Friday, November 13, 2015

A View From Chinatown

Monday, November 9, 2015
It’s not easy coming up with new Chinese restaurants after almost six years plodding the streets of Chinatown, but I sought and I found Sunrise Restaurant 88 (a/k/a Sunrise Chinese Restaurant), 50 Eldridge Street. 8 is a lucky number for many Chinese, so appending it here is wishful thinking.  Sunrise replaced Long Xin Restaurant (July 2, 2012), although physically they seem quite the same, a big room, with high ceilings covered in blue plastic panels painted with puffy clouds. All the tables are round, with most having heavy-duty lazy Susans in the middle. A significant difference, however, was the busyness. I reported back then that Long Xin "was fairly busy, with Chinese occupants at every table, all except the French grandmother, mother and daughter right behind me." Today, I was the only customer seated, while one person came in and out for takeout.

I ordered orange flavored beef ($8.75) and got a medium-sized portion with too much broccoli on the plate. While it was cooked while I waited, since the kitchen had little else to do, it was otherwise ordinary. I won’t mind if the sun sets on Sunrise.

Nearby was the new, large 99 Favor Taste, 285 Grand Street, the offspring of a Brooklyn establishment. I stopped in there before going on to Sunrise, but, finding that it is devoted exclusively to hot pot, I left and it is unlikely that I will ever return. To quote myself (August 20, 2014, referring to October 28, 2013), "Hot pot, as I’ve noted before, is a Chinese variant on fondue, whereby you are sure to burn your mouth, lips and tongue as well as spattering the front of your shirt/blouse with the bubbling liquid." I don’t mean to deter you, and I will pass on any interesting observations that you might provide on this joint.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Modigliani’s work "Nu Couché" sold for $170.4 million yesterday at auction, the second highest price paid at auction for an artwork.

I am satisfied enjoying it as reproduced for only the cost of a newspaper. The New York Times included this illustration in the article today about the transaction, and, over the weekend, carried a full-page advertisement for the auction almost entirely occupied by the illustration. This is near-revolutionary for the staid New York Times, to show so much female flesh, even as art. Maybe now, some of us arrested adolescents can discard old issues of the National Geographic containing revealing photographs of native villagers.

An e-mail late this afternoon told me that 2,099 people have read my Trip Advisor reviews. What a feeling of power! It’s like being a Republican candidate for president, except I am inhibited by facts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day) is a state holiday, no work.  However, my young bride and I had an important appointment and we were careful in our preparations and our accessorizing. We were invited to meet, for the first time, and have lunch with, the Oakland Heartthrob's parents, moving that whole Situation up to Defcon 2. I am happy to say that all went well; Mr. and Mrs. M. were delightful company and my skirt steak salad was superb.

Friday, November 13, 2015
As many of you, I often take cultural clues from the New York Times.  This morning, I am in a position to differ with its rave review of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge."

"At the end of its uninterrupted two hours, you are wrung out, scooped out and so exhausted that you’re wide awake. You also feel ridiculously blessed to have been a witness to the terrible events you just saw." Is that a rave, or what?

The play is much more about individuals and their personal challenges than the Big Ideas which Miller usually addresses in "The Crucible," "Death of a Salesman," and "The Price," works that I am familiar with. The play is supposed to be driven by the emergence of a deep, disturbing obsession. However, after an opaque, wordless opening scene that could front almost any "serious" work, the secret is thrown right into our laps (by way of the laps of the lead characters). There are no more surprises after the first few minutes, as a cruel fate eventually encompasses the players. 
We saw the play less than 2 weeks ago, but I don't think that the interval between that performance and last night's opening accounted for my difference of opinion with the usually astute Times reviewer. The play came over intact from London, where it was equally celebrated, with the same cast and creative team. I acknowledge that my opinion here may not be as important or well founded as my views on scallion pancakes.

In that vein, I want to discuss Wo Hop vs. Wok Wok. I went to Wok Wok (11 Mott Street) today, on my regular weekly visit ever since it opened. Does that mean that I have abandoned my devotion to and affection for Wo Hop (17 Mott Street)? Hardly. I continue going to Wo Hop, usually once a week, Tuesday this week. I know its menu so well that I stick to some world-class favorites -- chow fun, fried rice, egg foo young, crispy fried noodles. These items  consistently evoke a silly grin of satisfaction which I don't feel the need to verbalize time after time. The menu at Wok Wok, however, still has some unexplored territory, and I try something new each visit, giving rise to commentary.

Today, I had roti wrap ($5.75) with rendang beef, "an Indonesian dish made by simmering beef for hours in coconut milk and spices until the liquid has evaporated"  ( As in last week's roti wrap with curried chicken, the delicious contents are wrapped in a flaky crêpe, nearly 6" long and 2" in diameter. It is accompanied by small bowl of buttery curry sauce for dipping and dunking and schlurping. I'm sure that I will pay more for this dish in time, and, as long as it retains its ample size and great taste, I will do so happily.

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