Karthik Bala bio photo

Karthik Bala

Student at UT Austin. I like to write sometimes.

Favorite Posts Github Last.fm

I really wanted to like Madam Mam’s. I enjoy Thai food, and can handle some spice. The location was perfect and the pleasant name and colorful building evoked a homely, nostalgic, feeling. Unfortunately, this was all just a facade and behind those green doors, something sinister awaited me.

The first thing I noticed as we walked through the cloudy glass doors was the heavy, nauseating, stench. This is not a normal Thai restaurant aroma– usually a combination of meat, lemongrass, and curry. The fetid odor was a mess of damp nursing home, vomit, and ammonia.

I gave Mams the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps their sewer pipe broke and excrement had seeped into the floors. I won’t fault them for mishaps beyond their control. I stared desperately at a waiter, hoping to be seated quickly so I may order some piping hot tea and have the steam and pleasant aroma cleanse my senses.

The waiter, sensing my urgency and distress, began to slowly scan the restaurant for possible seating. It was about 5pm, more than half the tables were open. We had a party of 4. Without turning my head I could see at least 3 clean tables that were perfect candidates for us to be seated at.

Minutes passed, the stench burned my eyes. With tears slipping down my cheeks, I wondered if I would even make it out of Mam’s alive. Finally, after some useless internal deliberation and planning on the waiters part, he seated us in the very corner of the restaurant. Probably some attempt at restaurant bin-packing, which might have been cool if over half the restaurant wasn’t deserted.

I collapsed into my wooden chair and the waiter slapped four encyclopedias on the table. I initially thought it was an interesting choice of pre-food reading material, but upon closer inspection I realized that these monstrous binders were actually menus. As I flipped through the behemoth, I began to sob. Not at the still prevalent stench or the idea of reading 500 pages before I could order, but at the gruesome menu design. Line spacing varied widely, even on the same page. Indentation and even font family were inconsistent. Duplicate menu items were strewn about randomly. I couldn’t handle it. I collapsed, laying my head on the table. When I finally mustered the strength to pick myself back up and resume my search for something edible, I realized that the stained and suspiciously sticky table had attached itself to my left cheek.

As my friends pulled my hair, trying to separate my head from the table, I wondered how a restaurant table could possibly become so sticky. I began to hypothesize various paths of negligence that could lead to my head being super glued to the stained table. Perhaps decades of spilled sticky rice that had been lightly brushed off instead of washed with soap had created a gorilla glue strength paste. Maybe the chef used gorilla glue kept the sticky rice together. Maybe years of sanitary heedlessness had incubated a new suctiony life form that was now consuming me.

Thankfully, my friends were able to separate my face from the table with only a sliver of skin loss. The waiter took this event as a signal that we were ready to order. I decided to go with the red curry, always a safe bet. I was in no mood to handle thai-tier spices, so I asked for it to be mild.

Hours passed.

I was drifting in and out of consciousness from the intense smells so the time passed quickly. Perhaps this is Madam Mam’s way of creating the illusion of quick service.

Somewhere in my daze, red curry with tofu and rice was placed in front of me. The harsh yellow lighting gave the food an aged appearance, like a crusty, old, book forgotten in an attic. My appetite left me. I don’t like eating old books.

I am convinced the red curry is just colored water. I tried a bit of my friend’s drunken noodle, which had a spicy level of 3/5. The tears came back. It was as if the chef was kicking puppies in the kitchen, extracting the pain they felt, and covering his otherwise bland noodles with it. My tongue was on fire. I lapped up the rest of my colored water to ease the pain.

I paid $10 for severe sensory damage.

1/5.