Saturday, April 7, 2007

guest blogger: golden chopsticks

friday evening, my brother alex and i attended my uncle's 60th birthday dinner bash at a tiny chinese restaurant which the extended family easily filled. i didn't eat much and was too busy taking pictures of my 4 month old niece with my cousin's nikon d50. here's a review from my brother:

The quality of an unknown Chinese restaurant may be best determined by the number of Chinese construction workers partaking in the victuals therein, my parents like to say. Those men need large helpings to supply the energy they need to make it through the day, my mother reasons, and, furthermore, those men work so hard for their money that they look for the best bargains possible.

Of course, this criterion invariably leads to a certain kind of restaurant. It is often cramped and dirty with terrible service. One proprietor, who happened to be my best friend’s father, made a terribly impolitic report about my weight before I ate, making me suffer through every wonderful dish of bubbling sauces and inviting meats. But with five construction workers spread out at the other tables, I knew better than to casually dismiss the eatery for its affront to my appetite, for surely to eat is merely an act of survival! And I try my best to survive.

Tonight was a wholly new experience at the immaculate Good Chopstick on the northeast corner of the intersection of Balboa Street and 18th Ave. It seems to me that after years under the yoke of emperors, Confucianism, foreign imperialists and, finally, fascist communism, Chinese restaurant proprietors in America offered just the right amount of rudeness — a sort of ironic “bite the hand that feeds” — to its customers. You want us to refill your tea kettle? You’ll have to ask at least twice and wait five minutes before it’ll happen. You want us to remove your plates piled high with fish bones and lobster shells? Well, we’ll give you half-clean plates that you’ll have to wipe with your table napkin before being usable.

All in all, reasonable.

But the purveyors of the Good Chopstick were eager to please, clearing off our encumbered plates four times through the course of the evening in a most un-American manner (surely they can better revel in their newfound freedoms than this helpful politeness).

The highlight among the dishes was the second appetizer, a plate of shrimp and string beans alongside nuggets of deep-fried sweetened milk. After chewing through through the salty shell, the inside burst apart into a kind of tapioca, giving me hope that my friend, journalist Dan Verel, will someday fulfill his ambition to deep fry mayonnaise and market it to Southerners and the Irish.

Otherwise, the food was merely pleasant.

But what can you expect? There weren’t any construction workers in the building.

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