Friday, February 02, 2007

Eating Ants and Worms in Santa Monica

At top left are crisp fried CHAMBI ANTS over potato strings. Next to them are whole SEA WORMS fried Thai style over baby lettuce leaves with ginger, chile peppers, peanuts, and lime juice around a tamarind dipping sauce. They are on the menu at the restaurant Typhoon, which is located in the Santa Monica, California Airport. Typhoon crossed my radar screen via a Travel Channel podcast.

Upon arrival, I was greeted and seated by a trim European looking gentleman wearing a blue blazer, gray flannels, and bow tie. Aside from its listings under "insects," Typhoon's menu comprises a manageable number of diverse, well chosen, and reasonably priced dishes from all over the Pacific Rim. None are as unusual as those under the "insects" category.

The atmosphere and vibes are as pleasant and relaxing as you'll find anywhere. A glass-encased dining room looks eastward to Century City and west to the Pacific Ocean. The bar is as friendly as it is inviting. Typhoon has a reputation as a hang-out for pilots. Parking is usually available right outside for small planes.

The only other time I'd eaten fried ants had been the chocolate covered ones that a Pikesville, Maryland delicatessen once carried as a novelty item during my childhood in the 1950's. I remembered them as having added a dimension of crispness to the chocolate that encased them, but little in the way of taste of flavor. Typhoon's ants were similarly crisp and presumably much fresher. Their contribution to the delicious potato sticks with which they were served was primarily visual. The sea worms not only offered a pleasing component of crispness to the peanuts, pepper, and ginger that accompanied them atop the lettuce leaves, but also a flavor profile that let you know they were from the sea. As with the ants, I was happy to have had the experience of trying them.

In the interest of balancing out my meal, I eschewed the three other choices from the menu's"insects" category. They were "CHICKEN STUFFED WATERBUGS, deep fried Thai style," SINGAPORE STYLE SCORPIONS with shrimp toast," and TAIWANESE CRICKETS stir-fried with raw garlic, chile peppers, and Asian basil. Hindsight leaves me with regrets over not having tried them, since another opportunity to do so could be a long time coming.

Typhoon's menu also had an "amphibians" category where the only selection was FROGS LEGS deep fried Thai Style. They rounded out my meal, and I found them to be delicious. I feel certain that everything else on Typhoon's menu would have been just as pleasing to me.

If you like any kind of Asian food, Typhoon is worth a special trip, but even on an off night its best to have reservations. I was there on a Thursday night without one and consider myself lucky to have been seated.