Fond Affections

Love her or hate her, the RFT's most talked-about food reviewer is back

The unbridled success of said bisque suggests a contemplative moment devoted to the subject of soup. Life without soup? Not bloody likely. A primeval dish that began its bright career as a humble-visaged liquid into which were tossed a few bread sops, it has evolved, in the best cases, to represent the pinnacle of a chef's expertise. To make a soup, one strips its ingredients of all pretense and connotation, literally boiling them down to their essence, with flavor in its purest, most cogent form the happy result. A palate that has been caressed by a decent soup is infinitely more forgiving of whatever indelicacies might plague the next course, a circumstance with which more restaurateurs would do well to acquaint themselves. The effects of even the simplest soup are both palliative and restorative.

So it was with my first bowl of vegetarian osh at Kabob International (a lunch-only outpost on South Grand Boulevard operated by the same family that runs the University City Loop's wonderful Café Natasha). I encountered this earthily seasoned lentil-and-grain soup by fortunate accident, having sauntered in one brilliant afternoon, my falafel jones acute, at one of those rare moments when falafel was expected to take a little longer than usual. In an act of uncommon decency (although the falafel delay would turn out to be only a few minutes), proprietor Hamishe Bahrami, obviously no stranger to the mitigating qualities of a good soup, presented me with a bowl to tide me over. I have been a tireless booster of the stuff ever since and endeavor to eat it at least once a week. Its rustic charms are a gratifying preamble to Kabob International's Salad Delight Platter, a sort of Persian-American chef's salad (the falafel-and-feta version is particularly recommended) with homemade yogurt dressing. "We won't offer anything unless it is wonderful," states the menu, and I am inclined to believe it.

Let us now consider Tony's, and a cream-of-wild-mushroom soup that I had the unmitigated pleasure to eat there a few weeks ago. Twice a year I schlep over to the House of Bommarito, whether I need it or not, and I advise you to do the same. If you haven't been in a while, sell off a few pieces of the family silver and book a table immediately. If you've never been before, forget what your hoosier coworkers have told you about its being stuffy, fussy or overbearing; these adjectives may or may not have described our city's only Mobil five-star restaurant once upon a time, but nowadays the place is merely impeccably, immaculately elegant. The mushroom soup to which I allude is quite possibly the most extraordinary food I've ever pushed into the Posey-Smith face (causing me to all but forget last year's flukish Sandy Mussel Incident). There may exist a language that encompasses words suitable for a proper paean to this epicurean triumph, but I am not familiar with it; I can only lamely recount that with my first sip of this soup, I could but chant thanksgivings for my deliverance. Ladled tableside from a tureen with unerring precision by a perfect assistant waiter, it had the aspect of beauty bordering on the immoral. That a foodstuff that started out life as a lowly fungus could be elevated to so sublime a state is proof of that of all the crafts, cooking most closely approaches the divine.

Nachomama's: a sliver of suburban Austin Tex-Mex in downtown Rock Hill
Jennifer Silverberg
Nachomama's: a sliver of suburban Austin Tex-Mex in downtown Rock Hill

This is not to say that a similar pleasure cannot be had by slicing a ripe avocado in half and eating it with a spoon in your own kitchen.

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