Cafe Reviews

EATING MCDOWELLA COOK'S TOUR OF PHOENIX'S FUNKIEST RESTAURANT ROW

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Musically, Hup doesn't have the hard edge of Groove Machine's raucous, adrenaline-rush pop. But the band still has an instinctive sense of what makes a song click, jumbling together jagged-but-hummable melodies, breathless vocals and fuzz-grind guitars.

Instead of the straightforward and aggressive two guitars/bass/drums formula of the debut, Hup includes hillbilly flourishes of fiddle and banjo. These homey touches bump up against occasional high-tech studio effects like sampling. The band even takes a few cues from London house music on "30 Years in the Bathroom," which begins with a sonic collage of song snippets and movie dialogue.

The centerpiece of Hup, though, is "Don't Let Me Down, Gently," a ridiculously catchy number that has grown into a sizable dance hit. Credit for that song's boogie ability has to go to former band member Rob Jones--a.k.a. the Bass Thing--who lays down an irresistible groove.

Dance hits? Sensitive breakup ballads? These can't be the same angry pop anarchists who used to begin their concerts by telling audiences, "Shut the fuck up!" Is it possible that the sharp-tongued Stuffies actually might be mellowing?

"We've definitely grown," admits Treece. "It was easy to be pissed off at people in the beginning when we had fuck-all going for us. But it's different now. I wouldn't say we've mellowed, though. The music's still aggressive, even if we're not as pissed off."

The Wonder Stuff will perform at Club Rio on Sunday, May 13. Show time is 8:30 p.m.

On "Astley in a Noose," the band fantasized about rubbing out British schlockster Rick Astley.

Dance hits? Sensitive breakup ballads? Is it possible that the sharp-tongued Stuffies actually might be mellowing?

CANDID CAMARONES... nv-59-90

Pub:Publication:Phoenix New Times
Info:nv-59-90 Category: Cafe Review
Page: 99
Keywords: Food
Correction Date: Correction:
Photo/Graphic:

CANDID CAMARONES

Penelope Corcoran

Penelope stares at the shallow ceramic bowl on the table in front of her. Several shrimp lie under clear citrus juice, surrounded by toothpick-stabbed slices of cucumber dabbed with salsa picante. The shrimp are still translucent. In other words, still raw.

Her dining accomplice gazes in equal dismay at his pescado frito. Fried fish, right? Right. Two whole fried fish--teeth, tail, fins. Eyeballs. Everything.

Welcome to Playa del Sol on West McDowell Road. I have just been served camarones ahogados en limon natural which (in my best menu Spanish) I mistakenly translate as "shrimp--something--in natural lemon." Natural doesn't begin to describe these former swimmers.

I call our waitress over and attempt to ask her why the shrimp aren't cooked. Since she speaks no English beyond "Okay," we do not understand each other. Finally, a kind gentleman at a nearby table asks if he can translate for me. Gratefully, I explain the problem to him.

A flurry of rapid-fire Spanish ensues. My translator turns to me and smiles. "She says this is how the dish is prepared." Noting the dubious look on my face, he adds, "It's okay. This is how we eat them in Mexico."

Oh. Boy, do I feel stupid now.
The waitress directs some more Spanish at me. My translator says, "She wants to know if you want something else." No, I say resolutely, I'm going to eat this.

Which I do. Once I obtain a fork (natives apparently make do with the toothpicks) I eat some of the shrimp, anyway. They taste like ceviche--fresh and citrusy. They're fleshy and large, but I definitely wish they were opaque.

My poor accomplice is still befuddled by the fish fry in front of him. Not only does he fear fish bones, but it seems he has a thing about fish heads. He doesn't feel comfortable eating any pescado capable of watching him do it. He confesses he's never eaten fish not already filleted for him.

Though my Spanish language skills may have shriveled from years of disuse, I'm pretty hardy where fish bones are concerned. (I had no choice in the matter: I grew up on fresh-caught, fresh-cooked fish.) I show my accomplice how to tackle the pesky pescado.

We're both pleased with the result. The fried fish is steaming hot inside and the meat is flaky-white with a nice, subtle flavor. I like it. I can't identify the type of fish, but it's one with a mean underbite.

In spite of this rather too exciting episode in dining, I am somehow enchanted enough by Playa del Sol to return once more--this time with hefty Spanish-English dictionary and Spanish phrase book in hand. I am convinced the language problem has prevented me from experiencing the best this restaurant has to offer. I've even talked the trepid dining accomplice from my previous visit into joining me there for another meal. I promise him this time things will be different.

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Penelope Corcoran