Leave Your Memories on the Plate

The Culinary Conquests of MemSaab 900

The conversation turned, as it so often does, to food. The question was whether we could recall the best dish we had ever eaten at a restaurant? Immediately everyone had a wistful gaze in their eyes, you could almost see the taste buds going into overdrive. One friend said without hesitation: “Mine was in 1998, at a restaurant in Marseille. It was a fish soup and I’ve never tasted anything like it again. Perfection.” Another added: “Ten years ago, 2001, it was a pudding at The Glasshouse in Kew.” He went on to describe in minute detail the exact taste and look of the dish.



And as for me?  My thoughts turned to a meal I had to celebrate my graduation in 1994. My parents took me to The Criterion on Piccadilly Circus and I had a starter that I have dreamed about countless times since. It was roasted garlic, but not just any garlic; it was that gorgeous, juicy, plump, wet garlic that you only get at certain times of the year. The garlic flavour was much more delicate; smoother and kinder to the palate than anything I have come across since. With the garlic, there was a melted pot of Tallegio cheese – now let me tell you, in 1994, Tallegio cheese was something pretty new and exciting… I had never heard of it at the time, and my heart still sings every time I see it in the cheese aisle in my local! The final element of the dish was glorious herb-infused flat bread that was so thin and crispy that it melted in my mouth. Together, these three ingredients blended to make the most glorious food I have ever eaten and I’ve eaten at lots of great places since.

I have however, something to confess. I have committed the cardinal sin and as such have been punished with an ever so slightly tarnished memory of my dream dish.

What have I done?

I tried to recreate this dish at home!!! I bought the very best garlic, I hunted down the Tallegio cheese and I bought flatbreads from a Middle Eastern delicatessen, but it didn’t do the dish justice. So instead of giving up and living with the memory, I went out and bought a garlic roaster. I bought different Tallegio cheese and tried a different make of flatbread. Still it wasn’t right. So I found a recipe to bake my own flatbread, experimented with different herbs, roasted the garlic for longer, melted the cheese differently but as you can imagine, still no joy! 

And then I had an epiphany. It will NEVER work, because the dish includes so much more than those three components. It includes the things that dreams are made of, and you just can’t buy them, not even in chef sponsored supermarket.

So I realised what the Urban Rajah has known for years, that these perfect dishes need to remain just that, perfect and in your memory. Go out, enjoy food and embrace new experiences, new cultures and new tastes. Push boundaries, be brave, take menu risks and live dangerously, but don’t ever, no never, try to recreate your dreams! It just won’t work but there’s plenty of memories waiting to be discovered.

MemSaab900 is a guest of the Urban Rajah


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You’re so right! And it works the other way round too - my top tip is to NEVER order something in a restaurant that you would cook yourself at home.  That way you’ll never be disappointed with your own home cooked delights!

By SarahB on August 09, 2011

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Waiter, another tray of sweetbread and tripe please.

By Urban Rajah on August 12, 2011

You’re making my mouth water at the memory of the gorgeous King Prawn dish I ate in New Orleans! Yum!

By GeorgiaM on August 12, 2011

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Georgia, two things…what’s the name of the restaurant? If you love King Prawns you might fancy trying your hand at Prawn Tang http://www.urbanrajah.com/food/post/prawn-tang

By Urban Rajah on August 14, 2011

are your dishes more appropriate for the holy ghost or the fallen angel?

By chris on August 24, 2011

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Taste and see that the fruit is good.

By Urban Rajah on August 24, 2011

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