I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I like to go out to eat so much. There’s the obvious reason: It’s fun to go somewhere new and have people serve you food.
But it’s more than that. I’ve realized that a lot of times, I can make food that tastes better than what I’m eating in a restaurant. I’m not saying that to be cocky; it’s just a fact. I don’t think it’s because I’m a better cook than the average person. I think it’s because I genuinely love food and enjoy devoting time and attention to making dishes that taste delicious. Passion is a key ingredient in my cooking.
In my humble opinion, that’s what separates the great restaurants from the meh restaurants: A passion for food and a dedication to excellence. The food doesn’t have to be fancy or trendy. The chef doesn’t need to be taking tweezers and arranging a pea tendril on a spotless white china plate. But there do have to be people behind the scenes that understand and appreciate ingredients.
Cue: Vista Ramen. I went last night for the first time and I was blown away. When you go to Vista, you’re signing up for more than dinner. You’re getting an experience, kind of like riding in a hot air balloon (which I’ve never done, but it sounds amazing).
Even though Vista is busy on a weekday night and loud music blares from the speakers, there’s a kind of peace in the dining room and kitchen. People chat amicably over steaming bowls of ramen, potted plants hang from the ceiling, and a gleaming green neon sign reminds you where you are and adds to the restaurant’s funky vintage appeal.
I ordered the crab caramel glazed pork ribs and the veggie ramen. As I told the bartender, I wanted to order the whole menu but I settled on those two items. I was not disappointed.
I don’t eat ribs very often. But after trying Vista’s ribs, I might need to amend that. They were sweet and smoky and the meat fell off the bone. The outsides are slightly crispy and coated with herbs and peanuts. In a weirdly generous move, I let my friend eat the last one.
The real show-stopper though was the ramen. O.m.g. I’m going to fan girl out about this ramen because it was that good. It has scallion, root vegetables, mushrooms, and something called “coconut schmaltz,” which I’d never heard of until last night. Hearing the word “schmaltz” evoked memories of my Jewish grandmother. I love coconut and Jewish food, so I figured that it couldn’t be bad.
The ramen broth is rich and complex and the noodles are soft and chewy. The mushrooms add texture and the scallion gives the dish a more traditional flavor. I was immersed in conversation but honestly, all I wanted to do was be quiet and concentrate on the ramen. Nothing else seemed to matter.
Anyway. Dining out is something to be treasured. Sure, I can waste time and money on places that serve a decent meal. But for a little more cash I can enjoy great atmosphere, friendly servers and staff, delicious food, and, most importantly, a shared passion for cooking.
Here’s a song that reminds of Vista. It has the same old school charm.