We spent the day out yesterday, with a quick lunch and little errands to Sam’s and groceries and a client’s warehouse to pick up a part, as well as to Whole Foods and Fed Ex. And at the close of the day, we went to one of “our” Chinese restaurants.
I always get THE SOUP. It’s exactly what you want on a cold evening, when the lanterns are lit and the bustling wait-staff cheerful and merry, with a crowd of burst-in-from-the-breezes hungry diners enthusiastic for the hot, fragrant food.
The soup station is a lovely thing---a long shining bar laid out with a whole array of squared-off Della Robia wreaths marching down the counter, with every vegetable and noodle there is, as well as colorful mounds of thin-shaved chicken and beef and fish, the pale curls swirled into flowers and waves of pastel.
I pick up my bowl and walk slowly past each offered dish, choosing a few pepper-strands, a pile of white onion shards, the smallest flowers from the broccoli pan. On to the choice-of-several noodles for a few long strings, a handful of mushroom slices, and my favorite---a tangle of crisp, tender bean sprouts.
I hand the bowl beneath the glass, to the waiting young man in the floor-length apron, and he transfers the contents to a wedge-shaped colander-with-a-handle, which he submerges into a big cauldron holding perhaps eight of the wedges at a time.
I stand and watch the sushi chef at his work, the slicing and the arranging, with a judicious little dot of wasabi just so, and the quick efficient roll of the nori around the package, like wrapping a long roll of coins. He dips and rolls and slices, placing a paper-thin wafer of pale fish upon the ball of rice, laying it down with a little flourish every time like a presentation. He wipes his blade, sheathing it neatly into a scabbard at his side and stands watch, guarding those neat rows of dainty morsels with his trusty sword.
And then my soup is ready, the vegetables emerging dripping and steaming from their dip into the broth. Into my bowl, then a ladle of the broth itself, redolent of beef stock and soy and garlic, and some elusive brown flavor resembling the fragrance of toasted wheat, adding its rich note to the concoction. Off to the dumpling table for two pot-stickers---the only meat in the dish, to be cut into tiny bits so that they and all the long vegetables can be eaten with chopsticks, before raising the bowl to sip the broth.
Chris goes for the protein---a pile of crawfish, a little sushi and sashimi, with a tiny bowl of wasabi and pickled tingly ginger.
Crawfish hardly seem worth it---all that catching and cooking and cracking and probing, for one tee-ninecy gobbet winkled out from within all that rosy shell.
Then he gets down to business:
Lots of chicken and seafood, a bit of Peking duck, a Rangoon or two, some wonderful bok choy.
And they have an Ice Cream freezer! You dip your own choice from one of a dozen BIG old-fashioned cardboard cartons with metal rims, beneath the frosty sliding glass. Looking down into those for too long a moment will transport you right into a tesseract-aimed-for-childhood, when the choice of flavors might be the one decision of the day. A tiny bowl with a neat round scoop of Black Cherry for me---perfect dessert after the rich, hot soup.
We went out. I had soup.