollywood, CA 90028

Who Else Ate at The Hungry Cat?
I did! (Apr 2005)
la.foodblogging – Zteve (Feb 2006) and SoCalorie (May 2005)
La Weekly’s J. Gold – The Life Aquatic (Mar 2005)
LA Ritz – Drunk Girls, Hungry Cat (Apr 2005) – The Hungry Cat Brunch (Oct 2005)
Colleen Cuisine – The Hungry Cat (Apr 2006)
fhungry – The Hungry Cat (Jan 2006)
Potatomato – The Hungry Cat (Apr 2006)

** a year ago today, my cheap, cheating, taco-eating heart came clean **

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