Friday, August 25, 2006


A-Tan Chinese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
3445 Poplar

Warren caught wind that A-Tan opened a hibachi bar recently, so we decided to check it out after picking the monkeys (Satchel, 4, and Jiro, 2) up from school. We found them both thoroughly tired and cranky at pick up, but decided to take them out in public anyway since neither of us had any intention of cooking or getting fast food.

We arrived at A-Tan at about 6:15pm and discovered that it was crawling with kids! There were happy families at almost every table. But I haven't even reviewed this place! I said to myself as if everyone in the city is hanging on my blog's every post.

A smiling host (the owner I presume) met us at the door and said, "Do you want Chinese or Japanese? We have both." We looked to our left and then to our right and replied, "Japanese." The host led us to the new part of the restaurant (which is easily twice the size of the original restaurant) and seated us at a shiny new hibachi table. Jiro wasn't happy with our selection and kept lunging towards the "Chinese side" of the restaurant screaming, "Nemo!!!!!!!!!!" (Obviously there was a fish tank somewhere.) The table (one of many) seated ten much like Nagasaki, but the grill was much smaller, and thankfully surrounded by an 18 inch marble ledge. (A much better set up for wild monkeys.)

A waitress quickly came over for our drink orders and told us about the early bird special (two meats for $14.95). I wondered if there was a coupon somewhere in the Playbook that I should have cut out, but didn't dwell on it. As soon as we put in our order (Steak and Shrimp for me, Chicken and Shrimp for Warren, and Steak for Satchel and Jiro to split), Satchel said, "I have to go pee pee."

Better now than in the middle of dinner I thought as I happily got up from my chair. Then it dawned on me. This was Jiro's first diaper free restaurant experience since becoming potty trained a couple of weeks ago. He unfortunately is not a big fan of public restrooms and he almost always poops at some point during the dinner hour. Sweat started to bead on my head as I mustered some enthusiasm and said, "Jiro want to go potty with brother?"

"No," he said plainly.

Alrighty then.

By the time Satchel and I returned, the miso soup (chock full of tofu and seaweed) was being served and our chef was making his way over with the cart. He was very entertaining and much more animated than any of the guys we have seen at Nagasaki. He immediately started putting on a show for the monkeys, which they loved. (I loved it to0--except for the fact that it distracted Jiro from eating his seaweed.)

The chef banged his spatulas around a bit then set the whole grill on fire. Satchel was prepared, but Jiro was not. He buried his head in my armpit for a few minutes before resuming eye contact with the chef. The chef was undeterred by this and went on with his routine. Soon he was using his spatula to toss small pieces of rice into Satchel's open mouth. Then he stacked up onion rings to look like a volcano. Satchel was hanging on his every move and Warren and I were all smiles.

Once the fried rice was done, the chef dished it out to us. Even though the monkeys were sharing a meal, he gave them each a heaping portion. Jiro demanded a spoon and when I asked the chef for one he looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. I got up and tracked down a waitress and returned with two just moments later. Jiro tore through his rice in no time and declared, "I need to go pee pee."

I vaulted out of my chair and led him to the restrooms. Jiro refused to sit on the seat, but did agree to let me hold him over the bowl and aim for him. Then he had a grand time washing his hands and playing with the automatic paper towel dispenser.

By the time we got back to the table, the vegetables, meat, and even noodles were all done and piled on our plates. I dug into mine immediately. Warren and Satchel were busy munching away at their plates too. Jiro had a few noodles, a piece of broccoli, a lick of an onion, a sip of water, and then declared himself done. I took that as my cue to eat as fast as possible since I expected him to break free from his chair at any moment.

Jiro's first move was to steal Satchel's fork and throw it on the floor. I picked it up. Then he threw his fork about five feet away from the table where I couldn't reach it. "Fork pick up!" he said. As I started to get out of my seat, he yelled, "No, me do it!" The last thing on earth I wanted was for him to get out of his chair. I started to hold him in and make threats under my breath, but he was determined.

Warren took a moment to stop chewing and say, "Don't let him scream like that in here."

Those are fightin' words!

I let go of Jiro and he immediately climbed out of his chair. He made one step toward the fork, shifted his weight, and then in a total fake out maneuver, made a break for the Chinese section of the restaurant. As I quickened my pace I could hear him proclaiming, "Nemo!!!!!!!!!" as if he were off to set him free.

As I rounded the bend, I saw Jiro squeeze through a tiny opening in the railing and then join two girls in pink smocks next to a small koi pond. Yes, a koi pond! The little girls were busy breaking off the long leaves of an adjacent plant and using them to poke the fish while their mothers chatted away at the nearby table.

Clearly, Jiro had found his tribe.

"Don't touch the plants," I said from the other side of the railing, but he completely tuned me out and started plucking. I had no choice but to make my way around the railing and walk through several tables of happy diners to retrieve him.

He had no intentions of going easily and I was forced to cease and desist for several minutes. In return, he left the plants alone and chose to coo and point at the fish. After a few minutes of this he decided to start throwing rocks at the fish.

"That's it," I said as I scooped him up and carried him away screaming. Once we got back to the Japanese side I had a little talk with him about getting his act together. He nodded and pointed to a bowl of peppermints. I grabbed a few and headed towards the table. On the way I saw a waitress with fortune cookies and asked her to bring us a few of those too.

When we got back to our seats Warren and Satchel were still eating. The peppermints kept Jiro busy for a few minutes and I was able to resume eating my yummy but cold dinner. Satchel announced that he had to pee again and I looked at Warren and said, "I'm sorry but it is your turn."

Once they left the table, Jiro tried to make another break for it, but I quickly started making him empty promises of lollipops. Amazingly, this actually kept him in his seat until Warren and Satchel returned. Warren resumed eating and Satchel started fidgeting and playing. Luckily the fortune cookies came and offered some distraction.

Satchel's read, "To be loved, be lovable."

Jiro's read, "Now is the time to explore."

Thankfully Warren finally finished eating, so I sent him off with the boys to see Nemo while I paid up.

I sat patiently for about three minutes and waited for our waitress to appear. She never did. That's when I realized that I hadn't seen her since placing our order and I had no memory of what she looked like. I asked a busboy to tell her I needed my check. Still nothing. I waited some more. Warren came back over and said, "Are you ready?" I wanted to yell, "NO I'M NOT READY! I CAN'T FIND THE FUCKING WAITRESS!" but I didn't. I told him to take the monkeys (who were now crawling all over the place) outside.

I got up and went in search of our waitress. When that failed, I found the smiling host and told him of my dilemma. He quickly started asking every other waitress in sight for the whereabouts of my waitress, but no one knew. He started to get a little frantic and said, "Come on! She's got kids!" which I thought was kind of awesome.

Finally, the host sent someone into the kitchen in search of our ticket and apologized profusely to me. I was really hoping for a free meal at this point, but it didn't seem likely. I started to wonder if maybe I shouldn't have just left without paying and saved myself all of this stress. At the very least I wanted to say, "Do you realize I am a food writer for the The Flyer!

In the end, I smiled at the nice host, told him everything was okay, and left a 15% tip. (Normally I would leave a lot more.) It was a truly miserable end to a dinner that started off pretty awesome. However, I still I think anyone with kids who know how to behave would have a lovely time at A-Tan. (Assuming they don't get our waitress.)

Ed. Note: We've been back with much better results. Satchel LOVES hibachi.

A-Tan Chinese on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

You see, this right here is why I voted, and I urge everyone to vote, for Dining With Monkeys as Best Blog in Memphis at the Memphis Flyer.

And Warren, good God, man, you can think those things, but don't say them out loud!

Shannon said...

a lick of onion--beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I hadn't realized that I said it aloud. To be fair, we were playing a one-on-one coverage defense (decided upon during our pre-game huddle), I was covering Satchel at the time, and Stacey had Jerry, err Jiro Rice. Towards the 2-minute warning I was actually doing double-coverage.

Unknown said...

And who actually won the game?

Anonymous said...

Team Oster, of course

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest problems in the restaurant industry that NEEDS to be addressed is the end of the meal. You're trying to turnover your tables and yet when you fail to give AND ring out your customers, this is what happens. Shame on A-Tan.

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