Candledance [3 Trandary 4261]
I had thought that there is a single Yistreian cuisine. I was wrong. There is another Yistreian cuisine lurking in Candledance. And when I acquired Strenata for a quickish lunch between first-day classes, and since ~mother~ is more generous with food than she is with frivoloties, Seeks-St.-Trebulican's-Classroom suggested we go there.
(St. Trebulican's Classroom is, perhaps, the most glorious and comfortable closet on campus. Alphame St. Trebulican could not decide whether he would be the stingiest donor to Vheshrame Academy, or the most generous non-donor. I think he settled on the latter. In any case, Strenata had to ask eight senior students before she found one who knew where St. Trebulican's Classroom was.)
I have never gone to Candledance before. It never seemed worth the amber to me. It is a restaurant in the Hour-Candle of Food style. (In Yistreian dialect, that is a single word -- loosely "yaskabawa" -- where "yaska" is most of "hour-candle" and "bawa" is a word for "food" used mainly in the phrase "to stuff onesself greatly with food".) In the center of the restaurant is a tall taper, painted in many bright rings, thin enough so that seven or eight rings will burn down in an hour. When you are seated, you are given a chalice of sweet wine: a wooden chalice painted with the color of the candle-ring of the moment.
And the waiters pad around the restaurant, each with a cart of this and that in little square wooden dishes. A quick gesture, and the waiter will squirt the this or the that with its traditional sauce, and give it to you. No word is spoken, though when the waiter is a less well-off student in your Spelunking class earning a bit of pocket money and you have accidentally chosen wudgeon in hot and sour bitter melon sauce, some brown Orren eyes may twinkle with much amusement.
The price is simple enough: a third of a lozen for two rings of the candle. It doesn't matter how much you eat, or of what; just how long you take to do it. (Of course, they keep some control on things by only giving you one or two dishes at a time, and having a bit of a saucing ceremony when they give you one.) Also they charge a bit extra for each dish you request and do not eat. For me this is expensive, since I do not eat very much. For a hungry Orren or Cani student, it can be cheap -- not Sloop in Soup cheap, but quite a good price for a remarkable variety of remarkable food.
Most of the remarkable food is remarkable in the sense that (1) it all looks the same but (2) it tastes very different. So there are bits of grilled wudgeon on skewers in parsley butter sauce, and bits of grilled wudgeon on skewers in iridescent blue curry sauce, and bits of grilled wudgeon on skewers in hot and sour bitter melon sauce. So there are dumplings stuffed with chopped chub-beetles, and dumplings stuffed with whole tiny squids, and dumplings stuffed with pickled mustard greens.
Strenata pointed out that there are, in fact, clues indicating what you are ordering. Iridescent blue curry matches my scales or close enough; hot and sour bitter melon sauce does not. The Cani at the next table eagerly devour wudgeon with parsley butter; they are much more cautious about the hot and sour bitter melon sauce. The chub-beetle dumplings are crimped this way; the squid dumplings are crimped that way; the mustard green dumplings glow with an infernal mustardly green glow.
Dessert comes with the price; dessert comes around on trays like everything else. Dessert is absolutely terrifying. Dessert is a large raw egg, separated, with the eggwhites stirred with sugar and aspic until they are as clear as water and as sweet as Strenata's hand on your tailbase. Then the eggwhite and eggyolk are reunited until the aspic has set, and then it is turned upside-down on a little square wooden plate: a raw eggyolk in a jiggly crystalline dome.
So of course I said, "A yellow plum in aspic? That sounds good!"
If it had really been a yellow plum, putting my skewer through it and cutting it with my knife would have been the right thing to do.
Nor was I able to persuade Strenata to lick the eggyolk from my feathers in the middle of the restaurant, alas.
Afterwards, I was more than happy to sign the check and tell the restaurant to bring it to the Bank of Teleporting Hexagons, in the proper noble style. Which is very silly for a tally of a lozen and a bit (for two), but it is the first time I have been able to do it, so I did. Strenata teased me all the way back to campus about making the owner of the restaurant walk halfway across town for one lozen. But I should think they have some other students who sign checks rather than paying cash.