I should have known.
Going to a restaurant called “The Frog Prince”, I should have known what to expect. Frog.
Lots and lots of frog.
The restaurant also had crab, but my friend couldn’t eat shellfish and had her heart set on fried and boiled soft-skinned amphibians.
I had recently eaten frog and a plate of some kind of skin, and this girded me for the arrival of the big bowl. Unfortunately the frogs came as do many kinds of meat here if it’s from small enough animals – whole. Get a chicken and it comes on a plate, sliced and spread out as if sunning itself, head, ass and all. I think it’s so you know it’s a chicken and not, say, processed crud. The frogs, likewise.
Markets in Taipei had prepared me, filled as they were with buckets of immense frogs, bigger than I had ever seen – bodies larger than the span of my hand. Remembering this did not, as might happen when thinking of a big, juicy steak, make my mouth water. I probably wouldn’t do so if I thought of the cow and not the product either. That’s the thing about the small critters: you can’t escape the food source: it’s not some piece of meat distant and removed; it’s a whole creature, warts and all.
Thankfully, they weren’t the big belchers, just medium sized things, skinned but otherwise seemingly whole. Eating was not a delicate matter. You lifted one up to your mouth, ass end first, yanked a leg off, sucked the meat off, and spat the bone out. They are pretty damn meaty and had legs the biggest steroid guzzling bodybuilders would be proud of. The front end was slightly different, having their useless T-Rex arms. But there was some kind of fried up pocket tucked up to where the missing head was. I don’t know what it was, and it’s best not to know when it tastes good.
I managed to strip quite a few little hoppers and they were quite mild – no, not like chicken. The broth was not; it was oily and spicy and nicely greased up my innards for the next few days. But good. Which is much more than I can say about the personnel. Service is not a strong suit with Chinese restaurants – except for Dong Bei Ren, which has staff that actually smile – but this was a new level.
The service reminded of the faerie tale nature of the title in that the woman behind the counter was the rudest and loudest restaurateur I have ever encountered, reminding me of the wicked stepmother from every Cinderella-like story. She was very toad-like, and perhaps ran the restaurant as some kind of vengeance against her more environmentally flexible brethren. Squat, with a jutting jaw and, I swear, huge warts, she had only one mode and that was shouting.
One couple came in and, I gather, ordered crab. A guy came up to their table a few minutes later holding a writhing crab. The waiter (?) showed the crab off, twisting it about, but the couple wasn’t happy. In most places, this is simple: get a different crab. But the waiter disputed the customer’s assessment or something. The volume quickly elevated and toad lady, hearing a commotion, joined in, easily out-bellowing all concerned – I swear I saw the wattles on her neck inflate. The couple left, the man saying something about toad ladies attitude.
That was the first time I had ever seen anyone leave a Chinese restaurant because of bad service. I thought it impossible. Indifference and rudeness are modes of being, so I have to imagine that toad lady started going on about the customer’s mother, ancestors, and sexual proclivities.
She had no off switch, no smarmy side of oozing charm, no telephone voice, no pleasantness. She was a boil on the arse of the world; one that continually sprayed puss over all. I wished that tipping was expected, because I think voting with cash is all the woman would understand; though I imagine she has such a blubber of bitterness built up that everything is the fault of others.
I think she runs on the blindness assumption: that when one thing goes, the other things magnify themselves to compensate, so she can be as rude as she is because people will therefore think the food must be fantastic, otherwise there’s no way the restaurant could remain open. Trouble is, the customers do too, and the Frog Prince or Prince of Frogs falls into that horrible little cauldron of restaurants in Asia, the famous ones, for which fame is the be all and end all. The Paris Hiltons of the food world. No one knows why they are famous but it’s a self-feeding and eating existence, like an animal which can exist by eating its own shit.
Everybody can be wrong, and the fame can be unwarranted anymore. Though, I guess, the Frog Prince could be entertaining as dinner theatre or some kind of performance piece.