Open your mind
If life hands you lemons, make lemonade, says Injy El-Kashef
Some places seem designed to be found only through chance encounters. They do not advertise their existence; they are located in areas where one is not likely to search; and yet, once found, they prove to have been created with the utmost care solely for the purpose of being discovered. You see a glass façade, you think you can identify what's inside and, already, you begin the process of evaluation. Once you make the move however, you turn into part of it, you become instrumental to the experience of what it has to offer. It was precisely through such a string of events that I entered Ricky's diner.
It may have been hard to miss the writing on their walls: words of love and friendship, jotted around simplistic drawings for easy access, adorn the space like an alphabetical lesson in life. Become fixated on appearances though, and the less obvious charm may slip you by. If you look up at the ceiling, for example, you will see the fruit of someone's creativity -- at Ricky's the lighting fixtures are all composed of tableware: forks and spoons arranged in rectangles, and sparkling glasses designed in spheres, encase light bulbs for a clever lighting scheme illuminating the relatively small interior.
The waiter -- a very sweet man -- approaches for the order once we are done searching for fallen specs under the table; and though not tall enough to have difficulty hearing you while standing upright, he bends down attentively to catch your slightest murmur, despite the quiet calm in the air. The menu is a Tex-Mex compilation running on continental wheels, and so, casting our ballots among the fajitas and the grill sections was accomplished in a flash.
While they took their sweet time to deliver, we could have watched dust grains settle on the table, or engaged in some meaningful activity -- like dissecting every one who passes in the street below; you know, throwing rocks when we are behind glass walls and stuff. But we ended up in a Zen state, where we just let go of the moment's boredom, petty realities and all, to muse about our seriously light hearts.
Food, as usual, put an end to all thought, though the Zen disposition lingered on way past the end of our meal. Questions of the chicken or the egg were shelved again as we contemplated the plates that landed before us. On my end lay an inviting Mushroom Soup: it was darker than the usual creme- coloured fare one has become accustomed to, yet way creamier in its consistency, with thick mushroom chunks lending it even greater culinary sophistication. The flavour was powerful and gripping, making the sequence of spoonfuls entering my mouth faster than I had expected.
Though the croutons were not crisp enough, and though the dressing could have used another dash of vinegar, the Ceasar Salad at the other end of the table was facing the same fate at my friend's hands. We look at each other and crack up (careful not to send morsels flying in the air) -- that's what friends are for after all, to expose the pig in each other, before full-fledged slobbering has had a chance to set in.
Then, following a moment of hysterical laughter, it was time for the main courses. I left a sea of unappetising rice untouched, to focus instead on the strips of fish filet topping the grains of carb. They were a little chewier than I wished, and a little too slim for elegance, but they had certainly been well- marinated -- so what's a bit of extra fire when the heart is meaty and tender? Along with the perfectly delicious grilled vegetables on the side, there was nothing more I could ask for in a decent meal -- except, perhaps, a similarly good end for my friend, who struggled with a layer of Cheddar cheese atop the grilled breast of her California Chicken. Nor was this the only problem, for a huge lump of tasteless mashed potatoes proved equally difficult to stomach. She was perfectly happy with her meal, but I knew there was more to life than useless layers of the wrong cheese.
Ricky's has been open for a couple of months now, and should become a rather successful venture with only a few more turns of the screw. Remember though, enter with the right approach, and you will bring out the best it has to offer.
Ricky's Diner and Café
12, Abdel-Moneim Ryad St,
Off Al-Thawra Sq, Dokki
Tel: 337 1410
Reviewed order: LE120