Bestselling chef (A Cook’s Tour, 2001, etc.) and mystery author Bourdain (Gone Bamboo, 1997, etc.) recounts in 12 swift-moving segments the sad-hearted luck of an ex-con nightclub bouncer.
Bobby Gold—neé Goldstein—has taken the rap for his slick friend Eddie Fish all his life: eight years for a framed cocaine charge, then employment as Eddie’s debonair Lower Manhattan henchman. But Bobbie is smart (he studied premed and knows just how to make a clean snap of the radial ulna), diplomatic at his tough-guy tasks at the NiteKlub, and even slightly ashamed at this point in his life of having to rough up customers to get Eddie’s late payments. Bobby’s romantic to boot, as he learns when he catches the eye of Nikki, “the sauté bitch,” who’s having trouble not sleeping with bad-boy cooks. Tired of “the business”—slinging monkfish in truffle risotto night after night at NiteKlub—she wants to make money “by doing something illegal,” and, though Bobbie wants out of the mob fire, he ends up taking the rap for her, too, when she steals money out of NiteKlub’s safe and has to disappear. Bourdain has a Bellovian relish for depicting the small-town gangster—pathetic, hilarious, human—and the dialogue keeps the action gurgling merrily along despite the flinging viscera. Bourdain’s favorite locus, of course, is the kitchen: the blow jobs for the best staff meals, the tightly protected territory of each cook in the line, the cocaine-snorting chef and hostess in the backroom. With a few short, sharp strokes, he delineates fully fleshed, deeply flawed, powerfully sympathetic characters. Set aside the plot: Bourdain’s dialogue is worth the price of the meal, as in the scene at a Manhattan restaurant when “citizen of the world” Eddie questions every item on the cryptic menu, to the mortification of his waiter: “Wasabi . . . Wasabi . . . Was that a good thing or a bad thing?”
The chef wields his pen with the same murderously winning flair as he does his knives.