It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma that may or may not come with your choice of two side items. An exotic entrée, a dish you've never had before, has you absolutely stumped as to how to go about digging in. Wrap this around that? Eat with your hands or look like a dork with a fork? If you ask the staff, will you lose face? If you don't, will you lose your lunch?
How do you eat that? Let us tell you.
Ocean Pyramid at Pacific Rim
The Ocean Pyramid is probably one of the prettiest dishes that you will ever eat.
The base of the pyramid consists of short-grain rice and buttery avocado. Layers of raw yellowtail tuna, bluefin tuna, and salmon occupy the middle section, and bright-orange smelt roe and spicy green wasabi tobiko roe fill the top. The entire combination rests on a sea of ponzu sauce (a mixture of soy sauce, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and wasabi).
Take your chopsticks, stab the pyramid in the side so that the entire thing crumbles — and try not to make eye contact with the people sitting at the table next to you who will most certainly look as though you have just defaced the Mona Lisa. Mix everything up and hope that your chopstick skills allow you to eat every last grain of delicious ponzu-soaked rice. (Use a fork, if you must. But under no circumstances use a straw.)
Sekisui Pacific Rim, 4724 Poplar (767-7770)
Chicken and Waffles at Onix
Chicken and ... waffles? Together? Is the chicken served on top of the waffle? Or is it served to the side but on the same plate? Are these two items supposed to be eaten together ... on the same fork? Or do you alternate between bites of chicken and bites of waffle? Are you supposed to eat them with syrup?
At Onix, you get Buffalo wings with a side of waffles on two separate plates. The staff suggests you take alternate bites. The spiciness of the crispy wings and the sweetness of the crispy waffles perfectly complement each other. By the end of the meal, the combination doesn't seem any weirder than ordering fried chicken with a side of French fries and ketchup.
Plenty of folks eat chicken and waffles together, with the fried chicken (usually a breast or thigh) right on top of the waffle. In this configuration, it is recommended that you douse the fried chicken with hot sauce and then pour maple syrup over both the chicken and waffle. If this is more your style, try the chicken and waffles at Miss Polly's on Beale or at Alcenia's near the Pyramid.
Onix Restaurant, 412 S. Main (552-4609)
Mojarra Frita (Fried Tilapia) at Guadalupana
The etiquette for eating a whole fish is going to vary depending on what kind of restaurant you are in. At a French restaurant, the waiter will most likely de-bone the fish for you tableside. At any other white-tablecloth establishment you will be expected to politely remove the backbone, small bones, head, and tail, and place them on another plate.
It's much more fun to eat a whole fish at an Asian or Mexican restaurant, where you can use your fingers, crunch the eyeballs, and even suck the head, if you like. With a whole fried tilapia at Guadalupana, the goal is to eat all of the meat in every nook and cranny, including the head and tail, until you are left with nothing but bones.
Using your fingers, start pulling meat from the belly and work your way around however you see fit. Once you eat your way to the spine, it should easily lift out in one piece, revealing the meat below. Save the best for last — the head. The meat inside the cheekbones is considered the silkiest and most succulent.
Eating the meat directly from the bones is perfectly acceptable as is smothering the meat in hot sauce. Guadalupana serves the tilapia with salad and tortillas, should you choose to make your own fish tacos.
Taqueria La Guadalupana, 4818 Summer (685-6857)
Lychees at Viet Hoa
The bright-red, bumpy exterior of the lychee makes it very eye-catching. Inside is a whitish or pink-colored translucent flesh similar to a grape but sweeter. Were it not for the rather large, slightly poisonous seed inside, lychees would be the perfect fruit.
Lychees can be found locally at Asian markets like Viet Hoa. If you see them, buy them right away. (They are picked ripe and can quickly dry out.) The skin should be a vibrant shade of red and tear away easily.
Use your fingernail to cut the skin a little before peeling it completely off. Then bite into the fruit to expose the seed. Remove it and then pop the fruit in your mouth. Close your eyes and enjoy the tropical flavors parading across your tongue.
A slightly more difficult, albeit much more exciting, method involves holding the lychee in your hand, cutting a circle around the stem with a knife, pinching the stem off, and then squeezing until the inside pops into your mouth. Just don't forget to spit out the seed!
Viet Hoa, 40 N. Cleveland (726-9388)