I was looking through my old files and came across this piece I wrote one late night in November of 2013. It is a humorous but fully authentic review of my meal at a Chinese restaurant that is sadly no longer in business. I hope it brings you the same sensation of uneasy nostalgia it brings me.
Yesterday I felt like having a succulent Chinese meal, so I slid over to the “New Shen Wong Good Taste Restaurant”, it was an experience I shan’t soon forget. The restaurant is situated off Burnside on 4th, bordering a homeless slum. Their menu offers a typical selection of Chinese-American cuisine. I was greeted at the entrance by a shaggy, smelly old tramp from the next door slum. As I moved to step over him he mumbled some sort of apology and quickly shuffled off. Inside the eatery I was met with the grim gaze of a short sultry chinaman seated behind a counter along the back wall, he refused to acknowledge my presence. I assumed this passive attitude implied I was to seat myself. I did so and took the opportunity to survey the establishment.
The first thing that struck me, besides the smell, was the total absence of any other customers. The empty dining room was decorated with the usual nonsense, cheap cardboard cutouts of chinese symbols, floral-pattern mildew streaked curtains, and damp pink tablecloths stained with the marks of countless unwashed spills. The brown felt carpet seemed to be saturated in a foul smelling liquid that made the entire building stank. Precariously situated behind the sultry man at the back was an enormous glass tank which was full of half dead fish. I realized the tank’s turgid water was slowly leaking from its poorly sealed edges and may have been the source of the carpet’s odorous moisture. I must admit I was not very impressed.
After a quarter of an hour or so waiting at my chosen seat, another leaner chinaman with a sour look on his face approached me from the kitchen. He took my order and slunk into the back where he, along with the other sultry man, stared at me for the duration of my meal. I selected the pork fried rice with a side of crispy shrimp and a mysterious dish identified only as “hot meat sauce on egg noodle”. I waited some great length of time before the food was finally placed before me. What I encountered on those plates will remain in my memory for the rest of my days. The shrimp was outwardly recognizable, yet when I bit into one I was surprised to find a profound absence of shrimp. Where the succulent sweet meat should have been there was only a wad of under-cooked bitter batter. This disappointing discovery was repeated with three more shrimp before I gave up. The illusive “hot meat sauce” turned out to be hamburger helper served over a small portion of cold noodles. The substance that claimed to be rice revealed itself to actually be a stale mound of brown vomit permeated by the occasional colored shape which I assumed where once vegetables. Oddly the rice was the best dish of the lot, it tasted vaguely of coconuts and had a scent reminiscent of pond scum that made me wonder if perhaps a sailor was operating the kitchen. I was also given a complimentary bowl of what I initially guessed was soup, however it was actually dishwater with a bit of onion tossed in.
I could not bring myself to finish any of the food, still I paid the bill ($25, before tip). When I stood to leave the miserable experience, I looked back at the kitchen to thank the server and was met with his cold and suspicious glare, so I just made my way to the door in silence. As I stepped through the threshold back into the musty chinatown air, a woman from the restaurant called out to me. Apparently I had forgotten my umbrella. She held it out and said in broken English “you not get dis till you clean”. I promptly snatched the umbrella and ran. If I was to rate “New Shen Wong Good Taste Restaurant” on a scale of Hitler to Reagan, I would give it an Obama (approximately Stalin+Hitler-Napoleon=Thatcher/Clinton). So when you walk the streets of chinatown looking for some good taste, think twice.