On New Year’s Day, my husband and I went out for the evening. Needing an Indian fix, we headed toward Mati Mahal, one of our favorite restaurants in nearby Pyeongtaek. Mati Mahal is not exactly like the Indian food to which we’ve grown accustomed in the States. There is no lunch buffet, it’s a little pricey, and the food is definitely Korean-influenced. (Also, there are no elderly Indian relatives who continually fill one’s water glass.) Nevertheless, the food is delicious and we were literally salivating in anticipation on the drive over.
We should have known when we could readily find parking near AK Plaza that our evening would take an unusual turn. Most of the stores in the mall were closed, as were many of the surrounding businesses. After a quick walk to the restaurant, we confirmed that Mati Mahal was definitely closed, too. As it turns out, Pyeongtaek businesses apparently do celebrate New Year’s Day, Gregorian-Style. With famished bellies and dashed hopes, we then began wandering the frigid streets of Pyeongtaek, debating whether to head back to Songtan or lie in the street and wish for death to come quickly. Actually, it was just me who was debating those two options. My husband was too busy scanning the windows of businesses with lights on to see if we had any other nearby options. A few blocks later, a miracle struck. Intermixed with the bars, coffee shops, and abundant racks of Abercrombie & Fitch apparel, my husband spied a second floor window bearing a Nepalese flag.
We raced up the stairs, out of the cold, and were greeted by an open restaurant with only one other family inside. The menu was full of food we associate with southern Indian: tons of creamy vegetarian curries loaded with vegetables and paneer. We couldn’t believe our luck! Sure, after sitting there for a while, we realized that the restaurant was filthy and that the bathroom was shoved into a corner of the restaurant, undivided by any door. And then we waited over an hour for our appetizers and drinks. But still, we had high hopes for the meal.
Our hopes were quickly dashed when the food arrived. The food was essentially inedible. (“Essentially” in the sense that it took awhile for our faculties to gain control of our rabid hunger.) Even my husband, who regularly eats the not-so-fresh things in our fridge, couldn’t continue eating the food. Really, it was the worst meal I have ever eaten in a restaurant. It was all very sad and tragic.
Fortunately, the AK Plaza movie theater was still open after our Nepalese fail. We managed to save our evening there with smoothies and a bucket of kettle corn.