Thursday, August 19, 2010

Restaurant Review: Panica: The Anxiety-Attack Place

So the other day I decided to have lunch at Panica, the Anxiety-Attack Place. It's a theme restaurant, and in this case the theme is panic attacks. Interesting, huh? You have to go to a place like Panica in the proper state of mind. I mean, you have to be feeling pretty vulnerable and washed-out and on the verge of a panic attack to even begin to appreciate this eatery. And so I waited till I was tipping over into an anxiety attack before I made my way to Panica.

The exterior of the place is meant to induce panic in you from the beginning. If you're looking for a cozy place to dine, Panica is not it. The entrance is imposing and brutal, with gigantic oppressive columns and a blunt stairway. The heart starts rabbiting from the moment you view the building.

Inside, everything is conceived to make you jittery. The music is terrible synthesizer-based "new wave" music from the last century. The treble is turned way up and everything sounds tinny and distorted. The music has that annoying "energetic" sound that I despise. I wanted to find the nearest exit, but I had to dine you wouldn't have to. Unless, of course, you're looking for an anxiety-attack theme restaurant, which, judging by how crowded the dining room was (of course!), many others apparently are.

The host at his lectern was commited to making you feel nervous. In a fascinating twist, the host was not high-strung and impatient. In fact, his ability to give you a case of the nerves was based on how plodding, molasses slow he was in everything he said and did. In fact, he didn't even acknowledge me for around one to two hours. I stood in the lobby of Panica, feeling more and more clammy by the minute, pummeled by the awful keyboards and drum machines and hyperactive vocals. I walked over to him after the second hour and asked for a table. "I'm sorry, but...well, let me go in the back and see if anything's available." He worked kinks out of his neck as he loped back to the kitchen.

Another hour passed. A trap-door of panic opened up. And somehow I suppose the host was able to detect that, because he re-appeared at the moment my anxiety attack was revving up.

"This way, sir," he said. I followed him through the press of a dazed, stupefied crowd. My table was full of stains and made me fear some food-borne illness would waft up into my system from its surface. I asked him to clean the table, but somehow the anxiety had lowered the volume and projection of my voice until it became so weak that the host could not hear me. "Your server will be back later tonight. Give him at least three or four hours."

When the server finally arrived, I was wringing my hands, passing my hand across my brow, and unconsciously tearing the cloth napkins into shreds. Fears of imminent madness or sudden death pierced my mind. The waiter arrived.

"Would you like a large coffee with a shot of adrenaline?" the server asked.

The waitron left for the coffee and I perused the menu. The print was extremely small, and it was difficult to read with the hysterical eyestrain I was presently suffering from. The descriptions of the dishes made no sense and confused me. Try as I might, the words wouldn't connect. When the server returned, around an hour later, I was weak with hunger and anxiety.

"Anything look good?" the server said.

"What would you suggest?" I asked. Again, my voice was extremely weak and the waitron couldn't hear me. I raised my voice...which took great effort. "What's good?"

The server said, "You'll love the bottomless bowl of creamed corn."

Bottomless. As in...bottomless pit. The panic escalated when I heard the word bottomless and thought of what it meant...THE ABYSS.

The creamed corn was flavorful, not too salty or runny, and had some exceedingly large kernels, which I thought was a generous touch on the part of the chef. I usually enjoy my creamed corn hot instead of tepid, but otherwise the dish was excellent.

The panic subsiding, I asked for the dessert menu. "Ah," said the waitron, "you've ridden out another panic attack! Now you get your prize!"

The Panic-Lover's Blondie was crisp and tangy. By the time I finished it, the anxiety attack had been replaced by a feeling of calm and relief...just the sort of mood to accompany an excellent fried dessert.

Overall, Panica delivers what it promises--adventurous cuisine in a nerve-shattering ambience. If you like a little anxiety with your creamed corn, Panica is the place for you. And so, I hyperventilatingly award Panica Five Brown Paper Bags!

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