You approach the weathered building: traces of hastily removed ivy still pin-prick the magnolia stucco. Your friends look at you with expressions of muted alarm but you assure them, this is just part of the charm of Nouveau Bistro Erudite. You, being considerably hipper than your friends, have heard tell of this charming out-of-the-way eatery in rumors born aloft on vespers among the local cultural luminaries. You approached your friends and invited, nay, dared them to come with you to experience a realm of sensation far beyond their meager comprehension. Delighted and intrigued, they could only accept, and now you try to block out your anticipation of their imminent disappointment when they discover how baldly you lied to them. But you’ll burn that bridge when you get to it.
As you enter the Nouveau Bistro Erudite, you feel as though you are stepping into another world. The colors are brighter, the scents are sharper, and the prices are steeper. The music is uncomfortably loud but there is nothing to be done about any of this. Nouveau Bistro Erudite is simply an inundating wave of stimulation and it demands to be accepted on its own terms. You’re here, no one made you come, so you are tacitly bound to comply.
The maître d’ approaches your group, a coy smile dancing about the corners of his thin, wormlike lips. His hands are cold and somehow impart a sense of sliminess as he limply greets you, and there is now a chill in your metacarpals that will remain until your next opportunity to thrust your arms into boiling water. His accent is unclear: French with the soft consonants but with a distinctly Baltic fricative. You strain to understand his inquiries—fortunately, smiling and nodding seems to satisfy most of his questions, and soon you are ushered to your table.
The layout of Nouveau Bistro Erudite challenges most senses of the word layout. Your table is an asymmetrical glass top resting on plaster casts of bones. The bones appear human but also exhibit signs of gigantism or osteoporosis. You look with envy at the neighboring tables: 2x4s stretched across pillars of cinderblocks, tarpaulin stretched taut over a small square garden of living bamboo, and a Jenga-like stack of Kalashnikov rifles apparently autographed in gold by a dozen US Senators.
The service is prompt, if incomprehensible, at this restaurant and you wonder just what it is you’ve gotten yourself into. The waiters take your order with their backs turned to you, and they wear neither pants nor underwear. You attempt to decipher a menu printed alternately in Hebrew, Aramaic, and a brazen reinterpretation of cuneiform. The cuisine at Nouveau Bistro Erudite is Peruvian-Scottish fusion with Norwegian influences, but there is no way for you or your party to know that. You simply point at the entries with the fewest characters and stare at the table candles in an attempt to quell the frosty feeling of fear in your stomach. More’s the pity that what serves as candles in this restaurant is a literal interpretation of the Hand of Glory. Prized in the Middle Ages for its ability to grant burglars the gift of invisibility for as long as it burned, the Hand of Glory is a hand harvested from the corpse of a hanged man, treated with paraffin. It is then that you realize you’re not only paying for the time and labor of the kitchen, but also tremendous overhead and legal fees.
Conversation is impractical at Nouveau Bistro Erudite: bands of feral children roam throughout the establishment. When not promenading in hourly pot-and-pan parades, they may be seen herding polecats into the restrooms or shanking patrons who have been momentarily distracted for whatever reason. There is plenty to distract you in this restaurant, but under no circumstances must you let your attention stray from a strictly defensive posture.
Management offers complementary service: appetizers and drinks are on the house. Your party must draw straws to determine who is to retrieve them. It is urgently recommended they do not go alone: the rooftop dire wolf kennels of Nouveau Bistro Erudite are renowned throughout Eastern Europe for the singularly handsome, savage breed they cultivate. It is incorrect to suggest these dire wolves are never fed; it is more precise to say they are never intentionally fed, for they do amply feast upon wayward diners, of which there seems to be no shortage.
At last your dinner arrives: skirting expertly between clans of feral children warring for territory, the semi-nude waiters present large covered platters to your table and abruptly your stomach grumbles with hunger. It has been scientifically quantified that the level of induced stress in this restaurant burns no less than 350 calories per 15 minutes in a recumbent adult male, 6’ tall and 200 pounds.
The platters are uncovered and you cannot believe your eyes: the food at Nouveau Bistro Erudite fairly glows with health and flavor. The brie crawls onto your baguette for you. The turkey breast is so tender, you may spread it with a butter knife. The asparagus is pale, pale, pale, and so soft you must spoon it to your lips. The carne asada is sliced so thin that a gentle breeze disturbs it from its plate and it drifts daintily into your waiting maw. You are rapt and lost in the sybaritic delight of consumption and scarcely realize one of your number has been stabbed between the fourth and fifth ribs, puncturing his lung and preventing him from screaming. But no matter: he does not notice either and his blood has thoughtfully postponed flowing so as to permit the completion of this sumptuous repast.
There is no dessert, but liquid magma is inducted into the room, intended to stream through an exposed ceramic channel but occasionally overflowing and claiming the unaware. You cannot believe your bill, but there it is, taped to the end of a gun. You and two of your friends collaborate on a second mortgage to cover half of what you owe (woe betide those luckless men and women who got caught during the subprime dining experience) and management agrees to waive the remainder: you surrender your wounded friend to the restaurant, and he will be harvested for what organs have not been violated during the meal.
You swear you will never come again, but this will be a lie. For weeks your dreams will be haunted by Nouveau Bistro Erudite, and in two months a very physical craving will set in. You will find new friends, gullible friends with a lot of money, and you will return.