Zucchini and Aubergine like nothing so much as a no-frills eatery that does a handful of dishes, does them home-style and does them well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a soup dumpling place on Wellington Street in Hong Kong, an old hippy couple grilling fresh fish by a shack on a tiny Croatian island, or a matriarch and her family serving pho and bun dishes to fellow Vietnamese in a wholesale market on the outskirts of Prague. It’s tasty, it’s simple, it’s made with pride, and sitting beneath florescent lights at a formica-topped table and eating it makes us happy.
We eat at other places. We eat at regular mid-range restaurants and we go to high-end places sometimes, too. We are not inverse snobs, or we hope we aren’t. But even at the high-end, our heart goes out to places where the owner or owners are there in the restaurant, taking pride in their food, and making the customers feel at home.
Zucchini and Aubergine like most cuisines, when they are cooked with competence and with feeling. We do not turn our noses up at grilled pork knee with mustard and horseradish, served beneath chestnut trees in the garden of a Czech pub. We do not turn down “the best fish and chips in East Devon.” And we will be damned if we go to New York and not have a knish at Yosha Schimmel’s, the pastrami at Katz’s, or the made-at-your-table chopped liver at Sammy’s Romanian Restaurant. But we do prefer cuisines with a bit more spice in them, and cuisines that appreciate fresh vegetables.
PS As the Yank of the team, I’m Zucchini.